Wise & Otherwise: That’s a Slap in the Face Detroit Jewish News – The Jewish News

Posted By on September 22, 2021

Sixty-five years ago, in 1956, the rabbis who taught Hebrew subjects at the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, then located on Dexter and Cortland, were allowed to slap male students for not behaving properly during class.

Each teacher had a different type of slap. Most slapped across the face, some harder than others. Two longtime teachers were different kinds of hitters. Rabbi F. would walk behind the seated student and deliver a hard slap across the back. Rabbi Z., who hailed from Germany, would ask the student to come up front to his desk and open their hand and while seated he slapped the open hand with his clear plastic ruler.

Once he asked me to come up front and meet his ruler. He didnt notice that behind my back I had my baseball fielders glove. As he raised his rulered hand, I switched hands and the ruler came down on my mitt and broke. After the class finishederupting in laughter, Rabbi Z. announced he would slap each hand the next day with his new ruler. He did.

I received a slap across the face on Oct. 8, 1956, that I never forgot and never deserved.

It was Game Five of the 1956 World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, and each team had won two games. Don Larsen, 27, who didnt last through the second inning in Game Two was pitching for the Yankees, and Sal Maglie was on the mound for the Dodgers.

The odds favored the latter as the 39-year-old veteranposted a 13-6 record with a nifty 2.89 ERA in 1956. It was the seventh straight winning season for Maglie, who won 108 career games at the time and lost 49 times. Larsens career record was 30-40.

Between classes, I raced across the street to the gas station for updates. During the last break, the attendants were huddled around the radio, and it looked like something important happened. I soon learned that nothing of importance happened for the Dodgers. Larsen was pitching a perfect game, no runs, no hits, no errors, and I was able to hear the end of the historic game that the Yankees won 2-0.

I ran back to the YBY and headed to the classroom. I encountered my next Hebrew studies teacher in the hallway. Rabbi K. was a street-smart New Yorker and a big Yankees fan. Hows the game going? he asked. The Yankees won. and Larsen pitched a perfect game, I answered. Rabbi K. responded by slapping me across the face and said, Dont lie.

I assume he found out the truth after school, but he never said anything to me and never apologized. New Yorkers are not known for apologizing.

Fast forward some 20 years, and I headed a national baseball monthly at the time. I was schmoozing with United Press Internationals baseball writer Milt Richman prior to a game at Yankee Stadium. Milt told me that he forged a friendship with Larsen several years before he was traded to the Yankees. Richman often invited Larsen to his parents home on Tremont Avenue in the Bronx and enjoyed the kosher cuisine.

The night before the perfect game, Larsen dined with the Richmansand told the writer to expect a no-hitter. He punctuated his prediction by pulling out a dollar and instructed Richman to give it to his mother for a donation to her synagogue.

So armedwith confidence and a donateddollar to receive help from above, Larsen tookthe mound in front of 65,419 paying fans and pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.

And it was the only time in my history that I didnt deserve a slap in the face.

Author, columnist, public speaker Irwin J. Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years and earned a 1984 World Series ring while working in a front office position with the Detroit Tigers. He may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net

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Wise & Otherwise: That's a Slap in the Face Detroit Jewish News - The Jewish News

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