This is Passover season — the seven-day holiday officially began last night at sundown — which means Coca-Cola is undergoing its annual uniform revision. If you live in an area with a decent-sized Jewish population, you’ll see bottles of Coke with yellow caps, indicating that the product is kosher for Passover.
The alternation isn’t just cosmetic. As any serious soda pop geek will tell you, the yellow-capped Coke has been made with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup (which, like all corn-based products, is off-limits to observant Jews during Passover). Soda savants claim that this makes the Passover Coke taste better, although I drink Diet Coke, so the distinction is lost on me. I do, however, make a point of buying a new container of Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup each Passover, since it too is made with cane sugar for the holiday. Does it really taste better? Honestly, I wouldn’t argue the case on the merits, but it’s a nice little ritual I enjoy each spring, and that’s what holidays are all about, right?
Speaking of ritual, I was raised in a non-observant household. About the only religious-ish aspect to our family was that we always had matzos in the house for Passover. You can buy matzos anytime, of course, but only certain matzos are certified kosher for Passover (which basically means some rabbi got paid a lot to stand around at the bakery and give his blessing to the flour and water — what a racket), and that’s what my Mom would buy every year. She was very brand-loyal: We always had Streit’s matzos, which came in a pink box. I am even less religious than my parents, but I still buy Streit’s matzos each year for Passover, and they still come in a pink box. If they ever change the package design, that would probably be the end of my one Jewish ritual. Just goes to show the power of a uniform.
I learned very early on that I really, really like a sheet of matzo slathered in butter and then sprinkled with salt. Even better: several sheets of matzo slathered in butter and sprinkled with salt. But of course I wasn’t supposed to be snacking in between meals when I was a little boy, so I had to keep my matzo consumption on the sly. And therein lies a tale.
One afternoon when I was nine or 10 years old, I was scarfing down a nicely buttered sheet of matzo — my second of the day, I believe. As was my usual custom, I had redistributed the remaining matzos in the box to make it look like it was still fairly full, just as I always did when sneaking an extra Hydrox out of the cookie jar. Everything seemed just about right with the world, when I heard something I wasn’t supposed to be hearing yet: a car door slamming closed in our driveway.
It was my Mom — home from work more than an hour earlier than usual. And there I was, about to be caught red-handed with contraband snackage. There was no time to run to the garbage can or the toilet — she was only seconds away from walking in the door — so I looked around and saw my salvation: Sitting on a shelf a few feet away from me was our family’s game of Scrabble. I lifted the top of the box, slipped the matzo inside, and then went and greeted my Mom.
The next morning, before I left for school, I retrieved the incriminating mazto and disposed of it. But as you probably know, the inside of the top of the Scrabble box is where they print the instructions, and I had put the matzo in the box buttered-side-up, which had left a few butter stains on the instrux — pale-yellow symbols of my transgression.
Those stains faded a bit over the years but never disappeared completely. Fortunately, my Mom didn’t play Scrabble and my father wasn’t the kind of guy who’d notice a few stains on
the Scrabble box anything, so these telltale splotches never gave me away. The stains were still there in 2005 — 30 years after the original incident — when I finally told my parents the whole story and showed them the evidence. We all enjoyed a good laugh about it, although my Mom seemed a bit perturbed to learn I’d been eating so many matzos without her realizing it.
Two years after that, in 2007, I wrote an article about the Streit’s factory. While interviewing the company’s vice president, I told him the Scrabble story. He listened, then thought for a moment, and finally said, “That’s a shame to waste a good matzo like that.” At long last, I’d been called to account for my misdeed.
Happy Passover to all who are observing, and to all who enjoy Passover Coke.
Sleeve Stories, continued: Yesterday’s post about those TV-numbered undersleeves worn on Sunday by Todd Helton and Ian Stewart — the ones with a Nike shoe on the right sleeve — prompted some good follow-up submissions. One at a time:
• Oddly enough, the little shoe graphic on Helton’s sleeve — you can see a clearer view of it here — is Nike’s cross-country logo. They have a baseball logo (among others), so why wasn’t that on Helton’s shirt? The most obvious answer would seem to be, “Because the baseball logo doesn’t have a swoosh.” Except…
• I had assumed that Stewart’s right-sleeve graphic was the shoe, same as on Helton’s sleeve, even though I could only come up with a blurry view of it. But I’m now told that he was actually wearing a little barbell — Nike’s weight-training symbol (sorry, that’s the best official view of I could find). No swoosh there. But again, why not just use the baseball graphic?
• I was assuming that Helton and Stewart were Nike athletes, but Helton isn’t (I haven’t found a good look at Stewart’s shoes). So they weren’t wearing these shirts because of some special deal they have with Nike; they were apparently wearing them because Nike has the MLB undershirt license, and this is the company’s latest product they’re distributing in MLB clubhouses. For all we know, lots of players have been wearing these shirts, but we wouldn’t know it because you can’t see the sleeve logos unless the player is wearing a vest.
• As several readers pointed out, these shirts have one big advantage over Nike’s other MLB undershirts: no collar swoosh. That alone might make the whole thing worth it. More of these undershirts, please, to every clubhouse in the land!
(Special thanks to Nathan Long and Tim Oldham for the info they provided on this subject.)
Collector’s Corner, by Brinke Guthrie
So you’re getting that nice tax refund but you can’t figure out what to spend it on. Try putting some of these possibilities into the mix:
• One more for Paul: a funeral home hockey jersey in Uni Watch colors. Bet they had lively crowds!
• I like this cool Eagles helmet radio from the early ’70s, but the logo is a little off.
• Terrific glass from the 1950s, straight from Stan Musial and Biggie’s restaurant. Biggie was Julius “Biggie” Garagnani, who partnered with Stan the Man on several business ventures.
• Here’s something I hadn’t heard of: NFL trading cards that came with popsicles in the mid-1970s.
Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Love this diagram of Willie Mays’s famous 1954 World Series catch (thanks, Brinke). … Seattle Sounders goalie Kasey Keller wore a blank jersey the other day. “He normally wears a black jersey on the road, so I’m guessing the referee determined that it was too close to Philadelphia’s navy home kits and made him change,” says Ethan Allen. “No clue where they got the jersey, or why the equipment staff didn’t have one of his home white tops there, just in case.” … Aaron Bernstein notes that there were lots of small helmet decals on display in Boise State’s spring scrimmage. Anyone know what that was about? … Remember my killer Lane Tech sweater? Marc-Louis Paprzyca recently saw another one for sale, with one of the all-time greatest patches ever. … Central Michigan football note from Andrew Monson, who writes: “I attended the CMU spring game, and they announced that CMU would be honoring two Army battalions with helmet decals to be worn throughout the season. I didn’t see any of them during the spring game, but I did notice that several players had small ‘Flying C’ merit decals, which I’d assume is a new thing started by second-year coach Dan Enos. If this continues in the fall, it looks like the Chips will have quite a crowded helmet.” … We always hear about the laundering of the major team sports uniforms, but here’s a piece about cycling laundry (with thanks to Brendan Hunt). … Dane Drutis noticed some writing on Patrick Kaleta’s stick last night. Looks like “Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down.” According to Bryan Thielemier, that’s a line from Johnny Cash’s song “Ain’t No Grave” and has been used as part of this season’s Deadliest Catch promos on the History Channel.. … According to a small note on this page, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward “was sporting specially-made Nike royal blue and black high-topped spikes with [Jackie] Robinson’s 42 on the heel and a subtle outline of Robinson sliding into base in the black strip on the side” for the Braves’ Jackie Day game. “Considering how low Heyward usually wears his pants, I’m not sure how effective a tribute this really is,” says Mike Rich. … I have a vague memory of this coming up before, but once more can’t hurt: “I was watching Game 6 of the Mets/Astros 1986 NLCS the other day,” says Kyle Speicher. “At the end of the game, after Orosco strikes out the final hitter, there’s the usual mosh pit on the mound. One Mets player has his cap knocked off and it falls on the mound. An umpire (presumably second base) picks it up and continues on his walk off the field. What did the ump do with the hat? Did he collect them? Did he just return it to the Mets?” Hmmmmm. … No photos, but I was watching a 1991 Mets/Phils game last night (last game of the ’91 season, when David Cone struck out 19) and saw a few things I’d forgotten about: First, Mets outfielder Keith Miller was wearing glasses that looked like industrial safety specs. And the back of each batting helmet appeared to have little American and Canadian flag decals — was this MLB-wide that season, because of Desert Storm or some such? … New lacrosse helmets for Michigan (with thanks to Alex Carrick). … Reprinted from last night’s comments: Temple football is going back to the white “T” logo. … A member of the All Blacks was going to sell one of his game-used caps but then changed his mind. “When it comes to the All Blacks, the feeling is that it is totally inappropriate for test jerseys to be sold,” says Caleb Borchers. “Kind of weird to me, given how much game-used stuff is sold in the USA, but kind of cool that there is a respect for the jersey as an icon and not as a way to make a few extra bucks.” … “Last week, one of the players on the U.S. national volleyball team, Stacy Sykora, was seriously injured in a bus accident,” writes Jeremy Brahm. “So U.S. national player Lindsey Berg wore Sykora’s nickname, Syko, on her fingers before the final of the Italian Cup. Even the men’s team for Volei Futuro was wearing her uniform in warm-ups for their playoff games.” … Reds pitcher Mike Leake was arrested yesterday for stealing half a dozen shirts. And they weren’t even those new Nike undershirts! Maybe the store was out of those (thanks, Phil.) … Longtime reader Kenny Ocker has written a story about Oregon football’s equipment manager. Somewhat incredibly, the article does not include the word “Nike.” … Caleb Wood reports that there’s an unusual Tigers jersey at the Detroit Institute for the Arts.