Sunday, July 1, 2007

Why Baseball Is God's Game

(Originally posted May, 2007).
Passed on to me... Milton might like it...
1. "The game of ball is glorious" – Walt Whitman.
2. Baseball is about coming home. The whole point of the game is to finish where you begin – home plate – and once you are home you are finally safe.
"In my beginning is my end…
Home is where one starts from…
In my end is my beginning."
(T. S. Eliot, "East Coker")
3. Its rudiments come from another world, i.e. England (!); its beginnings are shrouded in myth and legend (Abner Doubleday, "Casey at the Bat," etc.); and its origins are rural, its destiny urban, i.e. it began in a garden and ends in the urbs. And the Original Sin: the banning of black players.
4. Its believers are nourished on Word and Sacrament, viz. the umpire's shout, "Play ball!", and the pilgrim fare of Crackerjacks and soda, hotdogs and beer. And, amidst elaborate ritual, there is that numinous moment of stillness as the pitcher takes the sign, winds up, and delivers, and that most majestic of sounds – the crack of the bat (rubric: All stand).
5. It has its saints – e.g. Lou Gehrig (the Iron Horse) and Jackie Robinson (the first African-American player of the modern era) – and sinners – e.g. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (who took a bribe) and Barry Bonds (who is alleged to have taken steroids). And there is the Great Satan: the New York Yankees.
6. It has its cathedrals – ballparks, awesome, hallowed grounds, the immediate playing area the "diamond" – and its Temple in Jerusalem, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York – replete with relics!
7. It had a Reformation with a splinter church, viz. the advent of the American League – with, alas, its ultimate descent into the heresy of the "designated hitter"!
8. It has its Suffering Servant, viz. the Chicago Cubs, the "Cubbies," a team annually "like a sheep led to the slaughter" (and crucial to the game is the play called the "sacrifice"). But "Cub fans love the Cubs, warts and all, no questions asked. This quality is called faith" (Peter Glenbock).
9. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive this game as a little child will never enter it (cf. Mark 10:15). Magically, baseball always brings out the child in you, and draws you back to your childhood, indeed makes your childhood present (anamnesis). And it is a tie that binds the generations, communio sanctorum.
10. Finally, baseball abounds in hope (cf. Romans 15:13): "Next year!" – and, indeed, past-redeeming eschatological promise: "If you build it, he will come" (Field of Dreams). Maranatha
I'd also add something about the sacred geometry and math of the ballfield itself...rounding the square, the infinity of the foul lines...90 plus 90 plus 90 plus 90 being 360, the number of degrees in a circle, and being divisble by 3, the sacred number of the trinity...9 lineup spots, 9 innings, which is 3 times 3, another sacred number...3 outs, 3 strikes (4 balls...umm, 3 +1 for grace?). God is everywhere in baseball.

1 comment:

  1. # don't eat alone Says:


    This is wonderful. I went to the Sox game last night. We were sitting in seats where foul balls never come — I’m not sure it’s physically possible for them to get where we were. On the row behind us was a father and his little girl, both decked out in their Boston Best.

    And the dad was wearing his glove.


    # Towanda Says:
    Milton, when Daddy made a pilgrimage to Fenway a few years ago, he had somebody take his picture sitting in the red seat. You can see the glee on his face. Teddy Ballgame was/is his hero.


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