Tag Archives: tommy lasorda

The Only Church that Truly Feeds the Soul

163017_10150113444907059_3944470_n

“The Only church that truly feeds the soul, day-in day-out, is the Church of Baseball” Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) in Bull Durham (MGM 1989)

Tonight I am going to the last home game of the Norfolk Tides. The Tides are our local Triple-A Minor League farm team of the Baltimore Orioles who are now 7 games up on the Yankees in the American League East. I love baseball. For me it is a source of peace, comfort and meaning in the sea of so much hatred, violence, inequity and injustice, angst and despair that fills our world.

Now honestly, while things seem are not good we tend to see life at any given time through they could be worse and certainly could be better they are not nearly as apocalyptic as the bearers of bad news make them out to be. Barbara Tuchman wrote “Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts….The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five-to tenfold.”

This is especially true for those who follow that loathsome Trinity of Evil, the Politicians, Pundits and Preachers who make their living causing people to be angry, covetous, anxious and on edge.

When I read or hear some of the vile things being said by allegedly conservative Bible believing Christian leaders be they politicians, pundits or preachers, or in the case of Mike Huckabee a despicable combination of all three, I become more convinced that Annie Savoy was right… the only church that truly feeds the soul is baseball.

In fact when I hear the likes of the Partisan Political Parsons, any of the big Mega-Church Pastors or television ministry hosts, or even some Catholic bishops start spouting off I feel like I have left this country and ended up in Medieval Europe or maybe Saudi Arabia. I wonder where the love has gone. When I read the words of men like Pat Robertson, James Robison, James Dobson, Bryan Fischer, Scott Lively, Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and so many others I understand why people are fleeing the church in droves and so many hold the Christian faith, as well as other religions in such disdain.

Jonathan Swift once mused about the religion of his time, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough for us to love one another.”   Swift’s words are a perfect description of the American Religious Right as much as they are of non-Christian groups who hate, the Moslem extremists of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Boko Haram and the Taliban; the Ultra-Orthodox Jews who think that they are the only acceptable form of Judaism and physically attack other Jews for not being Jewish enough even while persecuting Israeli citizens who are Christian or Moslem; and the Hindu fundamentalists that burn down Christian and Moslem villages in India.

Thankfully, though I am still a Christian and at that a rather miscreant Priest and Chaplain that struggles with faith and belief, I also belong to the Church of Baseball. I am so because I agree with the late Commissioner of Baseball A. Bartlett Giamatti, who said, “there is nothing bad that accrues from baseball.” 

While I am very frustrated at what I see going on in the Christian church as well as in other religions that dominate other countries or cultures, when I think about baseball I know that God still cares. Every time that I look at that beautiful green diamond that sits in the middle of the great cathedrals and parish churches of the Church of Baseball, my sense of hope and faith is renewed.

To true believers, that may seem like heresy. But God even loves heretics and unbelievers. For me baseball speaks to the soul, maybe it is because baseball is more than a game.  Conservative political commentator and long suffering Chicago Cubs fan George Will said “Baseball is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes or games are created equal.” 

If that is heresy I don’t care. But then what is heresy? I don’t actually think that Jesus would recognize a lot of what we Christians do today as even being Christian.  I could be wrong but I recall Jesus was really big into the whole “two commandment” “love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself” way of life; and he wasn’t really cool with pompous religious leaders that give preference to the rich and powerful, and seek their own political power so they can use the state to enforce their religious views on non-believers like we do.

That is why I find something so right about baseball. Unlike the message of the political preachers that specialize in making themselves rich by keeping their followers anxious and angry while preaching the message that “God loved the world so much that he can’t wait to come back, judge and destroy it because of fouled up humanity” especially women and homosexuals; baseball caters to our hopes and dreams while recognizing that none of us, even those who play at the Hall of Fame level are perfect.

Unlike the false religious message preached by so many members of the Trinity of Evil, baseball deals with reality and life so well because of its ebb and flow. It deals with the grind of the long season, the constant demand for excellence and quest for perfection; but there is a realization that most of the time you won’t get there, and if you do, tomorrow you won’t and that is part of life.

Personally I don’t understand why if the Gospel of Jesus and God’s grace and love is actually true that we can’t apply this to our faith. Jesus, at least in the Gospel accounts seemed to accept the imperfections and foul ups of his followers, and not only that seemed to accept the people who the really righteous, religious leaders rejected and treated as less than human.

In fact, my paradigm of understanding the Christian faith comes from baseball. In baseball perfection is illusory and that life is full of times when things don’t go our way. It is much like real life and what is presented in Scripture. Ted Williams, the last player to hit for .400 said “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

For some of us it seems like reaching the Mendoza Line* is the best we will ever do, and if we believe in God’s grace, that is probably okay.

Tommy Lasorda the Hall of Fame Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager put things in excellent perspective “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games.  No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games.  It’s the other third that makes the difference.”  That is true in life and faith.

While I am definitely a Christian I struggle and I admit it. I have enough of my own problems to empathize with others that struggle, but who in embracing the wacky formulas offered by greedy self-serving preachers treat Jesus and his message like some sort of magical talisman or good luck charm. But sorry, I agree with what Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) said in the movie Major League: “Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.”

Thus I have many problems with the perfidious political and prosperity preachers that seem to have forgotten the Gospel, who are basically Elmer Gantry like snake-oil salesmen more attuned to keeping their market share than tending their flock. In fact, I think are actually driving people away from Jesus, and the polls of Barna, the Pew Religious survey, Gallup and others as well as the statistics kept by various denominations say that I am right.

When I watch baseball I feel renewed. As Sharon Olds wrote back in the early 1970s “Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” That my friends is why I agree with Annie Savoy that the only church that truly feeds the soul day in and day out is baseball.

Churchofbaseball

 

The late great and legendary Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell said: “Baseball?  It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat.  Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes.  It’s a sport, business – and sometimes even religion.”   Yes, for me, the heretic that I am it is the latter, and tonight I am happy to be going to the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

*Mario Mendoza was a Major League Shortstop who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and other organizations. He was an outstanding defensive player but was not much of a hitter. His career batting average was only .215 but a batting average of .200 is considered the minimum that a player can have to remain at the level that he plays.  I think that my career batting average in both baseball and softball barely clears the Mendoza Line. 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, faith, movies, Political Commentary, Religion

Bad Blood: Romney Wins Illinois, Missouri in Chaos and GOP Rift Widens

The “Wall Street financier” beat the “economic lightweight” tonight in the Land of Lincoln but the Republican race is still going to continue. Santorum lost by double digits but in any normal year he should have lost by far more. The voter turnout as in most previous GOP primaries was lower than 2008 which points to problems later on because it shows that in spite of their dislike for President Obama is that the GOP is not excited about its candidates.  The rhetoric continues to spiral into the land of frustration and anger as both candidates and campaigns have resorted to elementary school playground type name calling.

Romney’s win was important coming on the heels of coming in third in both Mississippi and Alabama. In that sense it was a big win, perhaps his biggest win of this primary season to date. But Romney needs to win more and put Santorum away and try to collect the support of Evangelical Christian social conservatives who heavily back Santorum.  If Santorum comes back with a win in Louisiana the talk will shift back to how Romney cannot seal the deal.

The vote showed Santorum’s weaknesses as well as the irrelevance of Newt Gingrich who is by all reason is splitting the conservative vote and hindering Santorum in is battle against Romney.

There are signs both Santorum and Romney are wearing thin on the independent vote on which the election will hinge. Polls show that both men have much higher negative ratings from independents than does President Obama.  The issue with Romney is that he seems out of touch and Santorum because he seems too extreme. Perception matters and neither Santorum or Romney seem to get the fact that the way that they come across does matter.  Tommy Lasorda noted something about baseball that I think is very applicable in a Presidential campaign of this nature. “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games.  No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games.  It’s the other third that makes the difference.”  In such a polarized race the independents are that third that make the difference even if they aren’t exactly a third of the electorate.

My prediction is that as both campaigns continue to battle each other that they will continue to widen the rift between the Santorum and Romney supporters.  I still believe that this race continues deep into the primary season if not all the way to Orlando. I think that even if it looks like Romney will wrap up the nomination that many Evangelical Christian social conservatives and quite probably much of the Tea Party wing will feel alienated from the GOP and with well over 25% of GOP voters saying that a candidates religion was a “very important factor” in their vote it is possible that Romney will not get their support even as the nominee. In a close election that will matter.  Both parties have to lock up their base while winning the independents. Any crack in the GOP base could be disastrous to their nominee.

The lack of enthusiasm for any of the candidates was shown in the exit polls tonight where 39% of GOP voters indicated that they are not satisfied with their candidates and that the numbers of Republicans voting today were a record low for the state.

Romney is winning in the urban areas and losing in the rural areas; a trend that has been constant this primary season. The problem in this is that any GOP nominee has to have strong support in rural areas because in many states the urban areas traditionally vote Democrat and will be won by President Obama in the November general election regardless of who the GOP nominee is.  The evidence of this is shown in in the Missouri caucuses last weekend where the largest country caucus in St Charles County had to be broken up by the police at the organizers’s request because of the chaos at the site. The battle for delegates across the country especially in caucus states is so clouded it is difficult to tell exactly what the count really is despite each candidate’s spin. I have linked two videos showing the chaos of that event.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9__0im5kQk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6d9X6krB9A

Romney has had to spend huge amounts of money to bury his competition, money that will not be available for the general election. He and his Super PAC allies outspent Santorum 7-1 in Illinois. The longer the campaign goes and the more invective spent on each other the more likely it is that whoever the nominee is will come out wounded, especially in the eyes of the independent voters.  They will decide the election.

This will continue to be interesting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary

The Only Church that truly Feeds the Soul…

The Only church that truly feeds the soul, day-in day-out, is the Church of Baseball” Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) in Bull Durham (MGM 1989)

When I read or hear some of the vile things being said by allegedly conservative Bible believing Christian leaders I become more convinced that Annie Savoy was right.  In fact when I hear the likes of the Partisan Political Parsons, any of the big Mega-Church Pastors or television ministry hosts, or even some Catholic bishops start spouting off I feel like I have left this country and ended up in Medieval Europe or maybe Saudi Arabia. I wonder where the love has gone.  Jonathan Swift once mused “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough for us to love one another.”   

Now of course in addition to being a Christian and a a rather miscreant Priest and Chaplain I also belong to the Church of Baseball as the late Commissioner of Baseball A. Bartlett Giamatti said “there is nothing bad that accrues from baseball.”  While I may become frustrated at what I see going on in the Christian church as well as in other religions that dominate other countries or cultures I know that God still cares every time that I look at that beautiful green diamond that sits in the middle of the great cathedrals and parish churches of the Church of Baseball.  

To some that may seem like heresy but God even loves heretics that love football or basketball more than baseball.  But really I don’t know of a game that can speak to the soul like the game of baseball, maybe it is because baseball is more than a game.  Conservative political commentator and long suffering Chicago Cubs fan George Will said “Baseball is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes or games are created equal.” 

But then what is heresy? I mean I don’t think that Jesus would recognize a lot of what we Christians do as even Christian.  I could be wrong but I recall Jesus was really big into the whole “love your neighbor as yourself thing” and not real cool with pompous religious leaders that seem to give preference to the rich and powerful and . Forgive my rather casual language there but I did grow up in the 1970s and who could forget “translations” like The Living Bible and Good News for Modern Man.   

I am a devoted fan of the San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles and admirer of the Oakland A’s.  I like some other teams as well but I am a fan of teams that seem to suffer much, although unlike my brother George Will I do not quite know his suffering as a Cubs fan.  For fans like like me and others that suffer with their teams through bad times and good baseball is a love affair with our teams and the players that play for them. The Giants won the World Series in 2010 for the first time in over 50 years in San Francisco. The Orioles are now up to 14 straight losing seasons.  The A’s have not won a series for two decades but their GM Billy Beane helped revolutionize the way that players are evaluated.  

There is something right about baseball, even more right than the height of the trees in Michigan.  Unlike the hyper politicized preachers who also specialize in making themselves rich and protecting their market share instead of shepherding their flocks baseball caters to our hopes and dreams while recognizing that reality exists. 

Baseball deals with reality and life so well because of its ebb and flow, the grind of the long season and the constant demand for excellence and quest for perfection but the realization that most of the time you won’t get there. 

In baseball perfection is illusory and that life is full of times when things don’t go our way. It is much like real life and what is presented in Scripture. Ted Williams said “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” For some of us it seems like reaching the Mendoza Line* Tommy Lasorda the Hall of Fame Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager put things in excellent perspective “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games.  No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games.  It’s the other third that makes the difference.” 

That is life and faith. While I am definitely a Christian I do have many problems with the perfidious political and prosperity preachers that seem to have forgotten the Gospel and who I think are actually driving people away from Jesus. At least when I watch baseball I feel renewed. As Sharon Olds wrote back in the early 1970s “Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” 

I think that is why I agree with Annie Savoy about baseball being the only church that truly feeds the soul day in and day out as well as the late legendary Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell who said: “Baseball?  It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat.  Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes.  It’s a sport, business – and sometimes even religion.”  

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

*Mario Mendoza was a Major League Shortstop who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and other organizations. He was an outstanding defensive player but was not much of a hitter. His career batting average was only .215 but a batting average of .200 is considered the minimum that a player can have to remain at the level that he plays.  I think that my career batting average in both baseball and softball barely clears the Mendoza Line. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball, christian life, faith

The Unbelievable Implosion of a Storied Baseball Franchise

At one time the Los Angeles Dodgers were one of the most desirable and bulletproof franchises in all of sports. They were one of Major League Baseball’s premier franchises. They had a reputation as pioneers they were the stuff of legends, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snyder, Pee Wee Reese, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Tommy Lasorda, Walter Austin, Kirk Gibson, Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela, and the list can go on ad infinitum especially for a Dodgers hating San Francisco Giants fan like yours truly.

But today something that a couple of years back I could never have imagined. Today Dodgers’ owner and destroyer Frank “I love my MLB ATM” McCourt declared bankruptcy. For me it was like the Soviet Union going tango-uniform to end the Cold War back in 1989. It’s unseemly, it’s unsightly and it’s undignified. My goodness the man and his equally despotic ex-wife Jamie bought the team with none of their own money and took loans totally hundreds of millions of dollars from the team as well as turned the team into their own realm of nepotism. The hired their sons at over half a million dollars a year, they paid the former Mrs. McCourt a million a year, they set up multiple expensive residences and they hired a psychic for a pretty price to guide their decisions, well I guess if Nancy Reagan could why not them. Now that couldn’t have been a good experience after all have you ever heard of a “happy Medium?”

They even signed Manny Ramirez who by the way is now their number one creditor. I mean this is embarrassing; multiple pops for performance enhancing drugs, declining stats, injuries and all the Manny baggage.  The ridded themselves of Dodger Town in Vero Beach that storied spring training facility that had hosted the Dodgers for over half a century. They bankrupted the team and even took a 30 million dollar personal loan from Fox to meet the May payroll.

Why in the hell Major League Baseball gave them, I said gave them a franchise, especially one like the Dodgers I don’t know. After all what connection did McCourt have to baseball? Well none actually. He was a smooth as freshly laid asphalt parking lot mogul with a propensity toward pomposity. He could talk Hannibal Lector out of Lady Gaga’s drumstick, not that there’s much meat on it but still you get my drift.  And to think that baseball rejected Mark Cuban because they didn’t want a new young Steinbrennerish owner to upset the cart. However despite his antics Cuban is a committed owner who would have done baseball and the Dodgers better than the parking lot Putz. Ask the people in Dallas what they think of him, look what he did to revive a franchise. He used his money and put himself on the line to turn the Mavericks into a winner. He hired good basketball people and got out of the way. He was a face, spokesman and cheerleader and he would have been good for the Dodgers. Los Angeles is big and it loves the outlandish he would have been perfect and he would have used his money not others to do it.

Now Bud Selig and the rest of the baseball establishment will have to figure out to do. If they don’t want Cuban they could pick someone like Steven Spielberg or Bill Gates who have oodles of money and love to spend it on charity cases, which by all counts the Dodgers now are.

I see this as a Giants fan would in light of the Cold War. When the Soviets went tits up the world went crazy. They were the Yang to our Yin. I certainly don’t want baseball to experience anything like the world has gone through since the end of the Cold War. Baseball is about stability not chaos and the McCourts have thrown the Dodgers into chaos which is not good for baseball or America.  They should be taken out and banished to outer Mongolia or some other place that is parking lot deprived.

Peace

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under Baseball

The Meaning of Opening Day

“No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games.  No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games.  It’s the other third that makes the difference.”  Tommy Lasorda

At long last it is Opening Day, the first day of a long and arduous 162 game regular season and three tier playoff series system that can extend the season by up to 19 more games for teams that reach the World Series. Beyond the pageantry of opening day, which will be repeated tomorrow for the teams that did not play today and next week for the Minor Leagues and which is something akin to New Years Day the meaning of Opening Day is that baseball is back and Winter is over, even if it tries to hang on a few more weeks.

Over the past few days all the experts have weighed in on their picks of who will make the playoffs and even win the World Series. The good thing is that like Bible prophecy “experts” their predictions are often woefully wrong.  Baseball is about sustained performance of teams and individuals over the long season. In no sport do players and teams have such a punishing schedule as in baseball. Day in and day out the players take the field, travel across country and play the next day.  As the legendary Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said “This ain’t a football game, we do this every day.”

The team rosters on opening day often are far different than those in September, injuries and slumps can get players traded, released or sent to the minors while unheralded players, journeymen, players called up from the minors and players that had been written off by former teams bask in the sunshine of success.  Teams which were expected to do great things sometimes collapse due to injuries, unexpectedly poor play by players that have to have a good season or a failure of on field leadership and trouble in the clubhouse or in senior management.

For these reasons I take all predictions made on opening day by experts with a grain of salt. I do not think that any of the experts picked San Francisco and Texas to meet in the World Series and right up to the end most of the experts picked the Giants to lose their division, then the divisional playoff series, then the NLCS and finally about half thought that the Giants would win the World Series.  I really think that experts show their bias, especially for East Coast teams over those in the West or Central and for teams with a lot of money and media clout such as the Yankees and Red Sox.  I have my thoughts on who might win their divisions and go on to the playoffs but anything I say now will be rendered moot by events on and off the field.  Do I think that the Giants can repeat? Of course, but no one has repeated since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees.  That is reality and what makes baseball so much fun, you never know how this long campaign will play out.

I love baseball because it really is an allegorical play about America and life. There are the highs and lows, the disappointment of unfulfilled expectations and the excitement of the underdog team that pulls it all together to win.  The meaning of Opening Day is that it is a beginning not an end, the end will only be seen when the last out of the World Series is recorded. Ernie Harwell said “Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under Baseball, philosophy

The Passing of the “Duke of Flatbush”: Duke Snider 1926-2011

Duke Snider (Getty Images)

“He was the true Dodger and represented the Dodgers to the highest degree of class, dignity and character,” Tommy Lasorda

Baseball lost a legend today. Duke Snider the “Duke of Flatbush” who was instrumental in leading the Dodgers to 6 National League Titles in 10 years and a World Series Championship in 1955 was 84 years old.

During his 18 year career of which 16 were spend with the Dodgers, one with the Mets and his final season with the San Francisco Giants he batted .295 with 407 home runs and 1333 RBIs. He still is the all time home run leader for the Dodgers with 389 as well as RBIs. He was an eight time All Star. During his most productive period between 1953 and 1956 he averaged 42 home runs, 124 RBI, 123 runs and a .320 batting average.  During the World Series Championship year of 1955 he hit .309 with 42 home runs and 136 RBIs.

While the Dodgers’ were in Brooklyn Snider was one of a trio of Center Fielders that all reached the Hall of Fame and are considered some of Baseball’s immortals. Snider along with Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays electrified the diamond of Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds and have some baseball historians still arguing just who was the greatest New York Center Fielder of the era. He was consistently for a period of 10 years in the top 10 of votes for MVP finishing second by just 5 points to teammate Roy Campanellain a controversial vote involving a mismarked ballot from a hospitalized sportswriter which had the ballot been marked correctly could have given Snider the MVP.

Snider as well as his Dodgers’ teammates Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Carl Erskine, Gil Hodges, Clem Labine, Don Newcombe, Ralph Branca, Jim Gilliam, Joe Black and Pee Wee Reese have been immortalized in Roger Kahn’s classic book The Boys of Summer. It is a book that I have read several times and is part of my usual summer reading program along with David Halberstam’s The Summer of 49, October 1964 and Teammates a Portrait of Friendship.

Snider was released by the Dodgers after the 1962 season after he and Third Base Coach Leo Durocher disagreed with Manager Walter Alston on a recommendation to have Don Drysdale go into the third and deciding game of the 1962 National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants. With a 4-2 lead Alston opted for Stan Williams in relief of Eddie Roebuck and the Giants rallied for a 6-4 win. After spending the 1963 season with the Mets and the 1964 season with the Giants he retired at the close of that season.  He would later be the play by play announcer for the Montreal Expos and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. The one blemish on his post baseball life was a conviction for tax evasion for not claiming income earned from the sale of baseball cards and memorabilia.

Despite the conviction Snider is remembered as one of the good guys of baseball respected by his peers and his fans.  He is immortalized with his fellow Center Fielders Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle in the Terry Cashman’s classic baseball ballad (Talkin’ Baseball) Willie, Mickey and the Duke. http://video.yahoo.com/watch/456784/2533611

Hall of Fame Broadcaster Vin Scully said “He had the grace and the abilities of DiMaggio and Mays and, of course, he was a World Series hero that will forever be remembered in the borough of Brooklyn. Although it’s ironic to say it, we have lost a giant.”

An ESPN News Story about “The Duke of Flatbush” is here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espntv/espnShow?showIDshowID=SRDA&addata=2009_tscbr_xxx_xxx_xxx_xxxespnShowcomshowIDflv

Here is a clip of Duke Snider in his words. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHQXQC9grAU

I shall treasure my autographed Duke Snider Baseball Card even more.

Peace

Padre Steve+

5 Comments

Filed under Baseball, music

We Called Him Sparky: A Baseball Legend Passes Away a Victim of Dementia

Big Red Machine (L-R) Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, Sparky Anderson, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose

Baseball great Sparky Anderson died today at the age of 76 of complications from dementia a day after being admitted to hospice care in his home in Thousand Oaks California.  The Hall of Fame manager of the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers had been in declining health for a number of years and had spent time in the hospital in February for a Kidney related illness.  He last visited a ballpark in May when he visited Dodgers’ Stadium and visited with managers, coaches and players. At the time the loss in his cognitive abilities were noticed but for a few moments the spark of his old managerial self came out.  In 2009 he was at the reunion of his World Series Champion Detroit Tigers team. It was obvious then that he was slipping even though he was quite animated as seen in this video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJQBKlkrnIw&feature=player_embedded#at=87

Dementia of any kind is one of the cruelest afflictions as it often takes everything from a person. In the end stages it is often something like aspiration of mucus into the lungs as the person loses their gag reflex. The last two years of my dad’s life were difficult because he lost the ability to be himself ravaged by Alzheimer’s disease.  The last time I had any real communication was for a few minutes in May of 2009, after that he didn’t know me. I can only imagine what Sparky’s family went through in the last years of his life.  We don’t know a lot about Sparky’s illness but the signs of his declining health were noticed by his friends. Tommy Lasorda the legendary Dodgers’ manager commented: “He looked bad,” Lasorda said following an appearance at the annual Hall of Fame dinner in August: “He was really down. He was very sickly, and we had to take him off the stage. And then I called him about 10 days ago because I was thinking about him. We spoke, but I didn’t want to speak too long because he sounded exhausted, you know? We talked for maybe eight or 10 minutes, and he thanked me for thinking of him, and that was it.”

In the 1970s my dad loved Sparky Anderson and the Cincinnati Reds, the Big Red Machine. My dad had been a Reds fan as a kid and despite becoming an avid Giants fan always had a soft spot in his heart for the Reds.  I remember my dad’s disappointment when the Reds lost to the Orioles in the 1970 World Series, even though I was secretly rooting for the Orioles because I liked Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell and Jim Palmer.  However in 1975 when the Reds won 106 games and defeated the Boston Red Sox in a thrilling 7 game World Series I was enthralled by Anderson and his team. When they swept the Yankees in 1976 I was similarly elated and my dad, well, he was about in heaven.  When dad taught me about baseball he used Sparky Anderson and the Reds players as models on how to play the game right.

One of those players was Pete Rose who is still banned from the game for life for betting on games.  Despite that my dad never gave up on Pete and had an autographed picture of Baseball’s most prolific hitter who despite what he did should be in the Hall of Fame. Rose said of Anderson today.

“Baseball lost an ambassador today. Sparky was, by far, the best manager I ever played for. He understood people better than anyone I ever met. His players loved him, he loved his players, and he loved the game of baseball. There isn’t another person in baseball like Sparky Anderson. He gave his whole life to the game.”

Another Reds’ great Joe Morgan said “He was a people person. I don’t think anybody else could have managed that team nearly as well as he did. We had a lot of different personalities. Sparky was able to deal with all of us on an individual basis but also collectively as a team. Because he was close to you and cared about you as a person, you were always willing to do more for him than you were for somebody else. I never thought of him as my manager. I thought of him as part of my family.”

The latter statement by Morgan is something that endeared Anderson to his players. He cared about them and he was totally committed to the game. Anderson overcame a hot temper which had earned him the nickname “Sparky” in the minor leagues In his time as a Major League manager he led the Reds to two World Series titles and one with the Tigers and 5 pennants. He is credited with beginning the pitch count which is now almost universally used in baseball.  He made pitching changes with such regularity in a day when starting pitchers typically threw complete games that he was nicknamed “Captain Hook.” Anderson admitted that it was because of the weakness of his starting pitching and strength of his bullpen. “Captain Hook? Yeah, I used what I had. We weren’t blessed with the Dodgers’ starting pitching, but we had a really deep bullpen. People say I was ahead there, too, five years ahead of the league, you know, having more saves than complete games, but I didn’t do it because it was in some book. I did it because we didn’t have but a couple of guys who could go much past six innings.” He is 6th on the all time wins list for a manager and was beloved by his players.

A saying that he picked up from his father epitomized his view on life and relationships

“Being nice to people is the only thing in life that will never cost you a dime. Treat them nice and they’ll treat you the same.”

Alan Trammel, Bench Coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks said today “I’m happy to say that Gibby (Kirk Gibson) and I are going to be able to pass along his legacy because we teach what we were taught. Being a good baseball player and person went hand in hand with him. He wanted us to put our dirty clothes in the bin so that the clubhouse guys didn’t have to pick up after us.”

Tiger’s pitcher Jim Morris said:  “Wow. He died way too young. I got a lot of phone calls yesterday about the hospice and the dementia, neither of which I knew about. I wasn’t prepared for this. I don’t know what to say. I’m kind of shocked, he was a big part of my life, for sure. He had a lot to do with molding me professionally and taught me a lot about perseverance.”

He demonstrated that care in his community.  In 1987 Anderson founded “CATCH”, which raises money for sick and at-risk patients of Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Henry Ford Hospital. Sparky became a man of faith late in life when managing in Detroit when he was baptized as a Catholic.

One of Sparky’s quotes sticks with me and sums up what I feel about life is this: “People who live in the past generally are afraid to compete in the present. I’ve got my faults, but living in the past is not one of them. There’s no future in it.”

Sparky died too young. May he rest in peace.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball