Shalom run! Giants to host Jewish heritage nightby joe eskenazi, staff writer
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When Craig Solomon moseyed through Israel in the Gardens wearing his Hebrew and Magen David-emblazoned Giants cap, throngs gathered around him as if he'd brought a monkey handing out $5 bills.
"People were constantly coming up to me and saying 'where can I get one? Where can I get one?'" said Solomon, who, as the season ticket manager for the San Francisco Giants, and a Jew, is in a unique position to dispense advice regarding Semitic baseball memorabilia.
But as much as Solomon would like to direct the cap-crazed mobs to the Giants' dugout stores, he can't. The only way you're going to get a hat like Solomon's is to come visit him — at AT&T Park on Thursday, Aug. 24, when the Giants take on the Cincinnati Reds on Jewish Heritage Night.
This will be the second straight year Jewish fans can ask "Why is this night game different from all other night games?" The team took on the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 24, 2005 (for those with long memories, the Giants played badly and lost — that happened a lot last year — and the Phils' Jewish catcher, Mike Lieberthal, doubled and scored).
This year, however, Solomon has enabled the Bay Area's Jews to enjoy upward mobility much more rapidly than our Jewish forefathers (and mothers) who stepped off the boat at Ellis Island. While Jewish groups last year sat in the bleachers, this year, for $20 (no markup from the regular price) attendees will receive the aforementioned coveted cap and a prime left field seat in the View Reserve section. Jewish night is part of the team's "ethnic week," featuring Italian, Irish and African American heritage nights.
Frank Winston, the commissioner of the Northern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, which is co-sponsoring the evening along with the team, said the night at the ballpark is already well on its way to becoming a local tradition.
"Whenever I talk to groups, they sure do seem to like the idea of Jewish night. They may go to only one game a year, but having one with respect to Jewish heritage and sitting together, meeting people and hearing Jewish music, it's a sort of central activity," he said.
"The people who came last year are all coming back, and they've got new people."
Among the first groups to sign up were Los Gatos' Congregation Shir Hadash, San Francisco's Congregation Sherith Israel and Palo Alto's Congregation Kol Emeth (Rabbi Sheldon Lewis is the son of a former minor-league ballplayer and a confirmed Giants-a-holic) as well as San Francisco's Jewish Community High School of the Bay and Foster City's Peninsula Jewish Community Center.
A number of area synagogues and Jewish institutions have set up nights out at the game; Solomon said the team had already sold nearly 1,000 of the 2,000 available seats (and Giants caps) by early August without even aggressively marketing.
Like last year, Adama will serenade the crowd with Jewish music before the first pitch and during the seventh-inning stretch, and Jewish dance troupes will weave through the crowds. This year's national anthem singers will be Adama's Rick Ellis and the Shtetlblasters, and Solomon notes that the Jewish group bringing the largest contingent will be tapped to provide a child to announce the first three Giants batters of an inning as the game's "junior announcer."
Incidentally, there is not a Jewish player or even a coach on either the Giants or the Reds, so Solomon urges fans to attend and bring their ruach (spirit, in Hebrew).
Interested fans and organizations can contact Solomon at (415) 972-2239 or visit www.sfgiants.com/specialevents.
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