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Respect Becomes Loathing: My First Brush With Anti-Semitism
Respect Becomes Loathing: My First Brush With Anti-Semitism

I respected the man. I looked up to him. He was one of our coaches.  He taught us how to hit and field. But then…something happened. It changed everything. 

During the mid-1950s, I played, as a teenager, in Mattapan’s Babe Ruth League baseball program (Boston’s Dorchester-Mattapan neighborhood, although a diverse community, contained, in the middle of the 20th century, one of the largest Jewish populations of any major U.S. city).  We played our baseball games at field called Almont Park; it was not far from business district called Mattapan Square.  

As I recall, when I played in the Babe Ruth League baseball program, you were judged more on how well you could hit, field, and throw than on your ethnicity or religion. Our coach that year was a senior at nearby Hyde Park High School.  But he had help. He was assisted by two of the fathers whose sons played on our team. One of the assistant coaches was a man we simply called, “Coach Ed.”  His son was one of our pitchers.
Toward the end of the season, our team, the Pirates, was playing a game against the Cardinals.  We needed a win that evening to stay in contention for the league title.  I remember that the game was going into the late innings. The lead had seesawed back and forth. Our opponents, the Cardinals, were now ahead. They were looking to add to their one-run lead. I remember their lead-off batter had started the inning off with a single. He would subsequently steal second base.
The next batter hit a sharp grounder to me at shortstop.  I proceeded to scoop up the ball.  I was just about to throw the ball across the diamond for the putout at first base. Yet, I remember that just before I was about to throw the baseball, I took a quick peek at the Cardinals’ runner on 2nd base.  I wanted to be sure he wasn’t taking off for 3rd base.
To my surprise, as I turned to look the runner back to 2nd, he took off for 3rd. Instantaneously, I moved forward a few steps to apply the tag. I remember the runner trying to squirm out of the way to avoid my tag (he might have gone out of the base line).  I managed to graze him on his uniform as he was ducking away.  I knew for certain (the runner also knew -- he affirmed the fact after the inning was over) that he had been tagged out.  Yet, the runner continued on to third as if he hadn’t been tagged. He was called “safe” by the adult umpire, “Coach Ed.”
For a few seconds, I just stood there at my position. I couldn’t believe the runner had been called “safe”.  Moments later, I calmly walked over to where “Coach Ed” was umpiring from behind the pitcher’s mound.  When I spoke with him, I was neither loud nor boisterous (I spoke in a calm, measured tone of voice).  I was not trying to show up “Coach Ed”.  I was just attempting to plead my case.  In fact, as I began to speak with Ed, I fully realized that an umpire, working the game alone, might have been “screened” by the runner and that he could have missed the fact that I had tagged the runner out.
In speaking with Ed, I just wanted to tell him that I had, indeed, tagged the runner. At that moment, I would have settled for any plausible explanation he might have given me.  But, what I got next, was totally unexpected and brutally shocking. The next words out of “Coach Ed’s” mouth were: “Get away from me you little kike!”  I was stunned. Taken aback.  His comment hit me like a “ton o’ bricks”.  It was if, at that moment, I had been verbally slapped across the face.  For a moment I looked at him, and then I turned and walked away.  I felt both hurt and sad.  Here was an adult whom I had respected.  But now…
Oh, I would see “Coach Ed” during our two remaining games in the season.  But I would not talk with him, nor would I accept his coaching.  I had thought of reporting the incident to the League president, but I decided against it (I’m not even sure if I ever told my parents). Frankly, I was concerned that if I made an issue of it, I’d be labeled as “a troublemaker.”  Tangentially, I have, over the years, changed my approach on that matter.
In the end, I had hoped that before the season ended “Coach Ed” would come over to me and apologize. I would have respected him for having admitted that he was wrong, and that he had made a mistake in speaking to me in that crude and demeaning manner, but he never did.

In hindsight, “Coach Ed” had most definitely “crossed the line”.  His comment made me feel "religiously singled out.”  Stereotyped.  In his moment of anger “the hidden” had come to the surface.  His latent feelings had now become “visible.”  I didn’t like what I saw.  My previous feeling of respect had, indeed, turned to loathing. 
(12-30-2019, 04:49 PM)velvle wrote: Respect Becomes Loathing: My First Brush With Anti-Semitism... 

Again I ask, are you simply seeking a venue to post your writings or are you here to engage in dialogue with other members of the forum?

I'm not going to fault you if it is only the former, I'd just like to know.
בקש שלום ורדפהו

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