By the time you read this, the World Series will be under way, and the San Francisco Giants’ unbelievable run through the first two rounds of the baseball playoffs — winning all six games in which they faced elimination — will be yesterday’s news.
But as I’m writing this on Oct. 23, I still can’t get the images of last night’s amazing Game 7 against the St. Louis Cardinals out of my head: the super-slow-motion replay of Hunter Pence’s broken bat hitting the ball three times; the fans and the players exalting in a downpour that any other night would have forced a rain delay; series MVP Marco Scutaro tilting his head back, outstretching his arms and drinking in the moment.
I was somewhat detached, watching from my living room, but Rabbi Yosef Langer of Chabad of San Francisco and Rabbi Mark Bloom of Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland were right there in the middle of it all at AT&T Park. And both were still pinching themselves the next day, assuming rabbis do that sort of thing.
“There were a couple of supernatural moments at that game,” Bloom told me. “First, the hit by Pence … and then the torrential rain in the ninth inning. The slow-mo replays of Scutaro with his arms in the air and the [relief pitcher] Sergio Romo jumping up and down in the middle of the raindrops look otherworldly.”
Bloom felt blessed to be a part of it. He had tickets for Game 6 on Oct. 21, but because the Tigers-Yankees’ series already was over, that day’s Giants-Cardinals clash was shifted from a
1:07 p.m. start to 4:45 p.m., and Bloom couldn’t attend because he had to officiate at a wedding.
“One of our temple’s members, Barry Barnes, heard my sad story and took me to Game 7,” said Bloom, a lifelong Giants diehard. “The seats were 20 rows behind home plate, I’m almost embarrassed to say.”
Not far away — but unbeknownst to Bloom — was Langer, who was invited to the game by his friend, Peter Dwares. Langer also was in prime seats, only 15 rows behind Giants president and CEO Larry Baer and his family.
Langer decided to walk down and say hello, but first a little background before I proceed with the story.
Langer is known as the “Rally Rabbi,” a moniker that dates back to the Giants’ second Jewish heritage game in 2006. On that night, Langer blew his shofar to the tune of “Charge!” Twice he did it, and twice the trailing Giants scored some runs, but after his third sounding, which was shown on the huge video board in center field, the Giants fell short and lost. “If the Giants would have won, I would have risen to sage status,” he said.
Still, after the game, fans (including Baer and his son) lined up to get Langer’s autograph, and the next year, a bobblehead doll of Langer and his shofar emblazoned with “Rally Rabbi” added to the legend.
So when Langer went to visit Baer in the third inning of Game 7, of course he was toting his shofar. “I gave a blessing for him and his family, and then I said the Giants should have some mazel, so I blew the shofar and Larry was blown away. ‘You are just so out of the box,’ he told me.”
As Langer blew “da-da da da da-da!”— Charge! — Pence was at the plate with the bases loaded. What happened next has been described as magical, mystical and even “divine intervention.”
Langer didn’t even realize that the ball struck Pence’s bat three times before shooting awkwardly past the Cardinals’ shortstop. All he knew was “that’s when the rally started.” Three runs scored on Pence’s hit, and the Giants added two more for a five-run rally and a 7-0 lead.
“I’ve risen to sage status,” Langer cracked.
Langer and Bloom stuck it out to the end.
“I wouldn’t leave,” Langer said. “I got drenched like everyone else. It was really something — like a rain from heaven.”
“It’s like the Neilah [closing service] of Yom Kippur,” Bloom offered. “Everyone is exhausted, and a little smelly, and yet there’s this increased amount of energy that fills the room. You know it’s about to end — and everyone was soaking and their stuff was all over the place — but you know that great moment is coming.”
Even in my dry living room, it was a moment to savor.