Chanukah Home Runs

Shelly Saltman
Shelly Saltman

Chanukah is a great time of the year for many reasons: the food, the telling of the miracle story and the exchanging of gifts, among others. Over the past year in this space, I have introduced you to many people — from Baltimore to every corner of the United States — who represent the best in news and sports media.

In keeping with the Chanukah theme, I thought it might be fun to check in with some of those people and ask them about their all-time favorite Chanukah gift or memory.

Let’s start locally with Jerry Coleman who can be heard on 105.7 FM The Fan, where he is part of “The Norris and Davis Morning Show.” Coleman has established himself as one of the area’s top Ravens and Orioles beat reporters.

“My favorite Chanukah gift was an Orioles cap from my folks when we moved to Baltimore in 1977,” said Coleman. “My family wanted to give me a chance to embrace my new favorite team. As many baseball fans know, 1977 was the beginning of an era known as Orioles Magic. It really was a magical time for me as a young fan, and yes, I still have the hat.”

Tal Heinrich of Sport 5 Israel has a fond memory of something with which we all are quite familiar at this time of year. “To this day I still enjoy eating Chanukah gelt, which might sound a bit crazy to some people,” she said. “But I still remember my grandmother and grandfather sneaking me a few extra coins after my parents told me that I had had enough. The chocolate might not be the best in the world, but it’s the memory: When peeling the gold paper off the coins, I will always think of my grandparents.”

A couple of our friends at i24 News in Israel, Noam Assouline and Michael Friedman, both have fond childhood memories of Chanukah. For Assouline, it was the chance to enjoy the holiday with family and learn an important lesson.

“When we were kids, my brother and I were the youngest in a group of 17 cousins with 14 uncles and aunts on my Dad’s side alone,” he said. “We would return home after celebrating at one of our family members’ homes with trash bags full of small toys that we would share. But one year, I got a Gameboy for Chanukah; it cost about $120, a huge amount at the time. But in order to play this magical new device, I had to continue to get good grades in school or the Gameboy would be put away. Well, my grades were not good enough, and all my video games were locked up for a full trimester. I returned to my studies full time and read books in my free time. It seemed harsh at the time, but 24 years later, I thank my dad for making sure my favorite Chanukah gift did not get in the way of my studies.”

Friedman reports on sports, and it seems that, like many of us, his love for one particular sport was enhanced with a Chanukah gift.

“The best Chanukah gift I received as a kid was a soccer goal because it allowed me to play with my friends in my backyard,” said Friedman. “I would come home every day after school and practice scoring goals. Today, I have the pleasure and honor of covering some of the best soccer events in Europe and, of course, the World Cup. I still wish I had that goal so I could play in my backyard with my i24 News mates. I will never forget the fun and freedom of pretending to be some of the greatest soccer players in history, and all of it was taking place in my backyard.”

For some, a Chanukah gift is very, very personal. That is true for Shelly Saltman, former president of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and a longtime sports and broadcast mogul.

Tal Heinrich
Tal Heinrich

“I have for most of my adult life traveled so much that sometimes I have been on the road during the holiday,” he said. “But hands down, my best gift ever came after a very long trip. I returned from Russia not even realizing it was Chanukah, and to my surprise, when I landed at LAX, there was my daughter, my son-in-law and my two little granddaughters to greet me with an impromptu holiday celebration right there at the airport in Los Angeles. Such a wonderful gift that was, and it’s my favorite Chanukah memory.”

Evan Wiener, who is a noted author and lecturer on business and politics in sports, told us that his favorite Chanukah gift was not something bought for him or, for that matter, given to him. However, it was very special just the same because it was the gift of a father’s pride.

“When he was in his early teens, my son, Jarred, made a Coca-Cola all-star ice hockey team, which was announced the first week of Chanukah. He and his team got to play on the home ice of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils at the Meadowlands. He has now graduated from college and has a great job in New York, and the Devils have moved to The Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. But I was very proud of him for achieving something so very special to both of us. That is my favorite Chanukah gift by far.”

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