How a Passover tradition taught me yesterday’s sports legends – New York Post

All personal realities being relative, my favorite annual sports-related holiday always has been Passover.

Really? Really.

When I was a kid, my parents kept a kosher home. That meant two sets of Passover-only dishes, one for meat meals the other for dairy.

We kept those dishes, pots, pans, bowls, cups, spoons, forks and knives wrapped in newspapers and stored in tall vats — originally used to hold industrial-sized soap powder — in a cobwebbed corner of our basement.

My job, before Passover, was to unwrap those dishes then carry them upstairs to our kitchen. And, though I wasn’t much for manual labor, that job was a pleasure.

Though the assignment shouldn’t have taken more than an hour or so, it took me all day.

Those dishes were wrapped in old and even older newspapers that I saved for rewrapping and annual rereading.

Those newspapers held awe — old baseball and basketball box scores, photos and stories.

The primary newspaper wrapping was the Staten Island Advance. I’m a third-generation Staten Islander; my ancestors came over on the ferry.

The Advance was and remains a broadsheet, which made wrapping the larger stuff easier.

I would sit on a folding chair beneath a single, bare light bulb operated by a pull-string, and read old sports stories. Aside from pages devoted to local bowling results — seems everyone on S.I. bowled — there were wire service stories about big league baseball.

As Passover and Easter generally coincide with the start of baseball season — though Passover, unlike Easter, always arrives “late” or “early,” but never on time — all the team managers — men with wonderful names such as Solly Hemus, Pinky Higgins, Birdie Tebbetts, Bucky Harris and Mayo Smith — were optimistic.

I recall a feature on Cleveland slugger Vic Wertz, who months earlier had been robbed of at least a triple in the 1954 World Series by an over-the-shoulder catch by Giants outfielder Willie Mays.

I remember wrapping a Passover plate in a fresh story about a long-jumper to keep in mind, later that year, at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. And at Passover, 1961, months after he had won the gold, I unwrapped that 1960 story, proud to have personally discovered Ralph Boston.

And in the oldest, yellowing papers, there were stories about men returning from the Korean War to resume big league careers.

Then-Brewers manager Del Crandall and Hank Aaron in 1974.Photo: AP

Del Crandall, the Braves’ catcher who later would manage the Brewers and Mariners, had served in the Navy. Why did I remember that? Maybe because my dad had been in the Navy; I don’t know. But those are the kinds of things, as opposed to the periodic table, I remembered and still do. Maybe if Del Crandall ever came up on a test …

But the pure gold covered the smaller dishes. They were wrapped in the tabloid-sized New York Mirror, what we called, in salute to Uncle Jack, The Brooklyn Mirror.

My great Uncle Jack — a World War I doughboy and bachelor — would take the Brooklyn ferry to spend holidays with us. And he always would give my sisters and me a silver dollar. But of more excitement and value to me, he would bring The Mirror.

The Mirror was an afternoon paper, and its back pages blew me away as they carried that day’s daily double and — get this — early partial scores from that day’s afternoon baseball games, the batteries — pitchers and catchers — included!

I recall asking my dad why they call the pitcher and catcher “the battery.” He didn’t know; I still don’t.

I would save those Mirrors for post-Passover dish wrapping and following years re-reading. Good G-d — Jewish kids were taught to hyphenate “God” in case the paper fell to the ground — the Mirror assigned men to cover the Knicks and Rangers, even on the road!

There were stories about Gump Worsley and Camille Henry — there was a girl in P.S. 35 named Camille! — Richie Guerin and Johnny Green. It could take an hour to stack eight teacups.

In 1975, when The Post was an afternoon paper and I was a sports department clerk — pre-computer hot-type days — I literally would run the latest Aqueduct or Belmont results and early baseball scores to the composing room, daily, in time to make the back page of the day’s final edition.

On my way, I would think of unwrapping then rewrapping Passover plates.

Years ago, a reader, Frank Higbie — we still swap mail — sent me a copy of the Oct. 16, 1963, edition of The Mirror, which included one of the cruelest tales ever printed and sold for a nickel.

The back page carried a photo of the Rangers’ new goalie, Jacques Plante.

Page 50 notified readers that Bob Hart, a sportswriter from Cincinnati, has joined The Mirror’s staff.

And Page 2 notified readers that the Mirror, as of that day, would cease publication.

And all of the above, for better and worse in my relative reality, is inextricably attached to that annual sports bonanza holiday, Passover.

Start-time rant cut off before it’s fin-

Self-evident, hard truths are now so seldom spoken on TV that those spoken by Blackhawks’ announcer Pat Foley on Thursday — he had the audacity to knock the NHL and NBC for scheduling crazy-late weeknight starts to the Chicago-St. Louis Stanley Cup series — became a shot heard ’round the NHL.

Late in Game 5, a fed-up Foley questioned the common sense and common decency of scheduling three games that began at 8:42 p.m., in Chicago and St. Louis, and wouldn’t end until after midnight. “On a work night! On a school night!” he hollered. And extra-late starts to games that are subject to open-ended overtimes are extra crazy.

Foley’s dead-on spew, his Chicago call shared by NBCSN, was not nationally heard in its entirety as NBCSN abruptly cut to a commercial.

Meanwhile, if Gary Bettman and NBC shot-callers feel 8:42 starts to playoff games make sense, they should say so. And if not, why not?

NBA getting into politics

Given the NBA’s recent state-by-state political positions, and with three teams in Texas, the league surely must be pro-death penalty.

So we’re watching a Sunday afternoon baseball game and another ambush: a vulgar bathroom urinal scene as a commercial for an insurance company. Another coarse substitute for clever. Another no-upside shame.

The corner of Lost Tapes and Fat Chance: With the Mets lately batting Michael Conforto third, reader Michael Benvenuto wonders when Mike Francesa will apologize to the caller he trashed as a know-nothing earlier this season for making that suggestion.

Terrible news: ESPN’s coverage of this year’s NFL Draft will have “limited commercial interruptions.”