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Like Koufax, Green Will Rest on Jewish Holy Day

September 06, 2001|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DENVER — Dodger outfielder Shawn Green added another twist to the wide-open National League playoff races Wednesday, saying he would not play in a game later this month against the San Francisco Giants because of his religious beliefs.

Green, who is Jewish, plans to sit out Sept. 26 in the last game of a three-game series against the Giants at Dodger Stadium in observance of Yom Kippur--the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

The third-place Dodgers, who rallied to defeat Colorado on Wednesday night, and second-place Giants trail the leading Arizona Diamondbacks in a tight West race, and the Dodgers are Giants are also close in the NL wild-card standings.

Green has contributed to the playoff push with a career season, and he's eager to help the Dodgers win their first postseason game since 1988.

But Green said some things are more important than baseball.

"Its something that ... I always felt like I would take that day and not play, and here it is," said Green, whose baseball schedule is in conflict with the holiday for the first time in his seven-year career.

"I'm definitely not looking forward to missing a game, especially against the Giants with a few days left in the season, but it's something that I have to do There aren't too many Jewish players, and to go out there and play would be disrespectful. It's just a matter of respect."

The right fielder informed Manager Jim Tracy of his decision in a meeting, and the organization supports Green.

"By notifying the manager this far in advance, that's an indication of the type of guy Shawn Green is,' said Derrick Hall, senior vice president, speaking on behalf of Chairman Bob Daly. "Shawn wants to make sure that the team and fans are well prepared.

"It's obviously a decision that he's pondered for quite some time. We respect that decision and stand by it."

Said Tracy: "You don't stand in the way of beliefs that people hold."

Green is batting .293 and leads the club with 42 home runs, 109 runs batted in and 101 runs.

He needs one homer to tie the franchise single-season mark, and has the majors' longest active consecutive-games streak at 402.

Although some might question Green's decision, his teammates said he should not be criticized.

"If it comes down to us missing the playoffs by one game, you can go back to 40 games that we lost in ridiculous ways, so I don't think that will be an issue," second baseman Mark Grudzielanek said. "We're not going to look at Greenie and say, 'Well, we lost because you had that off day.' That's not the way it works."

First baseman Eric Karros agreed.

"It's a group effort," he said. "Obviously, it's going to be magnified just because of the time of year and the opponent, but everybody has their own values and religious beliefs. We all have to respect that."

Sandy Koufax skipped a start in the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins because of the holiday, and Green obviously also feels strongly about the Day of Atonement.

It starts at 20 minutes after sunset on the 26th and ends 20 minutes after sunset on the 27th.

"Sandy Koufax did the same thing, so it just must be something with the Dodgers," said Rabbi Mordecai Kieffer of Temple Beth Emet in Anaheim, jokingly. "Seriously, I wish this [Green observing the holiday] weren't significant, but it is very significant

"The fact of the matter is that many other Jewish athletes don't observe [the holidays], and I wish they did. The truth is that they don't all feel this way, and the fact the he does is commendable. He should be commended."

The Dodgers do not play the 27th, and Green is scheduled to rejoin the club for the final regular-season series against the Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark.

Green has played on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and plans to be in the lineup Sept. 17 against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium when this year's other "High Holiday" begins.

The dates for the holidays change yearly, so Green has not faced the issue until this season.

Green was with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1996 when Yom Kippur occurred Sept. 23, but the club's schedule did not conflict with the sundown-to-sundown observance.

"I haven't had to make this decision before," Green said "In my career, it's always been on a day off or after the season. It's kind of ironic that it happens when we're in the middle of the pennant race."

Tracy hopes that Green's decision is not misunderstood.

"If this, in any way shape or form, would even be perceived as selfish in nature, I would be very disappointed in that," he said.

Ira and Judy Green are pleased with their son's decision.

"We're not an especially religious family, but we tried to give our kids information about their heritage and let them make their own decisions," Judy said. "Shawn has a lot of respect for his heritage, and I think what he's doing sends a positive message to other Jewish people. [Baseball] is very important to Shawn, but this should show people that there are some things ahead of sports. There are things that should be put ahead of records."

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