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Baseball: Our True Religion

Humor by Louis Phillips


I wish I could understand Cardinal O'Connor's disapproval of Sunday baseball, but I cannot. Let's face it. Baseball is a religion and frequently provides a better experience for the faithful than going to expensive cathedrals and wondering why God must pay such high rents. Indeed, I have seen more men, women, and children praying at Yankee Stadium than I have seen in most churches, diehard fans uttering such prayers as "Dear God, don't let Derek Jeter strike out. I'll do anything, but just let the Yankees tie this game and go ahead into the bottom of the 9th." Certainly a season at Fenway Park will provide deeper insight into the nature of human suffering than re-reading the Book of Job. In the Book of Job, suffering is understandable because God permits Satan to act reprehensibly, whereas at Fenway Park, nothing is understandable, and so the human soul expands its capacity to celebrate the mysteries of creation and explore the destruction of happiness.

I suppose I shall be receiving thousands of irate letters from religious fanatics for contending that Baseball is a better religion than the older more established ones, but facts are facts, whereas faith is merely faith. Certainly Baseball has not killed as many innocent persons as religious differences have. Baseball has its flaws-its history of racism and religious intolerance-but has it ever sponsored the Inquisition? Has it ever condemned anyone-with the possible exceptions of Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson-to Hell? Has it ever slaughtered infidels in order to bring home relics? Baseball relics, such as autographs and bubblegum cards, are easily obtainable and very rarely involve the spilling of blood or the cutting off of ears. Christians have the Shroud of Turin; baseball worshippers have the retired uniform of Babe Ruth. Which object has inspired more hope, more dreams, and more enduring embracements of holiness, I shall leave to the statisticians to debate.

Religious differences divide one person from another; baseball, on the other hand, promotes brotherhood, a spirit of fairness, a respect for skillful play no matter if performed by a Jew, a Catholic, a Baptist, or even a complete atheist (although there are no atheists during a World Series.)

No. It's time to protest the opening of churches on Sunday. Shut down schools and offices during the week, and let families go to church on Thursday mornings. Is God only open for business on Sunday? Why not condemn Wall Street for remaining open when the brokers can be worshipping? Or is it in the best interest of the church to attack little leaguers (who can't contribute much money to the coffers) and to allow millionaires to play whenever they want?

Can't we who are, hopefully, adults encourage priority of values among youngsters by attempting to protect some remnant of their childhoods? We need more baseball fields in New York City and families need access to the parks. Playing in the park on a sunny weekend day provides as much spiritual renewal as being shut inside large or small churches, where we are constantly reminded how sinful and fallen we are, and constantly reminded how small-minded our religious leaders are. Perhaps the wisest path open to our city's mayor would be to advocate tearing down St. Patrick's Cathedral and building a new domed stadium in its place. In the spirit of good faith I propose we name the new park The John Cardinal O'Connor Yankee Stadium.


Louis Phillips is an essayist from New York City. He is the author of 30 books for children and adults.


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