Technically, there are no Jews on the roster of the San Francisco Giants. Should the team find itself in a pennant race in late September, its clubhouse will be free of moral quandaries about whether or not to take the field on Yom Kippur. The team kitchen is not kosher and it’s a safe bet that not a note of klezmer music inhabits any of the players’ iPods.
But two members of the team — relief pitchers Scott Eyre and Wayne Franklin — have brought their own little slice of Yiddishkeit to SBC Park.
For these men (Eyre is Mormon, Franklin a non-denominational Christian), their particular brand of Judaism begins (and ends) with their feet. Because their feet are where they keep their cleats, and their cleats are what proclaim, in nearly proper Hebrew, “mazel.”
The commonly used phrase, of course, is “mazel tov,” but the two aren’t looking for the proper phrase. They’re not, to be entirely forthcoming, at all concerned about the Jewishness of the situation.
Like “mazel tov,” the term they’re employing consists of two words — in this case, “mazel, mazel,” which is formed when both shoes, the left and the right, are read concurrently — and comes from the Ben Stiller-Jennifer Anniston movie “Along Came Polly.”
In the film, Alec Baldwin plays Stiller’s boss, a Jewish caricature of a man who, during a wedding toast, gets only half the phrase correct. “Mazel, mazel — good things,” he intones in a heavy East Coast accent.
That phrase — “mazel, mazel” — has been resounding through the Giants clubhouse for most of the season, courtesy of Eyre and Franklin, and it seemed only natural that they would eventually put it in print. Which is exactly what happened — on the backs of their identical black Nikes with bright orange trim.
It all started when the film played on the team’s charter flight during an early-season road trip. The relievers were struck.
“Mazel, mazel,” said Franklin. “I thought, ‘That could be a catchy phrase,’ so I just started saying it.”
Eyre soon joined in.
Not long thereafter, Eyre was ordering cleats through the Nike Web site, which allows custom colors and messages to be printed on the heels and tongues of shoes, prepared to put the names of his children on the back.
But, said Franklin, “I told him, I’m going to get some of those — even though I wear Adidas — and I’m going put ‘mazel’ on each of them. Good things.”
Eyre was swayed.
To be safe, they called in Yeshiah Goldfarb, an assistant in the video systems department, to help with the spelling.
So far, Eyre and Franklin have each worn their cleats only once, in a game in which neither took the mound. Before Eyre breaks them out again he is waiting until his new glove, Giants orange in color, arrives from the manufacturer to complete the ensemble.
That Eyre and Franklin are relievers relegates them to a small sector of clubhouse culture. That both are left-handed places them squarely on their own island. Even fellow lefty Jason Christiansen, the only other southpaw in the team’s bullpen, doesn’t want to join them in that small sector.
“I don’t think I could ever put that on my shoes,” he said. “The shoes are a little bright to begin with, and then that whole mazel thing …”
“It really could be because they’re left-handed,” said Matt Herges, the team’s closer. “If you know Scotty, he’s as quirky as they get. And I say that with affection.”
Even reliever Tyler Walker, who in an unofficial poll of the team’s bullpen members unanimously won the title of Most Likely to Get His Own Mazel Shoes, isn’t quite ready to jump on the bandwagon.
“I like them, but they’re a little ostentatious,” he said. “I’m more conservative. I’d probably ditch the orange and get them in black and white. I think I could get the mazel message across with a lot less flair.”
(Winner of the Last Player to Get His Own Mazel Shoes title is Christiansen, who debunks the theory entirely. “I wouldn’t be the last guy to get them,” he said. “I would never get them. There wouldn’t be a last. So whoever got them last before me would be the last.”)
As for the rest of the team, nobody even seems to be paying attention (“Bullpen humor kind of stays there,” said Walker. “What’s said in the bullpen stays in the bullpen.”), which is just fine by Eyre and Franklin. All that’s missing for them is the chance to meet the actors behind the footwear.
“If Stiller or Baldwin came in here, it’d be awesome,” said Eyre. “I’d get them to sign the shoes and then never wear them. Or I’d wear them for one game and then retire them.
“How sweet would that be?”