It was the bottom of the ninth inning, and I was on a high.

“Why did I do this?” I beat myself up.

Although this was back in 1971, I think about the drama every year at this time.

The eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Holy of Holies, was fast approaching at Yankee Stadium. Every good Jew was in the synagogue before sunset to greet the Jewish New Year. But here I am in the press box, fist clenched at an Olivetti portable typewriter, staring at the baseball diamond. Indeed, it was the best seat in the house. But it wasn’t where I wanted to be. In a few hours, I had to be at the Shelter Rock Jewish Center on Long Island, not far from the Bronx.

Can I make it home in time? The score was tied at 2-2. The Yankees only scored twice all day. I’m lucky if the game goes into extra innings.

At the time, baseball writing was the gold standard for sports journalists. After all, it was America’s pastime, wasn’t it? Covering a baseball game for a newspaper was practically an honor. This was in 1971, and even though I had been a reporter for eight years, I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to cover the Yankees – The New York Yankees, the Bronx Bombers, at Yankee Stadium, the house that Ruth built.

So I accepted the mission.

It seemed so simple. I had to be home by sundown. Most baseball games in those days lasted less than two and a half hours. The game started at 2:04 pm and I guessed it will end at 4:30 pm. I go to the locker room, pick up my interviews, go back to the press box, finish writing my 800-word story by 5:30 p.m., drive home to Roslyn, Long Island, arrive at 6:15, my head to cover the yardage, and the Bible, and Rose, 5-year-old Ellen and 3-year-old Mark and I go to the temple – before sunset.

I checked my notes. The Yankees were in fourth place heading into the season. But third place was worth fighting for. Players in third place will win $250 per person! The fourth place had no value. For a fellow like Ron Bloomberg, who was making $12,500 for the season, $250 is the equivalent of getting paid for three more games.

Not much was on my mind as the Yankees prepared for the bottom of the ninth. The score was evenly matched, but the Yanks only produced two goals all game. Bloomberg? He was hitless in three at-bats.

I always thought of Blomberg as more Georgian than Jewish. I only met him once about five weeks ago. And that was on the Long Island Railroad, of all places. The Yankees have been doing a marketing campaign in Mets country – Long Island – to get fans to come out to the stadium in the Bronx. Typically, Yankee fans came from the five boroughs (not far from Brooklyn) and North Jersey.

So here I am on the train with Bloomberg, whose job it was to wave to fans and say a few words as he passed through the suburbs.

The train stopped at Ronkonkoma. Blomberg, who had complained earlier about the heat, asked the driver to turn on the air conditioning and said he was tired and hungry after driving from New Jersey to New York.

“Boy, I’m tired,” he whispered.

A man walks in with trays of party-sized cocktail sandwiches.

And I watched as Ron Blomberg, a man from Atlanta, ate eight ham and cheese sandwiches. He ended the feast by eating a whole lemon.

Now, more than a month later, I walked into the press box. I knew this game was going to extra innings. The Bombers looked bad at the plate.

Fellow pitcher Jake Gibbs led off with a single against Steve Dunning — the first loss by a pitcher since the third inning. Gibbs came in second. Felipe Alo then sacrificed Gibbs for the third time.

Next was Roy White. He was walked on purpose to set up Cleveland in a double play situation… yep, you guessed it, Bloomberg.

The 9,177 survivors (I think many left to go to the temple) were roaring now.

Blomberg, a good percentage hitter – but not a slugger – stepped to the plate, and suddenly the entire Cleveland outfield left their positions and stood halfway down the infield. Manager Johnny Lippon was thinking a deep fly ball would send Gibbs home anyway.

That’s exactly what Bloomberg experienced.

Center fielder Vada Pinson instantly saw the ball moving over his head — and headed for the Cleveland dugout. He knew it was over. The ball lands in deep center, Bloomberg tails it to first, Gibbs comes home. And the Yankees won.

Maybe I can build a temple.

I charged into the locker room and in the middle was a delightful Blomberg.

“If the score was 3-2 and the sun was setting, I’d go to the temple,” he shouted.

Wow. What a quote. So he would leave the game and go into ministry? All the writers were scribbling away in their notebooks, and it looked like Bloomberg had just finished the World Series. He was very happy. He was a Jewish football player at the time and had the right to go home and celebrate one of the most important holidays in his religion. I shared his joy. About 2 percent of Americans are Jewish, and I know that only about 1 percent of the major leaguers are Jewish.

“Well, Bloomberg got an early holiday, huh?” He said hello.

I took my quotes, went back to the printing room, wrote my story, gave it to the Western Union telegrapher, and sent it to The Times. And at a quarter to 7 I made it to the temple.

The next morning, I eagerly picked up the paper. Will The Times, which banned religious discourse at the time, omit all references to Bloomberg, his Jewishness, and the holiday?

Expanded My story At the top of the page.

An eight-column header reads:

Bloomberg gives the Yanks a 3-2 win in the ninth and a happy new year

Below it, a one-column subheading reads:

Sundown Kid Hits
Last single

Laughing all the way, I headed back to Shelter Rock for the morning service. Rabbi Myron Fenster, a key figure in American Judaism, soon delivered his sermon to a packed synagogue of more than 700 people.

“Sundown boy final single arrived,” he began. I am very pleased.

Years passed and Blomberg continued his career with the Yankees until several injuries curtailed his effectiveness. However, the Baseball Hall of Fame did. Bat in 1973 in Cooperstown.

He played his last game for the Yankees in 1976. Free agency brought him to the Chicago White Sox two years later, but he lasted just one season and retired at age 30.

However, every year I remember sitting in that press box, looking down when he was wearing a baseball belt in deep center, the Yankees to win and send me to the temple on time.

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