The Church of Baseball

This weekend, a small kerfuffle commenced over two symbols carved into the dirt on the back of Busch Stadium’s pitching mound. One was the number six, placed there in honor of Stan “The Man” Musial who died on January 19th at the age of 92. The other was a cross. It’s appearance shouldn’t be surprising since the St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most openly Christian teams in all of professional sports. Fifteen or so players as well as head coach Mike Matheny are believers, and their faith was the subject of a new book written just this year.

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However, “One fan, Michael Vines, said he was ‘shocked’ when he saw the ‘inappropriate’ images because he said Busch Stadium is ‘a place of hallowed ground not just for Christians, but for Cardinal fans of all religions, including none at all.'” A series of phone calls followed his complaint, and in the end, the Cardinals’ GM, John Mozeliak, ordered that both symbols be removed. The cross for obvious reasons and the 6 because, according to reports, someone said “it looked suspiciously like a Jesus fish.” Le sigh. And the first day the symbols weren’t there was on Christian Family Day. The irony of it all is positively delightful.

So….wait. A book discussing the team’s faith and an entire day devoted to Christians (one that has been advertised for months beforehand) is kosher. And it’s okey dokey to accept money from believers who attend the game, but the symbols on the back of a mound must be nixed toot sweet? Call me crazy, but that seems a skosh hypocritical. It’s like the scene in Casablanca where Captain Louis Rennalt attempts to appear shocked that gambling is going on at Rick’s Café American….and then collecting his winnings before closing the place down at the Nazi’s behest.

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Bill McClellan, a writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote an op-ed this weekend titled “Uneasy feelings about the cross on Busch Stadium mound” in which he states, “I look at photos of that cross etched on the mound and I get the same sort of uneasy feeling I get when I hear the phrase ‘homeland security.’ It used to be ‘national security.’ Why did ‘national’ morph into ‘homeland’? It happened about the same time politicians started wearing American flag lapel pins.”

Really?!?

He goes on, equating the feeling to the same slick nausea that churns in his gut when he thinks of terrorism, the NSA surveillance program, and George Orwell. And he closes this gem of fallacious writing by saying, “The tribute to Musial seems harmless. Not so the cross. Does religion need to be that prominent in a baseball game? I’m not pretending it’s a big deal. But still, I have an uneasy feeling about a cross etched on the mound.”

So, in his mind, the cross poses the same threat to America’s security as enemies both foreign and domestic. But that’s quite a stretch, especially considering the fact he praised this year’s team by saying they’re, “the nicest Cardinals team I can recall. At least, the players appear nice from a distance.” Also, if he’s so concerned about the dystopian world in Orwell’s 1984, shouldn’t he be defending the placement of the cross on the field (and the freedom that allows it to be there) rather than supporting the “Big Brother” decision to have it removed? I sometimes wonder if the kneejerk reaction to anything that remotely smacks of Christianity doesn’t keep some folks in our country from thinking the matter through clearly.

And let’s be serious here for a moment. Both Mr. Vines and Mr. McClellan are forgetting something true baseball fans understand—If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Cardinals currently have the best record in baseball (53 and 34) and are, as I type this, beating the snot out of the Houston Astros 8-1. The starting rotation is rock solid; the lineup is hitting like gangbusters. Five men were selected to participate in the 2013 All-Star Game, and every player on the team is happy and honored to be a part of an historic and well-respected franchise. In other words, they’re like “Me and Mrs. Jones”—they got a good thing going on. So quit gnashing your teeth and enjoy the second half of the season, dudes.

I am a Christian who also happens to be a St. Louis Cardinals fan. I’m thrilled that I can root for a team of stand-up men who play the game skillfully and serve God both on and off the field. I would love nothing more than a religious symbol on every base and Scripture written on the walls of the dugout. However, even if I only believed in “The Church of Baseball,” I would still support the cross and 6 on the mound. Why? Because they’re Hippocratic; they do no harm. A true fan supports whatever gets the game in the “W” column as opposed to the “L” and worries more about team morale than its iconography.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your reaction to this situation and all the people who have weighed in thus far. Can we even have a legitimate debate about religion again in this country anymore? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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6 thoughts on “The Church of Baseball

  1. Funny how some of these people get so worked up or “offended” over a cross or a Jesus Fish, but don’t get equally worked up or “offended” about barbarism in the name of religion (for example, the Islamists who burned down the school in Nigeria last week.)

    1. Very true, Heather. And both men’s statements are riddled with errors. I didn’t even want to get into the lapses in logic they both expressed. People fear Christianity I think (at least in part) because they don’t understand it. And the blame for that falls firmly on believers’ heads.

      But it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Jesus said the world would hate believers because it hated Him first, and that’s what I feel is starting to happen to Christians. It’s not nearly as dramatic here as it is in places in the Middle East where being a Christian carries a death sentence with it, but it is certainly more difficult than it was say thirty years ago.

      I know not everyone will become a Christian, but I am blown away by the fact that the people who decry the faith say it’s about freedom of choice. Then they don’t give Christians the chance to choose how to express their faith. It’s just mindboggling.

  2. As a non-Christian, I don’t find anything wrong with it. It seemed more of a tribute to Musial than any sort of declaration that this was “Christian” ground or anything.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. People just overreact so vehemently (on both sides) when it comes to matters of faith that I doubt we can ever have a civil conversation about it again. We’re too busy lobbing bombs from the trenches at each other, I suppose.

  3. Sorry for the massively delayed reading and commenting on this post! Stuff like this burns me up! People are so dramatic when it comes to Christianity being expressed. Was that cross etched in the ground physically oppressing anyone? No. But just because one fan was “shocked” this all happened. It seems like any other belief (or especially non-belief) system is celebrated and accepted except Christianity. Major point of irritation!

    1. I’m sure it was a few, but my gracious. Serious overreaction. And, now that I think about it, that’s when we started playing worse. I blame that guy for our losing streak.

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