To Marty Lurie, one of this year’s five inductees to the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California, baseball is a lot like Judaism — in its rules, its veneration of numbers and its values.
Nine is a sacred number in baseball for the number of innings in a game, just as 18 (chai) is a crucial number in Jewish tradition. The values of family in Judaism translate into loyalty to teammates on a club, he said.
“There’s definitely a connection between Judaism and baseball, such as respecting your neighbor and respecting the game and learning that your elders have some value and they sometimes know what they’re talking about,” he said. “Baseball has its rules, just like the rules of a seder.”
Lurie, 72, has been the voice of the weekend San Francisco Giants pre- and post-game shows on KNBR radio since 2010. Before that, he hosted the pre-game show for Oakland Athletics radio games for more than a decade. And that all came after a quarter-century as a criminal defense attorney in Florida and the Bay Area.
This will be the second hall of fame induction for Lurie, whose connection to baseball began as a fatherless boy in Brooklyn, New York. He also is a member of the Miami Beach Senior High Hall of Fame.
Such honors serve as a validation of his work, along with three World Series championship rings he has “won” with the Giants. He proudly wears his diamond-studded 2014 ring every day.
“In all the years of criminal law, people never called me up and said congratulations for a guy being found not guilty of murder. You don’t get a lot of feedback,” he said in a recent interview in the AT&T Park press box before a Giants game.
One of Lurie’s fellow inductees, longtime Stanford University tennis coach Dick Gould, will be entering at least his seventh hall of fame. Gould, who has been director of tennis at Stanford since 2005 after being the men’s head coach there for 38 years, led the Cardinal to 17 NCAA team championships with squads that included players such as John McEnroe.
The others who will be inducted to the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California in Sept. 16 are ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman, NFL Network analyst Mike Silver and Matt Levine, the former executive vice president of marketing and broadcasting for the San Jose Sharks.
Baseball became my unconditional friend. It replaced something in my life.
The induction ceremony and banquet will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco.
Lurie was 4½ when his father died, and his uncle Abe introduced him to baseball a couple of years later. It was the golden age for the national pastime in New York, with Willie Mays patrolling center field for the New York Giants, Mickey Mantle slamming home runs for the New York Yankees and Duke Snider earning yearly All-Star selections for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“Baseball became my unconditional friend. It replaced something in my life,” Lurie said. “Even as a trial lawyer, the judges would call me in during recesses and want to talk about baseball.”
When Lurie got burned out of being a trial lawyer in 1995, he was encouraged by friends and relatives to turn his love and knowledge of baseball into a new career. It was easy, he said, because doing baseball broadcasts “is like being a lawyer — you can talk forever about nothing.”
Lurie had been working at A’s games for more than a decade when he was brought over to the Giants’ broadcast team by club executive Larry Baer in 2010, the year the team won its first World Series since moving west in 1958. He got a ring and got to ride in the victory parade up Market Street. In 2014, after the team’s third World Series title in five seasons, he had his own car in the parade — trailing those of team legends Mays, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Orlando Cepeda and Barry Bonds.
Lurie, who now spends his summers in Berkeley and his winters in Mesa, Arizona, occasionally would find Jewish connections with ballplayers and team officials. He even brought a challah from Oakland’s Grand Bakery to Shawn Green, a Jewish player who was in town with a visiting team a few years ago.
Though Lurie is not now a synagogue member, he gives a lecture on baseball each year at Congregation B’nai Israel in Vallejo, where a son and a daughter had their b’nai mitzvot. Another son had his bar mitzvah at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
Like baseball, Judaism has been part of the fabric of his life since childhood.
“Baseball has been my rock the whole time,” he said. “It’s like Judaism, it’s there when you need it.”