The following blog is a discussion about the civil religion of baseball. The spark for these writings is the book “The Faith of 50 Million”.
Sacred moments are often the culmination of a collection of sacred experiences. Folks in parts of the Christian community talk about the moment they were ‘born again’ as the sacred moment that changed their life. I believe there are other events that lead to the ‘born again’ moment, however. Think of putting together a crossword puzzle. When we place the last piece into the puzzle we claim it is finished. However, we would not be finished without first placing many other pieces into the puzzle.
When the last out is made in a baseball game we say ‘we won’ or ‘we’ll get them next time’. But, it took the twenty-six other outs, some hits, strike outs, stolen bases and runs scored to reach the moment of victory or ‘the other thing’. Very often the sacred moment does not stand alone in our life experience. The sacred moment is often the most recent event in a collection of experiences.
It is one of those collective experiences I am sharing with you from my life. You all know by now that my denomination in the religion of baseball is The Pittsburgh Pirates. The sacred journey we are discussing here happened, surprisingly, in the denomination of The Baltimore Orioles. The baseball gods (like The Creator of All Things) work in mysterious ways! My sacred journey began on August 5, 1983. Jeff, my brother-in-law, and I traveled to Baltimore and Memorial Stadium for Brooks Robinson Celebration Night. The city was celebrating the induction of Brooks Robinson into ‘sainthood’ at the Hall of Fame which had taken place on July 31st that year.
It was a rainy night and the game was postponed for 90 minutes offering the fans plenty of opportunity to get well lubricated waiting for the game to start.
Once the game got started Jeff and I struck up a relationship with the two guys in front of us who were sharing a pair of binoculars. We should have had a telescope since our seats were about five rows from the city limits. One of the guys was looking at the score board using the binoculars ‘backward’. His buddy noticed this and stated, “Your looking through the wrong end.” The guy with the binoculars replied, “I know. I can see better this way.” That’s what I mean by being well lubricated. Or, the guys were just ‘dumber then dumb’!
Mostly, the fans remembered why they were there by the time a 1955 Thunderbird (this could have been the one)
circled the stadium with Brooks Robinson reportedly sitting on the top of the back seat (remember, we were five rows from the city limits) the fans cheered wildly for the man known as “The Human Vacuum Cleaner”.
During his speech Brooks said, “I wish I could give you 20 more years.” I couldn’t be certain with all the rain soaked faces around me but I think some folks had tears in their eyes. Brooks had been part of these fans lives for 23 years. The ‘hot corner’ (third base) had never been in such sure hands as during the years Brooks patrolled that space.
About ten o’clock that evening the game actually started and sometime the next day the Orioles won another game on their way to the American League Pennant. The first experience of my collective sacred moment connected to Brooks Robinson was now part of my personal journey . Two more events would occur which added to this one would become a sacred moment for me.
See you next time.