Monday, June 24, 2013

The Ninth Man

As the Three Weeks approach, very soon many iPods across the Jewish world will shift to A Capella. And there is no Jewish song more associated with A Capella than Abie Rottenberg’s “The Ninth Man,” as sung by Lev Tahor. If for some reason you are unfamiliar with the song, here it is:

However, it is curious to me that there are a few glaring problems with the song. Everything seems to be fine up until the catcher’s fateful slide into third. After that play, everyone seems to forget about basic human decency and the rules of baseball.

As soon as we find out that a player has broken his leg, the immediate reaction from the Brooklyn is “It’s a forfeit! You’ve only got eight guys!” That’s horrible! Firstly, I’ve been a part of some pretty competitive games in leagues where a player has had to leave for much lesser reasons than a broken leg, and we figured out a way to continue playing without forfeit. Secondly, what kind of a person, much less a group of people, see a guy lying on the ground with a broken leg and their first thought is ‘haha, we win?’ That is some of the worst midos and sportsmanship that I have ever heard. And the Rebbe is no better. He doesn’t help the student, call an ambulance or take the player to the hospital. Instead, argues with the Brooklyn team that he should be allowed to play so as not to have the Bums forfeit the game, probably while the catcher is on the ground writhing.

But truthfully, that problem wouldn’t be so bad if not for the very next part of the song where valiantly, the Rebbe who has been so patient with his bum students all year takes the place of the injured player, and hits a walk-off homerun to end the game. The last I checked, if a player gets injured or is removed from the game for any reason, the substitute does not then get up to bat. Rather, he would take the spot in the lineup for the starting player.

If the catcher was safe on third, the Rebbe should be running from there. If he was out, the Rebbe would have to wait for the lineup to come around again, and would have likely had to play the field for an inning or two. But clearly, this was the last inning as he just gets up and hits a walk-off homerun. The song should have ended like so:
He flew around the bases
Scored the winning run
We danced and cheered ‘til the umpire said
“He’s out for batting out of order – Broooklyn won”
This is the first time I have said anything negative about anything Abie Rottenberg has ever done, but this song seems to belong in a Rob Paravonian stand up routine.


  1. The Deaf Man in the Shteeble is another Lev Tahor song that really bothers me.

    First, it's a rip off of "Blind Man in the Bleachers."

    Second, there is a gaping plot hole in the song. If this song takes place in a little shteeble in a ghetto or whatever, how come no one knew the Chazan's father died the night before? Wouldn't he have been buried? No one from the Chevra Kadisha davens at this shteeble? If he wasn't buried yet - and hence no one knew about his death, why is the Chazan davening as an onein?

    I was really moved by this song when it first came out, but now I can't really listen to it anymore...

  2. AishaTylerIsMuchBetterThanDrewCareyJune 24, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    I seem to remember an interview where Abie admitted that the plot of The Ninth Man doesn't work out.

    Also, I'm pretty sure that there's a halachic issue with an aveil being chazan on yom kippur.

    1. I think it is generally not allowed during the year of aveilus (I think Yom Kippur cancels the shiva) - unless there is an overriding circumstance - such as the chazan is the only one who can daven the tefillos for Yom Kippur.

  3. Shades- pet peeve of mine: neither one of these songs is a Lev Tahor song. They are both covered by them, but The Ninth Man was written by Abie Rottenberg, and the Deaf Man in the Shtiebel is from Country Yossi. But you are 100% correct. They story had some holes in it as well.
    Aisha...- I'd love to know where that interview is from.