Nothing goes together quite like Jews and baseball. Or, to be more precise, Orthodox Jews and minor-league ball.
At least, that was the idea behind Jewish Life Night on Sunday at Provident Bank Park in Pomona, N.Y., home of the Rockland Boulders.
The team – part of the Can-Am League and only in its second season – draws a significant part of its fan base from the Orthodox enclaves of Rockland County, including nearby Monsey and New Square. The stadium is less than an hour’s drive from Manhattan, but it has the feel of a small-town ballpark: It’s surrounded by forestland and mountains, there’s ample parking and everyone seems to be in a good mood.
Depending on your perspective, Sunday night’s game either was a clash of incongruities or a remarkable seamless weaving of two great traditions: Judaism and baseball. “Hatikvah” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.” “Hava Nagilah” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” Long-skirted women and uniformed men in baseball caps. In between batters, the loudspeaker alternately played thumping pop favorites and the hits of Orthodox singing sensation Avraham Fried. Between innings, a blonde woman in short-shorts bounded out onto the field to keep the crowd occupied with trivia questions about Israel or contests like an apple-and-honey-eating race.
One woman with a skirt down to her ankles and sleeves to her wrists was led out onto the field to answer a question about which seas border Israel. She couldn’t name more than the Dead Sea. During the seventh-inning stretch, after a stirring rendition of “Take me out to the ballgame,” a Yiddish-inflected announcer gave the play-by-play for a race between a man in a doughnut suit and a man in a “kosher” hot dog suit – lest the tzitzis-clad youngsters on hand think there was any other kind.
At the real kosher hot dog stand, Strikly Kosher, the line ran longer than half an hour, and with little to reward those who persevered: franks in soggy buns, unevenly heated pretzels and embarrassingly bad chicken nuggets. Worst of all, there was not a knish in sight. I’d tell you about the beers, but they were $9, so I stayed dry for the night.
Oh, and then there was the game itself, but that was hardly worth noticing: The hometown Boulders got an 8-1 thrashing at the hands of the New Jersey Jackals. It was the Boulders’ 13th loss in a row.