Congregation Shaarey Zedek celebrates its Koufax Division championship.
Congregation Shaarey Zedek celebrates its Koufax Division championship. (Steve Achtman)

Congregation Shaarey Zedek wins 4 playoff games in one day, earns Koufax Division softball title.

Congregation Shaarey Zedek won the Inter-Congregational Men’s Club Summer Softball League championship in the league’s inaugural year in 1996.

There were six teams in the league, and no divisional setup like there is now. Times were different.

Shaarey Zedek didn’t win another title until this year. The 25-year dry spell ended last month in a most unlikely and spectacular way.

After finishing in third place in the five-team Koufax Division in the regular season with an 8-11-1 record and losing its first game in the double-elimination playoffs, Shaarey Zedek won five straight games and the division playoff title.

Four of the playoff wins came on one day, a very hot Aug. 22 at Keith Sports Park in West Bloomfield. Shaarey Zedek beat Temple Israel No. 1 19-7, Temple Beth El 21-5, and Temple Israel No. 3 10-5 and 11-10. Temple Israel No. 3 defeated Shaarey Zedek 22-8 in a division playoff opener Aug. 15, leaving Shaarey Zedek a loss away from elimination.

Richard Jacobs, who has been Shaarey Zedek’s manager since 1996 and is the only current Shaarey Zedek player who also was on the 1996 championship team, didn’t play Aug. 22. He was out of town in Washington, D.C., visiting family.

“The league season was supposed to end Aug. 15, but that got pushed back a week because of rainouts,” he said. “I had to keep up with what was going on [Aug. 22] through text messages.”

Jacobs said he wasn’t surprised by his team’s amazing run through the playoffs.

“We underperformed during the regular season. We were a better team,” he said. “We started playing well at the right time. Crazy things happen in recreation softball.”

Shaarey Zedek didn’t play in the league last year.

It was the only team that opted out. Jacobs said several players decided not to play because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A few did play and joined other teams.

Besides Jacobs, the Shaarey Zedek roster this summer included Tom Berry, Vadim Brayman, Gary Fealk, David Kozlowski, Lance Lis, Stephen Maiseloff, Lonnue Pukoff, Steve Rosenblatt, Matt Weingarden, and Gabe, Gary, Joey and Sam Yashinsky.

The other playoff champions this year in the weekly league were Temple Israel No. 2 in the Greenberg Division and Congregation Shir Tikvah in the Rosen Division.

Congregation Shir Tikvah celebrates its Rosen Division championship.
Congregation Shir Tikvah celebrates its Rosen Division championship. Steve Achtman

Temple Israel No. 2 and Shir Tikvah each also won its division’s regular-season title.

Like the Koufax Division, the Greenberg and Rosen divisions also had five teams.

This was the second Greenberg Division playoff championship in three years for Temple Israel No. 2.

This season didn’t start well for Temple Israel No. 2. Through 10 games, the team was 6-4 and in fourth place.

Temple Israel No. 2 never lost again.

Temple Israel No. 2 celebrates its Greenberg Division championship.
Temple Israel No. 2 celebrates its Greenberg Division championship. Steve Achtman

It reeled off 10 straight victories to finish the regular season at 16-4 and in first place in the division.

Then it won all three of its playoff games, including a 15-14 eight-inning victory over Temple Israel No. 5 in the championship game on a walk-off sacrifice fly by Jeff Katzen that scored Jeff Kaplan.

“We were clicking. Everyone was hitting. Everyone was playing well,” Temple Israel No. 2 manager Victor Uzansky said about his team’s 13-game winning streak.

The team had three father/son duos on its roster: Victor and Benjamin Uzansky, Ryan and Andrew Schneider and Jeff and Jared Katzen.

Also on the team were Ben Watson, Marc Weiss, Dave Banooni, Brad Goldman and Eric Wolfe.

Despite rainouts and makeups, each team played the scheduled 20 games. 

The list below shows the league’s final regular-season standings. 

GREENBERG DIVISION

1. Temple Israel No. 2 16-4.

2. Temple Israel No. 5 14-5-1.

3. Temple Israel No. 6 14-5-1.

4. Temple Shir Shalom No. 2 14-5-1.

5. Temple Israel No. 4 4-16-0.

KOUFAX DIVISION

1. Temple Beth El 15-5-0.

2. Temple Israel No. 3 12-8-0.

3. Congregation Shaarey Zedek 8-11-1.

4. Temple Israel No. 1 8-12-0.

5. Adat Shalom Synagogue No. 1 7-12-1.

ROSEN DIVISION

1. Congregation Shir Tikvah 13-7-0.

2. Congregation Beth Ahm 10-10-0.

3. Adat Shalom Synagogue No. 2 6-13-1.

4. Temple Shir Shalom No. 3 4-16-0.

5. Bais Chabad Torah Center 2-18-0.

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