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”.
Our little family was living in Norway in the late 90’s when the second Brooks Robinson experience adhered to my life journey. A friend of mine, whose name I am embarrassed to admit I have forgotten, gave me a gift. (Remember the picnic with my High School class? Yeah! I apparently, have a defect in the memory department!) If any of you from Norway know this friend send me her name! My friend was a Major with a NATO assignment inside of Jatta Nuten. She played softball on the team I played for and she joined one of our spiritual retreats to Kjerag. That’s me at Kjerag about 3,000 feet above Lyse Fjord. My friend also got out on and stood on that rock with both of the other folks in her shop. Geez! I couldn’t even stand up once I was on the rock. On a different retreat to this spot we arrived to see a dude doing a hand stand on top of a chair. Only one leg of the chair was on the rock…3,000 feet above the fjord. People base jump into the fjord from just to the right of the rock. “Geez!” I exclaim once again.
My friend returned to The States on leave. One day while in The States she was visiting the base exchange at her former assignment and saw Brooks Robinson signing baseballs. Being a disciple of baseball she, of course, had to have his signature. While Brooks was signing her baseball she thought about how much I loved baseball so she asked a favor of “The Human Vacuum” who was kind enough to grant her request. She asked Brooks to autograph a baseball for me. Now, that is too cool! The troops called me ‘Chappy’ while we were stationed in Norway which explains the inscription on the ball; “To Chappy best wishes Brooks Robinson.
A community is necessary to live a healthy religious faith. I have been blessed with a community at every step of my religion of baseball journey. My parents were engaged in my baptism and confirmation. Jeff has shared many religious moments along the way. And a friend in Norway made possible my second Brooks Robinson sacred event; possessing his autograph on a baseball.
Finally, my friend Rod was the impetus behind the final event in this sacred moment. Rod’s connection came in two parts. One Sunday I must have used a baseball story as part of a morning message because the next week Rod and his son Brock (who is more of a hockey fan) presented me with a McFarlane, Cooperstown Collection Brooks Robinson figure. The next year when I retired Rod wanted to give me a special retirement gift. His gift was a trip to Baltimore and Camden Yards (It was a special gift for certain.) We toured the stadium in the afternoon, ate at inner harbor, toured the ships open to the public, went to the game, received O’Day T-shirts and had a great time.
Here is the moment that connected all the Brooks Robinson experiences. The Orioles have a ‘garden’ filled with Oriole Hall of Fame saint’s statues. Cal Ripken, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Earl Weaver and of course Brooks Robinson. While standing by Brooks’ statue
the mind pictures of my other Brooks events lit up clear as can be. It was like I was in an auditorium watching a slide show. Jeff was beside me in 1983 (wearing his Boston Red Sox hat) squinting at the man in the 1955 Corvette, I saw my friend’s hand and mine as the autographed baseball changed ownership in 1998, I saw Rod and Brock in 2013 grinning like Cheshire Cats as they walked toward me with the toy figure and I felt those four friends from my baseball community sharing this sacred moment with me at the foot of Brooks Robinson’s statue. This was special to be communing with the ‘saint’ who had been the Oriole third baseman intertwined with all my baseball memories from 1960 to 1977. The ‘Brooks’ events all came together in that sacred moment. A connection was made through time that was now part of my story. As my journey continues this part of me will become part of those who share future ‘religious’ moments with me. “Geez! That’s heavy stuff.
This is some of what religious faith is meant to be; a sharing of our self with others while being surrounded by something or someone much greater then the sum of all we are. Religious faith is about relationships transcending time and space cradled in an eternal presence.
Oh, the Orioles lost the game that night but I hardly noticed.
See you next time.