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”.
The religion of baseball knows no boundaries. I can be immersed in the religion anywhere in the world through news media, social media, book reading and discussions with other followers of baseball. However, the best method of practicing this religion is by attendance one of the temples. Fortunately, these temples may be found with little difficulty. Our little family has kept our connection to the religion of baseball by visiting baseball cathedrals in many of the places we have lived.
Being stationed in Southern California is, of course, great for a disciple of baseball. San Diego, Los Angeles and Anaheim where all with in an easy drive on the California highway system to a baseball game. I visited The Big “A” several times in the 80’s with my friend and fellow softball player, Doug. One time we nearly froze sitting high up in the outfield stands. The second time we were informed at the ticket window that we could buy tickets ‘down and out’ or ‘up and in’. Well, Doug and I discussed the option settling on ‘up and in’ because ‘in’ sounded better than ‘out’. It turns out we were ‘in’ the stadium but ‘up’ was the important adjective. We were right behind home plate but we were up so high we had to wear blinking red lights on our hats to warn air craft to avoid us. (Naw! We weren’t that high but believe me when I tell you no one was going to hit a ball higher than we were above the playing field. I did experience a bit of the timelessness of the religion of baseball at Anaheim. Watching Dick Schofield play shortstop connected another time in life when I watched his Father, Ducky Schofield, play infield in 1960 for the Pirates. The religion of baseball really is timeless.
My Jane, Sarah and I enjoyed a day at Chavez Ravine watching the Dodgers. Sarah became a disciple of baseball at an early age and still likes going to the games. We were in the parking lot after the game when the fireworks display began with the explosions taking place directly above us rattling our bones. With the first shock of sound Sarah was trying hard to get away from those extremely loud explosions by running for our car holding her hands over her ears. She must not have been too traumatized by the experience because she catches the nightly fireworks at Disney World as often as possible.
We visited Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego while my Mother was visiting us. We did the tourist things; Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, Pacific Beach, Tijuana, Mexico and a Padre’s night game. The entire family practices the religion of baseball. My Mother became a sports fan (football, basketball and baseball), so the legend has it, because she was supposed to be the oldest boy in the family. Apparently, it didn’t matter to her father that she was a girl and he took her with him to the basketball games he coached in the winter and became the team mascot. She walked beside him as he walked the sidelines at football games in the fall and sat with him at local baseball games in the summer. Of course, we had to all attend a game while we were in San Diego and watch Mr Padre, Tony Gwynn young catcher, Benito Santiago and John Kruk before he became a Phillie.
I had been to baseball games years earlier when I was stationed in San Diego in the 70’s. One week some friends of mine and I watched a football game between the Chargers and Bears. (In that game Dick Butkus intercepted a pass and ran the ball right through the quarterback, Marty Domres – John Hadl had been injured earlier in the year. I think right about that moment Marty was wishing John hadn’t been injured.) Here is the neat part of this story. A couple of days later the same group of friends returned to Jack Murphy Stadium to watch the Padres. This is really neat because Jack Murphy could be reconfigured for the two sports. Because the lower level of seating could be moved seating was really pretty good for watching a baseball game. However, the Padres weren’t very good to watch and some of the fans did not appreciate our little group cheering for the Phillies. As I remember, an usher had to come and stand near us to protect us from flying objects.
Place cannot separate a disciple of baseball from the religion, neither can time. Just as a spiritual experience becomes part of you so a religious baseball experience remains embedded in the fabric of who you are. Each religious or spiritual experience changes who we are as we continue to journey along the path of life. We can never be separated from those moments and we can never be who we were before those moments affected our lives. Who we are today is a result of the spiritual and religious moments we have experienced. Who we are today will not be who we are after we experience new spiritual and religious moments in the future. Life is fluid not static. Life is a journey not a destination. Religion is the tool pointing us to the boundlessness of life. Embrace the transformation taking place within you and look on the world with fresh eyes every day. Be amazed at the limitlessness of the eternal surrounding us and continue to explore that which has no end.