Pitching on the High Holy Days

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MIKE STOLLER

Special to the Journal

BOSTON — Leave it to the 'Smartest Man in Baseball' to figure out a way to both honor his Jewish faith, and play ball on the same day Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Breslow, who graduated from Yale University and was given the nickname for his impressive academic resume, has it all figured out.

'In previous years, I have participated in online Passover seders and High Holy Day services, and have fasted as best as I could, even on game days,' said Breslow, in a recent email interview with the Journal.

'Typically, I try to observe the holidays in a way that is meaningful to me and indicative of my commitment to Judaism, but also honors and acknowledges the commitment that I have made to my teammates.'

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Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox

Jewish Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow The Sox will be playing their archrivals, the N.Y. Yankees, on both of the High Holy Days this year. The Sox will be in New York on Rosh Hashanah, and will host the Yankees at home on Yom Kippur.

"That these games take place against the Yankees makes it even more exciting," said Breslow, who has a ring from the 2007 World Series team during his first stint with the Sox. "The opportunity to play meaningful games in September is what we strive for." Breslow graduated from Yale in 2002 with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. That year, he was recognized as Jewish Sports Review College Baseball First Team All-American, along with fellow future major leaguers Sam Fuld and Adam Greenberg.

Breslow has pitched nine seasons in the major leagues — for San Diego, Boston, Cleveland, Minnesota, Oakland, Arizona and back to Boston. He has merged his Jewish roots successfully into his professional baseball life, despite a tough schedule playing games almost every day of the season.

"My understanding is that it is not up to teams unilaterally to determine scheduling, but up to the leagues," said Breslow, a southpaw who has pitched well for Boston this season, posting a 3-2 record and terrific 2.17 ERA at press time.

"To be fair, it seems to be indiscriminate in terms of scheduling. We play on Easter, and there are NFL games on Thanksgiving. It has become a cultural phenomenon," Breslow said. Breslow’s dilemma to play, or not to play, is not new. Old time Detroit Tigers baseball legend Hank Greenberg had to deal with conflicting schedules of games and holidays long before even Sandy Koufax, and more recently Shawn Green of the Dodgers.

Greenberg is famous for his decision in 1934 eventually to play in a key game against the Yankees, after skipping batting practice to ponder it over. He hit a pair of homers to lead the Tigers to a 2-1 victory. The Tigers went on to win the American League pennant, before losing the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Red Sox are in a similar heated pennant race this season, and Breslow seems to take the attitude of Greenberg on that historical day.

"I think it probably is worth mentioning that while I am absolutely appreciative and observant of my Jewish upbringing, and credit much of who I am to the core beliefs of Judaism, I also believe that when I enter a major league clubhouse, I am a baseball player," Breslow said.

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Last modified on Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 06:00

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