A Homily in the Church of Baseball
I love this game. I really do.
I love the shape, the geometry of the game—so clean, so precise,
60 feet 6 inches exactly from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.
I love the beauty of a baseball diamond.
No warlike football territories that need to be defended and conquered
But a round white pitcher’s mound, and miles and miles of green, green grass.
And the trinity of bases, or
the stages of my life may be—from youth to adulthood to old age
And all the time heading home.
We are all heading home.
I especially love
how baseball matches the seasons,
born in the spring, dying in the fall,
our daily routines (how did the Tigers do last night?) with
small moments of great joy,
as well as those lingering moments of great sadness.
It’s a part of my memory, a part of me,
as part of me as my mother’s voice.
And the stories, all the stories.
I remember listening as a young kid to that old tape of Lou Gehrig.
The great New York Yankee hero, the iron man,
so strong, so tough, dying of ALS,
but on his tribute day in Yankee Stadium
he could still stand and say:
“Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
And I remember Bill Mazeroski’s home run in 1960,
The whispers that went around Mrs. Mackenzie’s class (I always had a crush on Mrs. Mac)
Because the team we all hated,
And were proud to hate,
The New York evil Yankees, finally lost a World Series.
We nudged each other under the desks and giggled.
And the amazin’ ‘69 Mets,
God’s joke on his children who sometimes forget that miracles do happen.
But, over the next years, I lost interest in baseball.
The world seemed to call for skepticism in a young man of the time.
I cultivated cynicism like I once collected baseball cards.
I studied Watergate newspaper stories like I once read the box scores.
But then there was 1975, the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox.
The sixth game of their World Series was the greatest baseball game ever played.
My wife and I, recently married, had a 12” black and white TV set with broken rabbit ears.
If you sat in one particular spot and didn’t move too much
the fuzz wasn’t too bad. I sat amazed,
and grateful, for all that life gave me
and all it could be.
About a decade later, I watched as the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs,
and I literally fell out of my chair onto the floor.
I thought of my father.
The Red Sox lose again?
It just didn’t seem fair.
Of course, it reinforced what some believe,
life always disappoints,
or as my father would say (he was a Red Sox fan after all)—life is tough and then you die.
But I don’t buy that,
driving our old Volvo down I-94 listening to the ’84 Tigers,
my wife using her little finger to sooth a teething child so
we could hear Kirk Gibson’s home run to seal victory.
How sweet—huggin’ and highfivin,’ baseball and babies,
chuggin’ down the highway.
And yes I remember too, that Cubs fan (he’ll always be “that Cubs fan”)
who instinctively reached up and caused our left fielder to
miss that fly ball. October, 2003.
It was all over. St. Peter could not have saved that game.
We were dead men walking.
The Cubs lose, The Cubs lose, The Cubs lose again.
But then the Red Sox actually won it all in 2004, and have done it again with and without beards.
The Chicago White Sox won a World Series, and the Tigers have had some great seasons.
Good things will happen. Miracles do happen I tell ‘ya—
except may be for the Cubs.
Life has to hold some deep mysteries.
For a while baseball leaves us to the darkness of winter,
and we cling to the improbable hope of spring and the resurrection.
But, Baseball, and life, will offer us another chance.
You’ll see. We will be born again,
as we always are, every year, every spring, always,
Wayne Ramsey, retired director of Research Design & Evaluation at the Fetzer Institute, has a passion for the game of baseball.