Jewish Journal

Koufax Benches Dodgers

by Tom Tugend

Posted on Feb. 27, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Jewish pride across the baseball world swelled back in 1965, when the legendary Sandy Koufax decided to observe Yom Kippur rather than pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins.

But the Hall of Fame pitcher proved unforgiving recently, when a gossip item in the New York Post intimated that he was gay. The Post is owned by the News Corp., controlled by multimedia magnate Rupert Murdoch, who also happens to own the Dodgers.

Through a friend, the always very private Koufax, now 67, declared that he would no longer assist any Murdoch-owned enterprise and was therefore severing his 48-year-long relationship with the Dodgers.

After 12 seasons with the Dodgers, in New York and Los Angeles, from 1955-1966, Koufax has held a variety of minor league pitching positions with the club. He also announced that he would no longer attend the Dodgers spring training camp in Vero Beach, Fla., where he has been a regular for decades.

Among the many friends and admirers expressing their sorrow at the break was the Dodgers All-Star right fielder Shawn Green, who emulated Koufax in 2001, when he skipped the last game of a series against the San Francisco Giants to spend the holiest day of the year in a local shul.

"This is really a shame," Green told the Los Angeles Times. "Sandy is a great man, and he did so much for the organization, but he meant much more than just wearing the uniform.

"I've always paid close attention to [Koufax] because he's a man of principle and he's lived his life the right way," Green added. "He feels very strongly about his beliefs, which is only one of the many reasons I admire him."

In a rare victory for the good guys in a publicity-obsessed world, the Post has retracted the story and apologized for "getting it wrong."

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