The Church of Baseball

The Washington Post this morning has an article about the Colorado Rockies and Christianity.

What do readers think? Read the article. Is it fair to the Rockies? Are the Rockies teaching good lessons? Or are they bordering on some false theology in some respects?

It's claimed that Einstein once said "God does not play dice." Yes, but does God follow the Rockies? Or do the Rockies perhaps prosper because of their beliefs?

Before you come to any quick conclusions also read this story about Rockies manager Clint Hurdle and his family.

Pastoral care in the church of baseball

At the 222nd convention on Saturday, November 3rd, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts voted to send condolences to the bishops of Cleveland (Hollingsworth) and Colorado (O'Neil) upon the loss of the American League pennant and the World Series - both bishops formerly with the Diocese of Massachusetts.


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Bishops in the church of baseball

(Updated.) Bishop Jack McKelvey of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester and his friend and colleague, Roman Catholic Bishop Matthew Clark of the Catholic Diocese of Rochester are serious baseball fans. The scandal of steroids have not discouraged their love of the game. Both grew up playing the game, appreciating the skill it takes, and loving the rhythms of the season and the drama the players bring to the game. "It's in my bones," McKelvey says.

McKelvey says that the steroid scandal points to the frailty of human nature.

"If you are already better than 99.9 percent of all the people who have ever played the game, why is that not good enough?" he asks. "That's the pathetic part about this."

Bishop Clark is a Yankees fan.

McKelvey has followed a winding road, stopping for a while to root for "any team that would beat the Yankees," to being a fan of the Minnesota Twins and their Rochester farm team, the Red Wings. He admits he was almost as excited to be elected to the Red Wings board of directors as to be elected bishop.

"People do strange things to prove they're No. 1," he says of steroids use.

But the same could be said of athletes for whom the fattest contract is really important, or CEO's or performers who look for ever higher pay.

"It's all part of the same desire," McKelvey says. "Can I be happy as No. 2? Many of them cannot."

You cannot make sense of steroids in baseball except as, in part, a reflection of the wider culture. Baseball players are like the rest of us: good, bad, and in between.

Read the rest: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Bishops see human frailty in baseball's steroids scandal.

In fifty days players may report for Spring Training.

Church of Baseball, redux, rebuked

The Cafe has an eclectic mix of categories in its compendium of all things interesting about the church today, but one that stands out in particular is "Baseball." Periodically throughout last season, we'd make note of various "Faith Night" events and reflections from the outfield. And now, preseason pundits have taken note yet again of the phenomenon. Murray Chass, writing in the New York Times, is quite frank about his feelings on the matter, and pulls no punches: "It's time ... for baseball’s constitution to dictate separation of church and baseball," noting the connection between "faith night" events and ... marketing.

The idea has caught on in baseball because clubs want to sell tickets. That’s why Major League Baseball will never halt faith nights. Anything for a few dollars more. But it has no place in baseball. Baseball crowds are made up of people of all faiths and no faith. No segment should be singled out.

Third Coast’s Web site says, “Third Coast Sports has partnered with dozens of sports teams to organize, promote and execute successful events that seek to provide churches with opportunities for outreach and churchwide fellowship.”

Does that sound inclusive? Outreach to whom? What its events do is give the company a foothold in baseball marketing.

Just what baseball needs — peanuts, popcorn and proselytizing.

You can see some of the events we covered last year here, and read Chass' entire column here.

Proper liturgy for opening day

The Baseball Fan observes with great devotion the days of the Baseball Season, and it became the custom to prepare for Opening Day by a season of reflection and prediction. This season provided a time for converts and seasoned Fans alike to share with each other their allegiances and analyses so that conversations, whether appointed or joyously unexpected, could begin with mutual understanding and awareness.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of Baseball Fans everywhere, to the observance of a truly great Season by self-examination and objectivity; by reflection, contemplation, and self-awareness; and by reading and studying Street and Smith's Baseball Annual, the sports pages, baseball blogs, and websites, and, perhaps, conversing (at arm's length) with baseball handicappers of renown. And, to make a right beginning to the Season, let us now kneel in silence to determine the results of our studies and our hopes for the Teams, and to set forth those results below:

2008 Baseball Season Predictions
Winners of Divisions and Wild Cards, League Champions, and World's Champion

AL East:
AL Central:
AL West:
AL Wild Card:
AL Champion:

NL East:
NL Central:
NL West:
NL Wild Card:
NL Champion:

World's Champion:

Please include your predictions in the comments below.

Written by the Ven. "Dusty" Howard Stringfellow, Archdeacon of the Diocese of Bethlehem.

HT: Andrewplus: Proper liturgy for opening day.

Episcopal Church named "official denomination" of Major League Baseball

Here's some exciting news that's breaking this first day in April:

(by email)

As a part of opening week festivities, Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced today that the Episcopal Church has been designated the Official Denomination of Major League Baseball. The move was announced today in a teleconference with reporters.

"Faith oriented promotions have increasingly become a part of many minor league team," Selig said. "We felt that it was time to tap into this important demographic."

"We also want to reinforce our family friendly image while at the same time reaching out to a wide cross section of life-styles, incomes and tastes," Selig said. "We are pleased that the Episcopal Church will join us in this first partnership between a major sport and a church."

Many denominations were considered for the endorsement. Some traditions did not make bids for theological reasons, but unnamed sources described the behind the scenes competition as intense.

"The Baptists and Catholics both made strong bids," said a baseball official familiar with the negotiations. "And it is true that both traditions brought strong numbers to the table." Few commentators expected the Episcopal Church's bid to be as strong as it was.

Selig said that Episcopalians bring the right mix of arcane tradition, an appreciation of minutiae and a tolerance for long stretches of relative inaction that make them "a good fit for us."

"We believe that Episcopalians understand the nuances of the game and won't meddle with our traditions too much."

As part of the agreement, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori said that a Suffragan Bishop for Baseball will be appointed. A name will be presented at a special House of Bishops meeting called for the purpose in May. The ministry of the Suffragan Bishop for Baseball will be to coordinate the ministries of the church in the baseball environment.

"The designation of Official Denomination will be a boon to our evangelism," said the Rev. Jan Nunley. "Reflective MLB logos will soon appear as a part of the well known Episcopal Church Welcomes You signs in front of every Episcopal Church and along many streets in towns and cities across the US."

Observers also noted that the designation will also help the public differentiate Episcopal Churches from other churches that have recently appropriated the Anglican "brand" for their own use.

"The Episcopal Church encompasses many nations that differ along language and cultural lines—from the Dominican Republic to Taiwan--but we all share a love for Baseball," Nunley said.

"Theologians and poets have long described how the rhythms and traditions of baseball speak to us on many levels," Jefferts Schori told reporters. "Baseball shows us the presence of God in everyday things, that sublime combination of individual and team effort which reminds us of the Body of Christ and in the end God wants us all to come home."

Saying only that the marketing possibilities have "yet to be worked out" neither Selig nor Jefferts Schori would comment on rumors that pre-packaged Holy Communion and box-score editions of the Book of Common Prayer would be offered at kiosks at major league parks.

While some religious and sports commentators expressed skepticism at the move, and some wondered if the Presiding Bishop had the canonical authority to establish such a relationship, others were more forgiving.

"Baseball and Jesus." Nunley said. "They go together like peanuts and Cracker Jack."

Great news for a great day.

Annie Savoy, Episcopalian?

The good sports at Bus Leagues Baseball picked up our April Fool's story and took it a step further. As Bull Durham fans, we are delighted.

Slate appreciates the classics

Slate is carrying hymns of praise to Café favorites Bull Durham, and Friday Night Lights. Perhaps it is only coincidence, but we prefer to think it is a manifestation of our vast influence over public discourse.

Sara Mosle's piece is the best yet written on FNL, and includes this perceptive paragraph:

Friday Night Lights is also America as it's seldom been seen. It's astounding how few dramas depict ordinary, working-class life in the so-called red states—without, say, first giving several of the inhabitants supernatural powers. Also, on television, the country's lower classes seem to consist entirely of prison inmates, gang members, drug dealers, and the cops who arrest them, and they all live exclusively on the coasts. Dillon, by contrast, is Thomas Frank country. No one here is enjoying the Bush-Cheney tax cuts. People live in modest homes or, if they're particularly poor, in shotgun shacks. Most of the teenagers don't have cars—quite a statement in rural Texas—and must work after-school jobs. They don't have iPods or sport the latest fashions; they shop at the Salvation Army family store. When one football player lands a date with the coach's daughter and springs for a used Members Only jacket, it quickly gets ridiculed as pretentious. Once you start noticing the absence of consumer goods, it's a shock. Friday Night Lights may be the most radical show ever marketed to teenagers.

Priest to sing at Phillies game

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports how a congregation is fulfilling their rector's dream to sing the National Anthem at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game.

It began at a Havertown sushi bar, where he confessed his dream to a parishioner. Then, last November, his adoring congregation celebrated his 10th anniversary as rector of St. David's Episcopal Church in Wayne by surprising him with the chance to realize his dream.

Tonight at Citizens Bank Park, before the Phillies match bats with the Atlanta Braves, the Rev. Frank Allen's dream will come true when he sings the national anthem.

"I couldn't be more thrilled," says Allen. "I'm very patriotic and I'm a baseball nut."

On hand will be more than 1,100 members of his flock, who are "going to be making a joyful noise," predicts Glenn Porter, a St. David's congregant. "When was the last time 1,100 Episcopalians gathered in public? We're not a showy bunch.".

Read it here.

News from the Church of Baseball

In an amazing and inspirational game Monday evening, Jon Lester pitched a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox. ESPN reports on the pitcher who came back to pitch in the big leagues after a bout with a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

It was Lester's first major league complete game. And what a way to do it.

"You don't feel tired in that situation. You've got so much adrenaline going," he said.

"I'm sure it will hit me in the morning."

Lester (3-2) allowed just two baserunners, walking Billy Butler in the second inning and Esteban German to open the ninth; he also had an error when he threw away a pickoff attempt.

Lester struck out nine, fanning Alberto Callaspo to end the game before pumping both fists in the air.

Catcher Jason Varitek, who has been behind the plate for a record four no-hitters, lifted his pitcher into the air. Manager Terry Francona gave a long, hard embrace to Lester, who missed the end of the 2006 season after he was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"I've been through a lot the last couple of years. He's been like a second dad to me," Lester said. "It was just a special moment right there."

Watch it here.

Take me out to the ball game

While the bishops are attending the Lambeth Conference, life is not all Lambeth all the time for your baseball loving Episcopal Cafe´staff. The Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee, Wisconsin reports on St. Alban's Episcopal Church Sunday morning service in the parking lot of Miller Park before attending the Brewer's baseball game. Is a baseball game a little taste of heaven?

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Baseball and faith

As you know, we on the Lead news team find a deep theological connection in baseball. Our belief is confirmed by stories in the Boston Globe on cardinals, bishops and baseball.

Michael Paulson writes that while Cardinal O'Connell, whose tenure saw them win 4 World Series, was not a fan,

His successor, Cardinal Richard J. Cushing, was more of an enthusiast, periodically buying blocks of seats at Fenway and bringing hundreds of nuns, in full habit, to games.

Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros was a real fan, so much so that, on his way into a papal conclave in Rome, he famously asked how the Red Sox were doing. (That was in 1978, a grim year for the Vatican, when two popes died, and for the Red Sox, who lost the American League East division in a one-game playoff with the New York Yankees.)

Now comes Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan friar better known for his affection for foreign films, Spanish literature, and "A Prairie Home Companion," but who showed up at Fenway Park with a group of priests and church officials to watch the Red Sox clinch a wild card berth on Sept. 23.

"Since I have been the archbishop of Boston, the team has won two championships," O'Malley blogged afterward. "Only one other archbishop in the history of the diocese can make that claim. Cardinal O'Connell saw the victories of 1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918 . . . but, I have just gotten started!"

In a followup story Paulson reports on an Episcopal Church connection:
In response to the story, I got this e-mail from David Clark:

"My dad, Rt. Rev. William H. Clark was the Episcopal Bishop of Delaware from 1975 to 1985. After retiring from that post, he and mom moved to Cape Cod, and he acted as an assisting bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. He was often asked to visit parishes to perform confirmation services. Dad was very much "low church” and had never bothered to order, much less wear, the mytre, a pointed “bishop’s hat”. However during a visit to a “high church” parish in suburban Boston during October 1986, the local priest was very concerned about having a hatless bishop confirm the new candidates. The matter was easily settled when a parishioner, agog with Red Sox fever because of the Mets-Sox world series going on at the time, kindly donated the Red Sox cap he had worn to church that day so that dad could wear it during the service. A long time Red Sox fan himself from his time as a parish priest at Trinity Church in Concord, and Saint Andrew’s Church in Wellesley, dad was happy to oblige."

The Lead team has determined in light of this past Sunday's gospel, the reason the Cubs did not win this year is because their "garments" were all wrong! NPR, however, believes it is because of Cheap Grace. Their fans love them too much.

Greg Maddux retires

Greg Maddux has just announced his retirement. He is perhaps the greatest non-juicing pitcher of his era: 355 victories, 4 Cy Youngs and 18 Gold Gloves, a sure first ballot Hall of Famer. We in the Church of Baseball are grateful and wish him well.

The New York Times writes:

Here is all you need to know about the esteem in which Greg Maddux is held in major league baseball: he is announcing his retirement right now in a conference room at the Bellagio, and Ned Colletti, the general manager of the Dodgers, is standing behind the rows of reporters, taking a photo with his cellphone.

“I’m just here, really, to say thank you – thank you to everybody in baseball,” Maddux said, after an introduction from his agent, Scott Boras. “I appreciate everything the game has given me. It’s going to be hard to walk away, obviously, but it’s time. I still think I can play this game, but not as well as I would like to. So it’s time to say goodbye.”

Maddux retires with more victories than any living pitcher; he has 355 wins or one more than Roger Clemens. In his final season, with the Padres and the Dodgers, Maddux won his 18th Gold Glove award and led the National League in fewest walks per nine innings for the ninth time.

In all, he captured four Cy Young awards, helped the Braves to the 1995 World Series title and broke Cy Young’s record for consecutive seasons of 15 or more victories, with 17. His career E.R.A. was 3.16, and his achievements are chronicled well here, by Joe Posnanski.

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Baseball or Good Friday or both?

Opening day for the Detroit Tigers falls on Good Friday. The Rev. Harry Cook, rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Clawson, MI, writes on the conflict for Christian baseball fans. He reports on Hank Greenberg who sat out of a game that fell on Yom Kippur.

...Christians who divide their loyalties between religion and baseball will just have to make a choice: Opening Day or the solemnity of Good Friday? It poses a similar dilemma for Jews, who will be celebrating the second day of the Jewish feast of Passover.

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Liturgical dance in the church of baseball

A five hour rain delay of a Big East tournament game between the University of South Florida and the University of Connecticut meant it was time for some competitive liturgical dance in the Church of Baseball.

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Trinity Wall Street Rector: After confetti's cleaned up, come back on Sunday

After helping the Yankees celebrate title #27 this week, James Cooper, rector of Trinity Wall Street, issued a graciously-worded invitation to fans to come back on Sunday.

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Playing for the Yankees and an NJ church

As Cafe´ news-editor Ann Fontaine periodically reminds us, "baseball is a religion." Now we hear confirmation that the world of the church and of baseball are closer than ever. The Yankees' Stadium organist found an "off season" gig (via Craigslist!) for an New Jersey Episcopal Church in Morristown.

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Sunday Social Hour

Welcome to the first springtime edition of the Sunday Social Hour!

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Who is heaven's home team?

In this autumnal season, Episcopalians, as members of the Official Denomination of Major League Baseball, concentrate the full powers of their discernment on a single urgent theological question: who does God want to win the World Series?

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Texas and NYC churches share more than a name

Rectors of two parishes called the Church of the Heavenly Rest have placed a friendly bet, payable in food, over the outcome of the American League Championship Series. One parish is in Texas and the other in New York City. of Abilene, TX reports:

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Jackie Robinson signing tied to a talk with God

Branch Rickey consulted with God in coming to the decision to sign Jackie Robinson:

“I had no idea that I would find a story that linked my grandfather to a part of U.S. history,” the granddaughter, Donnali Fifield, told CNN. “But as soon as I read it, I knew it was historically significant.”

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Happy 80th Willie Mays

From the Church of Baseball:


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Baseball: making meaning out of unexpected outcomes

The day after the most incredible day of baseball in memory, members of the Church of Baseball are trying to make meaning out of the unexpected.

Wednesday saw two of the most historic collapses and one of the most remarkable comebacks in the modern era come together in the space of a few hours. What does one make of this?

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April 15: Jackie Robinson Day

Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day here on the Café. As you know the Episcopal Church is the official denomination of baseball and your editors at Episcopal Café are crazy for baseball. To keep up our standing we are honoring Jackie Robinson today along with other major league teams.

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News from the Church of Baseball

From The New York Times, "Baseball as a Road to God:"

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Faith Day at Coors Field

The Rockies sponsored the Faith Day at Coors Field but forgot to invite all faiths -- a day of celebration at the ball park for Christians with Christian rock band, testimony by a Christian player, Christian prayers. A great day for Christian ecumenism but not really a "faith" day for anyone else:

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World Series Challenge benefits Nets for Life

Detroit Tigers fan Bonnie Anderson (recently retired president of the House of Deputies) and SF Giants fan Sean McConnell (CEO & president at Live Stream Digest) invite their friends to play the World Series Challenge to benefit the Nets for Life Inspiration Fund.

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Happy Birthday Jim

Happy Birthday to our Editor Jim Naughton:

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

"42" and non-violent resistance

Someone wise once quipped that God got tired waiting for the churches to do something about racism, so God went to major league baseball.

The film "42" opens this weekend and in it we are reminded that Jackie Robinson was driven by his Christian faith as he become the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball.

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"To announce my presence with authority"

Last weekend was the 25th anniversary of the great baseball movie Bull Durham. I've been hoping for an opportunity, or perhaps an excuse, to post a clip from the film here on The Lead, and I think I've finally concocted one. My business partner, Rebecca Wilson, and I spent the weekend with Nina Nicholson and the good people of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark talking about using the tools of contemporary communications for the purposes of evangelism. One of our workshops focused on visibility, and explored ways to make your congregation more noticeable and more fully engaged in the life of your community.

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Fundamentalism enters the church of baseball

Will instant replay turn the "church of baseball" into a fundamentalist religion? Killing the Buddha asks:

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Exit Sandman: The gospel and Mariano Rivera

Episcopal Bishop Douglas Fisher has written an ode to Mariano Rivera, a brave thing to do considering he leads the Diocese of Western Massachusetts. But as the Red Sox fan writing this item will tell you, if you don't admire Mariano Rivera, you don't really like baseball.

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Cathedrals use World Series to raise awareness of human trafficking

The Episcopal Cathedrals in St. Louis and Boston are using the World Series as an opportunity to raise awareness about human trafficking, which tends to spike in city's hosting major sporting events. Here is the press release from Dean Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis:

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A Liturgy for Travel Day

The Collect of the Day:

Joy: the spirituality of the 2013 Red Sox

The Rev. Matthew Stewart. The Herald News, Fall River, MA, reflects on "The spirituality of the 2013 Red Sox:"

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Baseball is a road to God

The Rev. Adam J. Shoemaker of Burlington, NC reviews a new book on faith and baseball inThe Times-News:

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Roberto Clemente: a saint?

Michael McGough writing in the Los Angles Times reports a movement to declare Roberto Clemente a saint:

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Baseball and Little League

The Little League World Series showcased all that is good about baseball, while highlighting things that might need to change in the professional game. The kids clearly had loads of fun, worked hard, were good sports, passionate, supportive of one another, and clearly loved by fans (and even many professional players, who not only watched games, but some were involved in getting parents to the game) from around the world.

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