This past Sunday was Jewish Heritage Day at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets. Along with their nine innings, the game’s 42,412 spectators got shofar blasts, viewed the hora and heard a Yiddish choir’s rendition of “America the Beautiful.” By the fifth inning, however, fans had little reason to cheer; the home team was down 7-0. But then, rookie Mike Jacobs, just days out of playing Double-A ball, stepped to the plate for his first major league at bat. The Jewish fans in the house began to stir. Could it be, they wondered, that the Mets called him up specifically for Jewish Heritage Day? Their excitement only grew when the rookie made contact: A three-run homer. A wild ovation. The crowd wouldn’t rest until Jacbos came back out of the dugout to take a bow. A Jewish savior on Jewish Heritage Day.
Just one problem: According to the Mets, he’s not Jewish.
Shmuel Hain, assistant rabbi at Manhattan’s Jewish Center was at the game with his two young sons. Hain told the Forward he had thought Jacobs was Jewish and believed most of the other Jews in attendance thought so, too. Noting that a curtain call is generally uncommon, and especially rare when the home team is losing, Hain attributed the excitement, at least in part, to the assumption that Jacobs was Jewish.
“It had a nice kind of dramatic flair,” said Hain, “for a Jewish guy at his first at bat to hit a home run on Jewish Heritage Day.”
Unfortunately, a bit too nice.
Then again, things could have been worse. The Jacobs home run comes just weeks after another recent — and, in this case, legitimate — Jewish major league debut. On July 9, the Chicago Cubs’s Adam Greenberg (no relation to Hank) settled in for his first major league at bat. But before even getting a chance to swing, the young outfielder was plunked in the head with a fastball, suffering a concussion.
He still hasn’t fully recovered.