Tag Archives: yankee stadium

Game Six: Fenway, Big Papi and Greatness

c5543ee2a006f623400f6a7067000be4

Game Six of the 2013 World Series is now underway and though I am not a Boston Red Sox fan I do find the story line of this World Series fascinating.

Fenway Park is one of the most storied ballparks in the land and is part of a dying generation of old parks. Old Yankee Stadium is gone, as are Tiger Stadium, Ebbets Field, the Old Comiskey Park in Chicago and many other legendary ballparks some most built after Fenway. In fact the only ballpark as storied as Fenway remaining is Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.

Tonight the legendary park will is hosting what could be the deciding game of this series with the Red Sox leading the series against the St Louis Cardinals three games to two. If the Red Sox win tonight or tomorrow and take the series it will be the first time since 1918 that the Sox won the deciding game at home. In 1975 they played and won game six in an epic series against the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 before losing game seven to the Big Red Machine.

David-Ortiz-G-620x362

However the ballpark is only one part of the story. The other big part of the story is Red Sox Designated Hitter David “Big Papi” Ortiz. Ortiz has been part of the Red Sox since he signed as a Free Agent before the 2003 season after spending the early years of his career with the Twins.

In 2004 Ortiz really came into his own as a MVP and World Series MVP as well as All Star and recipient of the Silver Slugger Award. His performance in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees when it appeared that down 3-0 and facing elimination the Sox came back defeated the Yankees and then defeated the Cardinals. Since that time he has endeared himself to Boston Fans, was part of the Red Sox 2007 World Series team and after the Boston Marathon bombing early this year Ortiz delivered a some short remarks before the Red Sox game on April 20th. He fired up the crowd with “This is our fucking city! And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.” Despite his remarks being carried on live television even the FCC refused to censure Ortiz.

In the final game of the ALCS against the Tigers Ortiz hammered a Grand Slam home run to give the Red Sox the victory. During the first five games of the World Series Ortiz is 11 for 15, has hit two home runs, two doubles and six RBI hitting .733 compared to the rest of the Red Sox who are hitting .144 for the first five games.

Those are amazing stats and an amazing performance by the 38 year old slugger who many people thought was on the downside of his career after several less than impressive years after the 2007 World Series win. However since 2010 he has been dominant. A nine time All Star, 5 time MVP and 5 time winer of the Silver Slugger award he has the most hits of any player at the designated hitter position.

I like Big Papi. He is real. He is a leader and committed to his city, team and family. You don’t have to be a Red Sox fan to appreciate him or just to like him. I like him a lot and I’m an Orioles fan.

If the Red Sox can finish off the Cardinals Ortiz will have to be the Series MVP. The only other competitor could be pitcher John Lester who in two games has shut down the Cardinals lineup.

All that being said I hope the Cardinals win tonight. I am not ready for baseball season to end. I want the series to go seven games. If the Red Sox win tonight it really won’t matter to me since I don’t have a dog in the fight I really don’t care who wins. I just want it to be a great series and for Big Papi to keep up what he is doing.

Right now in the bottom of the 4th the Red Sox are up 5-0 and Cardinals starter Michael Wacha is out of the game. I think that the way the Cardinals have been hitting that the Red Sox have a very good chance at winning it all tonight.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Baseball

The NCAA College Football Bowl Season Money Machine

timthumb.php

College football bowl season is almost over and after seeing many bad games played by less than stellar teams in sometimes nearly empty stadiums I decided to look at attendance, team records, game results and the money machine. It really is an amazing machine that the NCAA has set up.

Of the 35 bowl games, 32 have been played. 70 teams have or will have played in post season bowl games this year. Of the approximately 2,261,902 available seats in the already played games about 1,497,113 were filled, about 66% of the available seats.  In all about $273,586,425 will be paid to the athletic conferences and schools sending teams to bowl games.

The attendance numbers at the remaining three games should move the overall percentage up a bit but I expect that the total number of seats filled at the games will be under 70%. The biggest game payouts go to the four BCS bowl games and the BCS Championship game which are $17 million dollars per team, $18 million for the championship game.

Since attendance and ticket sales cannot possibly cover these kinds of payouts. For the BCS games alone ESPN which has the current contract is approximately $125 million a season. This does not include the Rose Bowl which had a previous contract with ABC. The other bowl games, many of which are also carried by ESPN bring in more television revenues. The format will change in 2015 and ESPN will air the BCS playoff games and the National Championship Game. The contract for 84 games over a 12 year period is worth $7.3 billion or about $610 million a year.

That is just a drop in the bucket because there is much more money that will be made. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “ESPN, Fox Sports, Comcast/NBC, Turner, and CBS had agreed over the last 20 months to pay $72.4 billion for the national rights to televise live games well into the next decade.” 

Television revenues are also distributed to the conferences which in turn distribute them to their teams. Despite the money involved for some schools lose money by going to a bowl due to the costs of travel and lodging for the teams as well as bands and other school officials. Where does the money go? It goes to the athletic conferences who then dole it out to their programs. The players get none of the  revenue. Some are on scholarships but the amount of scholarship money pales in comparison with the money brought in. The players images are bought and sold but they get nothing and if if a player so much as sells a jersey he has worn he can be disqualified from the NCAA.

The proliferation of the bowls has led to many games where teams with marginal records have played including one team with a losing record. However on the plus side of this the games are a chance for college players, most of whom will never see a professional football contract one last chance under the the lights, one last chance at glory. It also serves as a boost for the schools, their fans, alumni and boosters. Since a lot of the schools are smaller and in small television markets the bowl games give them national exposure that they would not get elsewhere. Some of this actually draws students to them.

The sponsors of this years games are an interesting collection. They include defense contractors, oil companies, retailers, clothing manufacturers, banks and other financial services, insurance companies, online services, transportation companies and even the leading owner of online college education programs and universities. That last one is pure irony since they sponsor no athletic programs of their own.

Some of the sponsors are controversial. The Gildan company is a large sportswear company with a long history of reported worker rights and abuses.

Many of the bowls have gone by different names as the years have gone by including some the the older games. Many of gone by other monikers and have changed their name whenever a new sponsor took charge. One example is the Chick-fil-a Bowl in Atlanta. For decades it was known as the Peach Bowl but when Chick-fil-a took it over that long held name was consigned to history.

It is interesting because if you look at attendance and the money that is made it is obvious that the NCAA, which shamelessly uses the young men playing in these games is making money hand over fist. I wonder how much is actually going toward education, especially in an age of austerity where education programs are being cut. The money is in the billions, not millions, but billions. One has to ask. I mean really. It seems to me that the NCAA is playing the pimp here, with us as the customer.

The indirect beneficiary of the bowl games and the NCAA college football programs is the National Football League which does not have to pay for a minor league system as does major league baseball.

I have listed the bowl games for this season, their sponsors as well as their attendance, results and payouts below.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, University Stadium Albuquerque New Mexico (39,224/24,610  62.7%) Arizona (7-5) 49 Nevada (7-5) 48. The sponsor Gildan has a long history of worker rights complaints and abuses in Canada, Central America and in Haiti. It make low cost t-shirts and other garments and is the largest supplier of blank sports apparel in the world. Payout $456,250 per team.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Bronco Stadium Boise Idaho. (37,000/29,423  75.4%) Utah State #22 (10-2) 41 Toledo (9-3) 15. Now Sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission. Payout $325,000 per team. 21,759The last sponsor Roady’s Truck Stops called it the Humanitarian Bowl, a name that the game lost when uDrove became the sponsor and moved it to Payout $325,000 per team.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego California (70,561/35,422 50.2%) BYU (7-5) 23 San Diego State (9-3) 6. Payouts $500,000 per team.

Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, Tropicana Field Tampa Florida (42,735/21,759 50.9%) UCF (9-3) 38  Ball State (9-4) 17. Payout $500,000 per team.

R & L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Mercedes Benz Superdome New Orleans Louisiana. (73,208/48,828 67%) Louisiana Lafayette (8-4) 43 East Carolina (8-4) 34 Payout $500,000 per team.

MAACO Bowl, Sam Boyd Stadium Las Vegas Nevada (36,800/33,281 90.4%) Boise State #19 (10-2) 28 Washington (7-5) 26 Payout $1.1 Million per team. Waiting for the Earl Scheib or Bondo Bowl.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Aloha Bowl Halawa Hawaii (50,000/30,024 60.55) SMU (6-6) 43 Fresno State (9-3) 10 Payout $650,000 per team

Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, Ford Field Detroit Michigan (65,000/23,310 35.8%) Central Michigan (6-6) 24 Western Kentucky (7-5) 21 Payout $750,000 per team formerly known as the Motor City Bowl.  Terrible turnout to damage an otherwise nice baseball field.

Military Bowl Presented By Northrop-Grumman, Robert F Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington DC (56,692/17,635 31.1%) San Jose State (10-2) 29 Bowling Green (8-4) 20 Payout $1 million per team.

Belk Bowl, Bank of America Stadium Charlotte North Carolina, (73,778/48,128 65.2%) Cincinnati (9-3) 48 Duke (6-6) 34 Payout $1.7 per team. Formerly known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Qualcomm Stadium San Diego California (70,561/55,507 78.6%) Baylor (7-5) 49 UCLA #19 (9-4) 26. Payout $2,075,000 per team. The biggest owner of for profit schools a without football of its own hosts a bowl.

Advocare Independence Bowl, Independence Stadium Shreveport Louisiana (53,000/41,853 80%) Ohio University (8-4) 45 Louisiana Monroe (8-4) 14. Payout $1.1 million per team.

Russell Athletic Bowl, Orlando Florida (65,438/48,127  75.3%) Virginia Tech University  (6-6) 13 Rutgers University (9-3) 10. Why can’t we have the Bike Athletic Supporter Bowl instead, I would love to see the “cup.” Payout $2,275,000 per team.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Reliant Stadium Houston Texas (71,054/50,386 71%) Texas Tech (7-5) 34 Minnesota (6-6) 31. Payout $1.7 million per team.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Amon G Carter Stadium, Fort Worth Texas (45,000/40,754 90.6%) Rice (6-6) 33 Air Force (6-6) 14. Payout $1 Million per team.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Yankee Stadium, New York New York (54,251/39,098  73.1%) Syracuse University (7-6) 38 West Virginia University (7-6) 14. Another football game in a stadium designed for baseball. A travesty. Payout $1.8 million per team.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, AT&T Park San Francisco California (41,915/34,172  81.5%) Arizona State University (8-4) 62 US Naval Academy (7-5) 28. Ditto as far as destroying a beautiful baseball field. Interesting that the company that prospered due to its Mac and Cheese is the sponsor of the Fight Hunger Bowl. Do they do take out in Haiti? Payout $837,500 per team.

Valero Alamo Bowl, The Alamo Dome San Antonio Texas (72,000/65,277  90.6%) University of Texas (8-4) 31 Oregon State University #15 (8-3) 27 Payout $3,175,000 per team.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Sun Devil Stadium Tempe Arizona (71,706/44,617 62.2%) Michigan State University (6-6) Texas Christian University (7-5) 16. Payout $3,350,000 per team.

Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl, LP Field Nashville Tennessee (67,700/55,801 82.4%) Vanderbilt University (8-4) North Carolina State University (7-5) 24 Payout 1,837,500 per team.

Hyundai Sun Bowl, Sun Bowl Stadium El Paso Texas, (51,500/47,922  93%) Georgia Tech University (6-7) 21 University of Southern California (7-5) 7. Payout $2 Million per team.

Auto Zone Liberty Bowl, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Memphis Tennessee (61,008/53,687 88%) Tulsa University (10-3) 31 Iowa State University (6-6) 17 Payout $1,437,000 per team.

Chick-fil-a Bowl, Georgia Dome Atlanta Georgia (71,228/68,027 95.5%) Clemson #14 (10-2) 25 LSU #9 (10-2) 24. Payout $3,967,000 ACC/ $2,932,500 SEC Formerly long known as the Peach Bowl.

Heart of Dallas Bowl Presented by Plains Capital Bank, Cotton Bowl Dallas Texas (92,100/ 48,313 52.4%) Oklahoma State University (7-5) 58 Perdue University (6-6) 14 Payout $1.1 million per team.

Tax Slayer.com Gator Bowl EverBank Field Jacksonville Florida (84,000/48,612  57.9%) $3.5 million per team. Northwestern University #20 (9-3) Mississippi State University (8-4) 20. Payout $3.5 million per team.

Outback Bowl, Raymond James Stadium Tampa Florida (65,908/54,527 82.7%) University of South Carolina #11 (10-2) University of Michigan #19 (8-4) 28 Payout $3.4 million per team.

Capital One Bowl, Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando Florida (65,438/59,712  91.2%) University of Georgia #6 (11-2) 45 University of Nebraska #23 (10-3) 31. Payout $4.550,000 per team

Rose Bowl Presented by Vizeo , the Rose Bowl Pasadena California (94,392/91,425 96.8%) University of Oregon #6 (11-2) 45 University of Wisconsin #9 (11-2) 38. Payout $17 million per team.

Discover Orange Bowl, Sun Life Stadium Miami Gardens Florida (78,383/72,073 91.9%) Florida State University #13 (11-2) 31 Northern Illinois University #16 (12-1) 10. Payout $17 million per team.

Allstate Sugar Bowl, Mercedes Benz Super-Dome New Orleans Louisiana (73,208/54,178 74%) University of Louisville #22 (10-2) 33 University of Florida #4 (11-1) 23. Payout $17 million per team.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale Arizona (72,200/70,242  97.3%) University of Oregon #5 (11-1) 35 Kansas State University #7 (11-1) 17. Payout $17 million per team.

AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, Cowboys Stadium Arlington Texas (80,000/expected sellout 85,000+ 106% or more) Texas A&M University #10 (10-2) 41 University of Oklahoma #12 (10-2) 13. Payout $3,625,000 per team.

There are 3 bowl games left before the end of the bowl season. The BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham Alabama which will pay the 6-6 University of Pittsburgh $900,000 and the 6-6  University of Mississippi $1,000,025 in a game which has never had more than 46,000 attendees in a stadium that seats 71,000. The GoDaddy.com Bowl in Birmingham Alabama which will pay the 9-3 Arkansas State University and the #25 ranked 11-2 Kent State University $750,000 each. Ladd Peebles Stadium seats 33,371 people and attendance has generally been in the 20,000-30,000 range.  The last game of the season is the BCS Championship Game which will be played at Sun Life Stadium between the University of #1 ranked University of Notre Dame and the #2 University of Alabama will play at Sun Life Stadium which with attendance being above the capacity of 78,383. The two teams will each be paid $18 million.

bcs-trophy-2

That is enough for today. I actually started writing this on Thursday night and got far deeper into the subject than I thought possible. I do hope my numbers are accurate because my eyes did get blurry a few times and if there are any errors in the numbers you can attribute them to my lack of math skills and blurry eyesight.

Peace

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under football, News and current events

September Surprises: O’s and A’s Shake up the American League

“The season is still young but this year I think is the year the Orioles become a real force in the AL East and the League.” Padre Steve May 2nd 2012

The pennant races in the American League are getting really interesting. They are not what anyone expected at the beginning of the season. In the West the Rangers and Angels were supposed to be duking it out matching power and pitching against power and pitching. In the Central the Tigers were supposed to be on top with little threat expected from anyone else in the division while in the East the Yankees were the prohibitive favorites to take the division, with the Rays their strongest competitors.

No one expected the “rebuilding A’s” or the “inexperienced O’s” to be more than speed bumps in their respective divisions. That was at the beginning of the season and every month that the two teams have remained in the hunt experts have been talking them down. However, the Orioles and the Athletics have each become real factors in the American League. Made up of young players, journeymen veterans and rising stars the two teams under excellent management of GM’s Billy Beane and Dan Duquette have surprised everyone and are now finally being taken seriously as contenders.

It is now September 2nd and A’s trail the Rangers by just three games. The Orioles trail the Yankees by just two games and the White Sox are one up on the Tigers. The O’s and A’s lead the Wild Card race and with only about 30 games left in the regular season the American League is anybody’s guess as to what teams will make the playoffs.

The O’s took two of three from the Yankees in Yankee Stadium this weekend, and probably should have swept the series, losing a game Saturday that was theirs to win. The A’s are about to sweep the now hapless and floundering Boston Red Sox while the White Sox have lost three in a row giving the Tigers a change to make up some ground.

The Orioles are a team that knows how to win. They do not have the depth or “star power” of the Yankees, Rays, Rangers or Angels but under Buck Showalter they are a team that knows how to win. They dominate in one run (24-7) and extra innings (12-2) games and in Yankee Stadium which has been their very own Valley of Armageddon for years, the O’s won 6 of 9 games outscoring the Yankees 42-14 in their home park. Manager Showalter has been a steady presence in guiding this young team into contention. Chris Tillman and Zach Britton have been splendid late season starters and closer Jim Johnson is among the best in the majors.

A big key to the Orioles season has been the solid pitching out of their bullpen and a defense that found itself in the second half of the season.

The A’s under Bob Melvin have come on strong and have won 8 in a row, and will make that 9 in a row if they complete the sweep of the Red Sox in Oakland this afternoon. They set the stage on Friday by pummeling the Sox 20-2 and Saturday 7-1.

It should be a September to remember and I expect that the Orioles, Athletics and White Sox are going to really make things interesting. In my dreams I want to see the Orioles and Athletics to win their divisions and leave the Rangers and Yankees battling for the Wild Card spots. That would be sweet.

Peace

Padre Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles

What Makes Padre Steve Tick: My Vocation, Life, Love and Baseball

I’ve always related to the characters in Kevin Costner’s baseball films, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and For the Love of the Game. The main characters in each of the films touch me each in different way.  Crash Davis and Billy Chapel are players at the end of their careers.  Davis is a career Minor Leagues journeyman who “played 21 days in the show.” and Chapel is other a future Hall of Famer at the close of a final season filled with disappointment.

The character of Crash Davis strikes a particular chord in me.  Crash Davisis a journeyman minor league catcher with the dubious distinction of having the most minor league home runs, 227 to be exact. The real life Minor League Home Run King is Mike Hessman who played for 15 years in the Minors with a few trips to the Majors and the U. S. Olympic Baseball Team; he had 329 home runs and is now playing in Japan) I have seen Hessman belt numerous home runs and the man is a beast, but I digress…

Davis also played “21 days in the show.” In the film Davis is a consummate professional. He loves and respects the game and actually cares about the development of the young guys, even if they try his patience.  His dealings with Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLooche played by Tim Robbins are case in point.  Crash is demoted by the big team from his AAA contract to the single “A” Durham Bulls, back when Durham was in the Carolina League in order to help the team develop the young bonus baby.  Crash is not happy with the job, he’s proud, and threatens to leave the team, only to ask his new manager what time batting practice is.

He takes the new assignment on with a mixture of skill and humor in a manner that benefits not only the young pitcher but motivates the rest of the team.  It does not matter that he is in the minor leagues as he still plays his heart out and spends his time teaching the next generation.  He even gets thrown out of games if it helps motivate his team.  Likewise he is not hesitant to let his young charge learn the hard way when young “Nuke” decides to ignore his advice.  The thing that Crash has the hardest time in dealing with his young charge is that he feels that “Nuke” doesn’t respect the game. Respect matters to a professional.

Mike Hessman

The comparison fits for me in more than one way. In a sense my life has been like a journeyman ball player.  I started my military career in the Army almost 30 years ago.  I come from a different generation of military than the vast majority of the Sailors and Marines that I serve with today.  I am “old school” in some ways but have learned to adapt, just as the men who were the old soldiers when I was a young enlisted man and officer. My career has been quite diverse and I have not always done the same job on the same team or at the same level.  I think this is the mark of a true journeyman, to keep playing because you love the game. Mike Hessman is doing that in Japan.

To continue the baseball journeyman analogy I played one position for a number of years and then so to speak left the big team to train for a new position while playing in the minors.  I left my active career as a Medical Service Corps Captain and transferred to the National Guard to attend seminary. When I graduated from seminary I became a National Guard and Reserve Chaplain.  I did not go on active duty. Back then the reserves were kind of like the minor leagues. Being a Reserve component Chaplain while doing my hospital residency and first hospital chaplain jobs it was like working my way up through the minors.  When I was promoted to the rank of Major in the Army Reserve it was like moving up to AAA ball.  When I got mobilized to support the Bosnia operation it was like getting called up during the regular season by the Major League team.  When that time ended and I returned to the reserves it was like being sent back to the minors.  I honestly thought that I would spend the rest of my career there, maybe getting called up for brief periods of time but knowing that my career was destined to end in the minor leagues.

That all changed when I was given a chance to go into the Navy.  I took a reduction in rank and came in with no time in grade. This meant that I was starting from scratch with a new team.  I had all of my experience but I was starting over.  It was like when a player gets traded or is sent back to the Minors by one team and has his contract picked up by another team in a different league in mid season. His slate is clear; it is a new start with the new team. That is what happened to me.

The analogy also fits because I do not like it when I feel that people do not respect “the game.”  By game of course I mean the vocation of serving as a Military Chaplain as a calling as well as their attitude toward the organization in which they serve. I have little tolerance for clergyman or women who enter the military with better education and natural or God given abilities than me who do not respect the institution, those in it and are out to push their agenda. This is how Crash feels about “Nuke” and I love this exchange from the film:

Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: How come you don’t like me?
Crash Davis: Because you don’t respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don’t respect the game, and that’s my problem. You got a gift.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: I got a what?
Crash Davis: You got a gift. When you were a baby, the Gods reached down and turned your right arm into a thunderbolt. You got a Hall-of-Fame arm, but you’re pissing it away.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: I ain’t pissing nothing away. I got a Porsche already; a 911 with a quadraphonic Blaupunkt.
Crash Davis: Christ, you don’t need a quadraphonic Blaupunkt! What you need is a curveball! In the show, everyone can hit heat.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Well, how would you know? YOU been in the majors?
Crash Davis: Yeah, I’ve been in the majors.

Looking at Billy Chapel, the central character in For the Love of the Game I also find some connection though not quite the same as Crash Davis.  Billy has played the game a long time for the same team, 19 years. He came back from what should have been a career ending injury.  In the film and in the novel he pitches in what for his team is a meaningless last game of the season against the playoff bound Yankees in New York.  The story focuses on this last game, Billy’s relationships with current and former teammates as well as his long term relationship with the team’s owner who is selling the team.  The new management wants to deal Billy to another team in the off season and is asking him if he wants to continue in baseball.

While the game is going on, Chapel knows this is the end and spends a lot of time reflecting on his life, his parents, his World Series appearances and friendships. He thinks about things that have gone well and things that he regrets. He especially regrets his relationship with the woman he loves but has messed up.  While his mind visits these subjects he tries to maintain his focus on the game and block out the thoughts as well as the near hatred of the Yankee fans. “Clear the mechanism….”

The thing that hits me the most is relationship between Billy Chapel and Jane Aubrey played by Kelly Preston.  I have done a lot in my military career but at the same time have missed a lot of time with Judy.  From 1996-2001 we spent most of 40 of 60 months apart. Since September 11th 2001 we have spent many more months apart. We have only spent 12 of 28 wedding anniversaries together not to mention birthdays and other holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.  So many times Judy has missed the high points of my career and I have missed out on being with her to celebrate her achievements and to be there when times were hard.  But as anyone who serves a full career in the military knows it goes with the game. Chapel’s words to Jane Aubrey played by Kelly Preston after his perfect game strike a chord with me, I don’t ever think that I have said that I didn’t need Judy, but I spent a lot of my life not needing anybody, so she probably thought at times that I didn’t need her. Thus Chapel’s words to Jane do get me and when I first saw the movie put tears in my eyes:

“I used to believe, I still do, that if you give something your all it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, as long as you’ve risked everything put everything out there. And I’ve done that. I did it my entire life. I did it with the game. But I never did it with you, I never gave you that. And I’m sorry. I know I’m on really thin ice but, when you said I didn’t need you… well last night should’ve been the biggest night of my life, and it wasn’t. It wasn’t because you weren’t there. So I just wanted to tell you, not to change your mind or keep you from going, but just so you know, that I know, that I do need you. “

The second thing that really gets me is where the owner tells Billy Chapel that he is selling the team and tells Chapel that “the game stinks.”  I’ve seen a lot of people throughout my career with that kind of attitude about the Church, the military, their vocation and life in general that I want to scream.  Yes there is much that is not perfect in life and the institutions that we serve, but neither life nor serving God one this country stinks. Chapel’s words back to him echo how I feel about so much of life.

“The game doesn’t stink, Mr. Wheeler. It’s a great game.” After all these years I still love the game, my vocation, my service as a chaplain in the military and the young people that I get to work with.

Since coming back from Iraq there have been plenty of times that I have felt like I had nothing left to give. In the times that I was really struggling I made my transfer to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth where I ran into a number of guys who were like Chapel’s catcher Gus Sinski (played by John C. Reilly) and let me know that they were not only with me but were going to take care of me:

Billy Chapel: I don’t know if I have anything left.
Gus Sinski: You just throw whatever you got, whatever’s left. The boys are all here for you. We’re gonna be awesome for you right now!

There are times in life where we think that we have nothing left and when we have people that challenge us and stand with us even painful situations where we don’t think that we don’t think we have anything left to give.

Finally there is the announcer, the legendary Vin Scully calling the game and realizes that something special is going on:

“And you know Steve you get the feeling that Billy Chapel isn’t pitching against left handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch hitters, he isn’t pitching against the Yankees. He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending. And tonight I think he might be able to use that aching old arm one more time to push the sun back up in the sky and give us one more day of summer.”

Now I know that I am quite as far down the road career wise as Billy Chapel in the movie, but I do know that I am closer to the end of my military career than I was even a couple of years ago, but the thought that I could be on the last few years does cross my mind a lot.

I guess that there are three major things that I want to accomplish before the end of my military career. I want to take care of all of the people that God gives me and puts in my life.  Second is to help coach the young men and women that I meet along the way, especially clergy and chaplains as well as colleagues and friends, especially when they hit difficult patches.  In one scene Billy Chapel talks to a young player named Mickey Hart (played by Greer Barnes) who made a boneheaded play on a fly ball against the “Green Monster” in Boston.  The young man knows that his flub will be all over the news and chapel advises him:  There’s a bunch of cameras out there right now waiting to make a joke of this, Mick. So you can either stop, give them the sound bite, do the dance. Or you can hold your head up and walk by, and the next time we’re in Boston, we’ll go out there and work the wall together. Don’t help them make a joke out of you.” When I see young guys get in trouble or make mistakes I want to help them get back on their feet, especially the young chaplains and medical professionals that come into my life.

What is funny is that I am as old or older than most of our young Sailors and Marines parents.   I’ve been in the military since before many of the Sailors and Marines were born.  In a sense I’m a Crash Davis and Billy Chapel kind of guy. I want to finish well and have my last season be my best, to go out like Mike Mussina when he retired from the Yankees.

My career isn’t done yet. I should have a few more good years left. I’ll be promoted on September 1st to Commander in the Navy.

I love both films and characters and find a new connection every time that I watch them. I think that it is important when we have lived the often disconnected military life that we find things that help connect us to the people closest to us, those who have often have had to endure our choice of vocation.  Somehow in Her grace the Deity Herself allowed me to find this in baseball and somehow relate it to the rest of my life.  After all, it is for the Love of the Game.

Peace, Steve+

4 Comments

Filed under Baseball, film, Military, Pastoral Care, philosophy, sports and life

The Gift My Dad Gave to Me: Baseball and the Mystery of Life

The Big A

This post is an updated and edited version of an article that I published here in 2009.  It is something that I come back to often because it deals with my dad and the influence that he had on my life especially in giving me a gift, the gift of baseball something that almost more than anything else which been a bastion of peace since I returned from Iraq in 2008.

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.” George Will

Basketball, hockey and track meets are action heaped upon action, climax upon climax, until the onlooker’s responses become deadened.  Baseball is for the leisurely afternoons of summer and for the unchanging dreams.  Roger Kahn

Baseball has always been a source of enjoyment for me.  I’ve noted in numerous other posts that God speaks to me through baseball.  For me there is something mystical about the game.  It extends beyond the finite world in some respects and there is symmetry to the sport unlike any other.  George Will’s quote at the beginning of this post is dead on.  Not all holes or games are created equal.

Though I had played Little League Ball in the 1960s and well as a lot of backyard or sandlot games, it was during the 1970-1971 season when my dad began taking us to California Angels games while stationed in Long Beach California that the game really captured me.  The seed of course had been planted by him long before when we watched games on a black and white TV and going to see the Seattle Pilots in their inaugural and final season back in 1969 and in our back yard when he taught me to throw, field and run the bases. He tried to teach me to hit, but that didn’t work too well as I never hit above the Mendoza line in any organized league. The only mistake he made, a mistake that my kindergarten teacher also made was to turn me from a natural lefty to a right hander.  I think that this is one of the reasons that I am as warped as I am.  Bill “Spaceman” Lee once said “You have two hemispheres in your brain – a left and a right side. The left side controls the right side of your body and right controls the left half. It’s a fact. Therefore, left-handers are the only people in their right minds.” In a sense my mind has been at war with my body since kindergarten but at least I am in my right mind.  In spite of that he did turn me into a pretty good pitcher something that unfortunately my Little League coaches never noticed.

While my dad thrived on all sports, baseball was the one that he gave me as a gift.  He gave my brother golf, another spiritual game, which Zen master’s love.  But Gold is not to be compared with baseball because it is not a team sport though individual accomplishment is key to both and neither

Growing up with baseball was something that I cannot imagine have not done.  It was part of life from as far back as I can remember and this was because dad made it so.  It kind of reminds me of the beginning of the movie For the Love of the Game where home movies of a child playing ball with dad are shown during the opening credits and score.  I can close my eyes and remember vivid details of ball fields and backyards where dad would play catch with me play pepper and fungo and teach me to pitch.  He never did much with hitting except turn me around at the plate.  When I had him in a brief lucid moment when I visited in May of 2009 when he was markedly deteriorating from Alzheimer’s disease and I thanked him for teaching me to love the game. I told him I still heard his voice telling me to keep my butt down on ground balls and that he did not teach me to hit.  He simply said “you can’t teach someone to hit, it’s a gift, lots of people can’t hit.”

In 1970 we moved to Long Beach California where we lived about 15 minutes from Anaheim Stadium, the home of the then named California Angels.  Back then Anaheim Stadium was called “the Big A” due to the scoreboard shaped like a large “A” with a halo ringing the top in left center field.  Dad took us to more games than I can count and the times there were simply magical.  It was and still is a wonderful place to watch a game.  Back then access to players was easy.  I met players, got signed balls and hats, and was even selected as a runner up in the “My Favorite Angel” contest.  For that I met my favorite Angel, First Baseman Jim Spencer a Golden Glove Winner who later played for the White Sox and Yankees, and two tickets behind home plate.  Now I find that I have a hard time sitting anywhere except behind home plate and when I had season tickets at Norfolk’s Harbor Park that is where I sat.

When we moved to northern California we reconnected with the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s.  This was during the A’s dynasty years and we saw a number of games including an ALCS game against the Tigers.  To be able to watch the greats like Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Campy Campaneris and Vida Blue was awesome but our first love was the Giants.  We only occasionally got to Candlestick Park where they played in those days because it was a lot more difficult to get to from Stockton as opposed to Oakland.  Candlestick if you have ever been there is a miserable place to see a baseball game if for no other reason that it is colder than hell, if hell were cold.   One game we did see was Ed Halicki’s no-hitter against the Mets in 1975.

Me with Angel’s Manager Lefty Phillips in 1970

Minor League ball became a part of my life around the same time. While dad was deployed to Vietnam my mom would drop me off at Billy Herbert Field in Stockton California so I could see the Stockton Ports who at the time the California League single “A” affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.  Those games were always fun.  I remember talking to Orioles great Paul Blair when he visited a military base that I was serving and he told me how he remembered playing in Stockton as a minor leaguer.

In junior high school I switched to hockey and in high school football and never played organized baseball again falling to the temptation to do what the popular people were doing.  In college I played softball where I did hit better and I always longed to be either playing in or watching a game.  I did get to a few Dodger’s games when attending California State University at Northridge and although I am not a Dodger’s fan I remember their World Series comeback against the Yankees and I have always thought that Vin Scully painted the best verbal picture of a ballgame and season that has ever been done.

I like other sports but they do not hold me captive the way baseball does.  I think there is the nearly spiritual dimension baseball which gives it a timeless and sometimes other worldly dimension.  I find that other sports such as football, basketball, hockey and soccer are limited in this aspect.  Baseball yards are all different, with the exception of the infield dimensions there is a great variance allowed to designers.  The other sports are limited to rectangular playing surfaces of set dimensions determined by their leagues. With the exception of a few old hockey rinks which have smaller playing surfaces there is no individuality to these venues, save perhaps for team or sponsor logos and the quality of the seating.  Likewise all of the other sports play a set time clock which determines much of what happens during the game giving these sports an almost industrial feeling where baseball is not bound by time. In the other major team sports if a team gets way ahead early, it is likely that they will win the game.  While it is possible that a game could go into “overtime” the overtime in these games often has different rules than regulation time.  “Sudden death” “Shootouts” and truncated times show that these games are not meant to go past regulation time.  It is an aberration from what is considered “normal.” In these games a team with a big lead can simply sit on the ball and run out the clock.  

Baseball is not like that.  Legendary Orioles Manager Earl Weaver put it well: “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” In order to win a baseball game you have to throw the ball over the plate and give the other team a chance to come back. A baseball game in theory might not ever end and I have been to a number that I thought had some eschatological dimensions.  W.P. Kinsella’s novel The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, depicts a game that is patently eschatological, though not in a pre-millennial dispensationalist manner between the 1908 Cubs and a semi-pro team in Iowa. The game which is recorded by a young man who steps into a time warp on a country road goes on for well over 2000 innings eventually provoking the intervention of a Native American deity.  In baseball the foul lines in theory go on for eternity and only the arbitrary placement of the outfield wall and the physical limitation of hitters keep the game within earthly limits.  I’m sure that the outfield in heaven is a lot more spacious and has a much more wonderful playing surface than is even imaginable for us on this terrestrial ball.

Baseball stadiums all have their own distinct design and personality. Save for the late 1960s and early 1970s when fascists took over the design of stadiums in order to make them suitable places to play football, baseball parks have had maintained their individuality.  It is a pity that some of the great parks have disappeared, Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium to name a few are gone but new parks have recaptured the magic.  Outfield dimensions, type of grass, the kind of infield and warning track soil which is used, are all determined by the team.  Some fields cater to hitters, others pitchers.  And with the overthrow of the stadium fascists at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, the baseball park regained its dignity.  Gone were the ugly, drab oval stadiums, fields covered in often shoddy artificial turf.  The unsightly and even hideous venues such as Riverfront, Three Rivers, Veteran’s Stadium and others, even dare I say the Astrodome and Kingdome were demolished and made nice piles of rubble, replaced by beautiful ballparks each with its own unique character that reflect the beauty of the game.

In 2009 and 2010 I was blessed to be a season ticket holder at Norfolk’s Harbor Park home of the Norfolk Tides.  Harbor Park was one of the first of the new generation of minor league parks and a wonderful place to see a game, or as I like to say “Worship at the Church of Baseball.”   When Harbor Park was built the Tides were affiliated with the New York Mets. As such the outfield dimensions are nearly identical to the former Shea Stadium, making it a very large yard and pitchers playground.  The outfield backs up to the East Fork of the Elizabeth River, shipyards and bridges dominate the view.  There is not a bad seat in the house.

With every home game the gift that my father gave me begins to unfolded again as I gazed in wonderment at the diamond.  This year is different; my dad passed away last year but up to a year before his death he still knew enough of what was going on to talk about baseball, especially the San Francisco Giants while  bad mouthing the American League. Dad was always National League fan and he loathes the designated hitter. He used to call the American League the “minor league.”  Likwise I do not have my season tickets in Norfolk since I am now stationed at Camp LeJeune North Carolina, but I will get up to a number of games including Norfolk’s home opener next Saturday.

When I was a child he told me stories about the greats of his childhood and he was an avid fan of Pete Rose, he loved his high intensity play and hustle, something that he passed on to me. I can still recall him yelling at me to “get your butt down,” “stay in front of the ball,” “hustle down the line any time you hit the ball” and “don’t be afraid to run over a catcher or go in hard to break up a double play.”   Rose’s banishment from baseball for gambling hit him hard.  I guess it was for him like the banishment of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and for me the agony of the Steroid Era which was a stain on game but now is now history. Unfortunately it is being used by self-righteous politicians a bureaucrats to make baseball and baseball players look bad so they can look good.   At this point I say reinstate Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose and stop with the endless illegal leaks of documents and alleged positive tests of players whose names are being leaked out one or two at a time.  I think my dad would say the same now, if only he could.

Tomorrow I will take in an afternoon game at Grainger Stadium in Kinston North Carolina. It is the home of the Kinston Indians, or the K-Tribe, the Advanced Single “A” affiliate of the Cleveland Indians in the Carolina League. It will be nice to take in a game, even if not at Norfolk.

Dad gave me a gift, a gift called the game, the game of baseball.  Sure, it’s only just a game.  Right… Baseball is only a game in the sense of the Grand Canyon just being a hole in the ground and the Pacific Ocean a pond.  I’m sure that the Deity Herself must agree.

Peace, Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under Baseball, faith

A Ball Game with Saint Pete: The confluence of Baseball and Faith

This is a re-written version of an article that I wrote last year and is part of my “Meeting Jesus and the Team at 7-11” series.  The original; was written shortly after my dad died last summer. Today I revised it while traveling to a Church clergy and Chaplain conference in Houston. Peace, Padre Steve+

A week after I met Jesus and the team at 7-11 I found out that I was selected to be promoted to the rank of Commander in the Navy Chaplain Corps.  While still in amazed wonderment about that meeting and what happened on the team’s road trip to Dyersville Iowa to play at the Field of Dreams I was caught up in the excitement of knowing that I was among 20 chaplains selected for promotion for the next fiscal year.  That night I went to worship at the Church of Baseball Harbor Park Parish despite being very tired from three busy overnight duty shifts over the preceding eight days at the hospital that I served at as a Chaplain.

The previous night had gone long as I had to deal with a number of serious situations.  We had young Petty Officer First Class named Kenneth die of cancer. Kenneth was one of those rare people with no guile. While he served in the Navy he was also an outstanding basketball player and played on the All-Navy Basketball team. He died after a struggle with cancer that had ravaged his formerly massive body, that of a basketball power forward until he looked like a concentration Camp victim at the end of the Second World War. The time with this young man and his family was filled with grace as three Chaplains as well as a number of hospital staff that had gotten to know them over the preceding three months gathered at their apartment outside the hospital gate where he had gone home to die.  It was his desire to spend a few days at home with family before dying and one of the last things that he was able to do was watch game seven of the NBA Championship game between the Lakers and the Celtics. The three Chaplains, a Roman Catholic, a Pentecostal and me a miscreant Old Catholic type all prayed at the bedside and stayed with the family and his body during the holy silence that pervaded the living room.

Later I would spend time with the family of an eighteen month old boy that had drowned and been resuscitated by EMS in down but was certain to die in the next day or two.  Then I did some follow up with a dear lady that was in the end stages of heart and kidney failure in our ICU. I’d known Corrie a sixty-five year old Filipina and her family over the past couple of years as she struggled to live, but today was different. Nothing more could be done. I was with her and the doctors as they discussed her condition and when she calmly let people know that if her heart stopped again not to try to bring her back. We talked and prayed afterward and she had asked if I would come up to help her write down her story.  Well that had not worked out but I did get to her bedside late making the sincerest of apologies and letting her know what had happened. Corrie was also one of those dear saints, a devout Catholic that loved God and her neighbors, she was concerned for the families of the other patients and not so concerned about herself. She had faith and was confident that Jesus would have her in heaven because as she said it was his grace and mercy that had allowed her to know him.  I listened to her, sang with her, prayed with her and chatted for almost an hour and a half before going to check on the parents of the little boy and my Pediatric ICU staff before trundling off to the Duty Chaplain Bunk room for a few hours of fitful sleep.  I thought of the people that I had dealt with during the day and how each in their own way had touched my life and saying a brief prayer I laid my head on the bricklike pillows and body down on the devil’s mattress, or the mattress from Hell fell asleep.

After going home I received the call from Derek our deputy chaplain at the hospital to congratulate me on my selection. I was thrilled and that evening I went to the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish to see the Tides play the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the AAA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was a terribly hot and muggy night but the game was exciting and as is my custom I took a lot of pictures for my website as I try to write about every Tides game, hoping that someday when I grew up that I might be a baseball writer.  I guess that I am one now except no-one is paying me for it but such is life. As I moved about I spent some time with my buddies, Elliott, Chip and Art the Ushers and each time that I moved up or down from the home plate area where I reside down the first base or third base line to get shots from different angles I would visit with them, talking baseball, life and receiving their congratulations on my selection for promotion.  To them I am the irrepressible Padre Steve and we have a wonderful time together at each home game.

That night was like any night at the Church of Baseball until I noticed a burly man in a Yankees hat with a beard and pony tail coming down the stairs toward section 102. He was showing his ticket to Elliott the Usher, also know by some as Elliott the Enforcer he also has charge over section 100, the VIP section shared by scouts, players, families of team members and visiting VIPs.  That section is carefully monitored by the aforementioned “Enforcer” and the man, wearing a faded Yankees Jersey from what appeared to be from the 1930s with the number “3” on the back and a pair of large brown cargo shorts with sandals on his feet walked toward Elliott showing his ticket.

I recognized the man and since I was on the move anyway from the third base side toward first I went up to them.  Having met the man the previous week at 7-11 and knowing that he and the team loved baseball I had wondered of they might make their way back to Hampton Roads.

“Elliott, you gonna let a Yankee fan into section 100?” I smiled as I asked the question. Elliott and Pete both looked over at me, Elliott is about my height but Pete towered over us at a good 6 foot 3 inches outweighing each up us by at least a hundred pounds. Pete smiled.

“Steve from 7-11 right?”  Pete asked as he recognized me with Elliott looking on.

“That’s me” I cheerily answered. I liked Pete, there was something genuinely fun about him a blue collar guy that in addition to going and spreading the Good News also liked to be around regular people and have some fun, after all he had spend his early years as a fisherman and like any sailor was a little rough hewn in his manner.

Elliott looked at us and asked Pete “You know this guy?” to which Pete responded “I sure the heck do, he’s one of our people, you know a baseball fan and Padre to boot.”

“So where do you know each other from?” I asked.

Elliott looked at Pete and Pete looked at me before Elliott answered. “I met Pete up at Fenway back in ’76 when the Red Sox went to the World Series.”

“Yeh, I was in town to see the Yankees play those bums and happened to sit by Elliott, for a Sox fan he’s a pretty good guy and unlike most of those weenies at Fenway he actually understands the game.”

“No kidding?”

“No kidding Padre, that’s how we met, just goes to show that if you really love the game even Red Sox and Yankees fans can sit together in peace, right Pete?”

“You know it Elliott, you know it.”

“So Pete where you sitting?”

“Section 100; row C on the end down there behind the radar gun.”

“Cool I’m right across the aisle in section 102 row B to your right, would you like to go down there with me? How’d you get section 100?”

“Dude, the boss has connections, when I asked him if I could go back and visit this ballpark when we were done in Dyersville he called Dave.”

“Dave? You mean Dave Rosenfield?” Dave is the long time General Manager of the Tides and I chat with him whenever I get the chance.

“Heck yeh Padre, the Boss knows all the GMs, talks to them often, even the minor league GMs. He likes to put in his two shekels with them in discussing prospects; you know that the boss keeps a keen eye on these players don’t you?”

“Well, I figured so, like he does the rest of us right?”

“It’s kind of like that but this is something that the Boss has a passion for, he died to save the world and the world does include baseball, does it not?”

“Well, that’s true, but even though I found out last week that the Boss and you guys liked baseball I didn’t know it was this serious.”

“Padre, this is baseball, it is serious and the Boss takes it seriously, even more serious than Selig, the Grand-Poobah of Major League Baseball.”

“He takes the game serious or Selig serious?” I smiled as I said this triggering a smile back as he replied removing his cap and wiping his brow of the sweat that the hot and humid Tidewater weather causes the human body to produce in mass quantities when not inside an air conditioned building, which Harbor Park, open to the elements as a baseball field should be is not. As he put his cap back on he quipped back to me “the game Padre, Selig he just humors, lets him think that he is in charge, there are times that he thinks about resurrecting A. Bartlett Giamatti.” Pete paused for a second looked up at the press box and continued “but whenever he talks about it he says that he doesn’t want the Dispensationalists to think that the Tribulation has started, the boss seems to think that it would not be helpful even if Giamatti would be better for the game than the Grand-Poobah Bud.”

“I guess that that would cause a bit of a stir if he did that can you imagine all the headlines on ESPN, the in depth interviews and of course the talk show circuit Pete?” I continued not giving Pete a chance to answer “It would be freaking amazing, could you see Giamatti being interviewed on Larry King Live and see if Larry asks him if he will lift the lifetime ban on Pete Rose? Or even better brings up the Congressional hearings on steroids in Baseball?”

“Yep Padre it would be a spectacle and would cause more problems than it would solve, hell Congress would probably want an investigation of how Giamatti came back from the dead and the liberals and conservatives would have hearings that would drag on endlessly and make themselves the center of attention every time a camera was in the room, thank God that Herod and Pilate didn’t have C-Span or the 24 hour news cycle.”

“And people would pretty much ignore the God thing in the story…” said Elliott.

“Well not really except that the Bosses’ involvement in raising someone like Giamatti from the dead so many years after he passed away, God rest his soul, like anything that the boss does would be used by politicians to advance their agenda and dare I say preachers to further their “ministries” or make money by selling books, audio CDs and DVDs that miss the point entirely.” Pete took off his hat and wiped his brow again “sure is hot and miserable in this place, makes me miss the Med, you know that Israel has pretty good weather, a bit dry and hot in the summer but no humidity.”

“I know, I’m originally from California and we had hot weather in the summer but no humidity.”

“Now California, that’s an interesting place, I love the West Coast road trips and that new stadium that the Giants play in that is great.”

“I like it too, it’s so much nicer than Candlestick.”

“Don’t get me going about Candlestick young man. Went out there once in July to see the Giants play the Mets in a double header….I think that it was in the mid-1970s, so guy named Halicki threw a no-hitter.

I looked a Pete funny. “Halicki’s no hitter?”

“Yeah, you heard of it?”

“Pete, I’ve been a Giants fan since I was a kid and I was there for that game.”

“No kidding?”

“No really dad took my me and my brother, it was cold as hell out there but it was so cool to actually see a no-hitter in person.”

“Ain’t that a hoot. Sure is a small universe partner.”

“That it is Pete that it is.”

“So what do you think of the new ballpark? I love the food there, did you have the garlic fries?”

“Yeh, it was the first place that I ever had them, Gordon Biersch has a stand there.”

“Those sure were good; I think when we got back in the bus for trip down to L.A. the next morning we all still smelled like garlic.”

“So Pete, you want something to eat or drink?” I asked figuring that it was a good chance to see what the big Yankees fan liked.

“Sure Padre, what have they got?”

“They don’t have the garlic fries but they have some pretty good chow, want to go up and look around?” Elliott looked at us and said to Pete “You’re not leaving already are you?”

“Hey Elliott, you know me would I leave a game before it was over?”

“Well you didn’t get here on time.”

“Elliott you know that’s not fair, I drove in from Iowa and that doggone Hampton Roads Bridge tunnel is for the birds, if I was the boss I would have Moses come in, part the waters and lay down another tunnel like with four lanes in each direction.”

“Now that would be nice, do you think that he could do something with the Downtown too?” I asked as Pete and Elliott chuckled.

“Hey, Padre, let’s go up and get something to munch on, I’m hungry.”

“Sure Pete, what would you like?”

“What have they got?”

“Heck Pete about anything, well anything, they even have a real restaurant down in the Right Field corner.”

“So what do you like?”

“I don’t mind a Tides dog with chili and a beer.”

“Tides dog?”

“Yeah, just a grilled hot dog with chili sauce, of course they have the all-beef Jumbo Dog, but it’s a bit heavy for me.”

“So any of this Kosher?”

“Are you kidding, this is a ball Park Pete.”

“True, but one can hope.”

“Besides, Pete didn’t you get the vision from Jesus that all food was cool even if it wasn’t Kosher?”

“I know Padre but you gotta remember my background, I still fall into the old habits sometimes.”

“I know, even after Jesus told you that all things were clean old dour Paul had to correct you when you were hanging out with some Greeks.”

Pete looked down and shook his head once again wiping his brow, “I wish Luke hadn’t put that down in Acts, not really fair to me, but Luke was Paul’s man. Now it’s not like Paul didn’t have his faults too, ran off Barnabas and John Mark on one of his trips, but to his credit Luke put that down too” Pete wiped his brow again and continued “I guess that you could say that he was the first “fair and balanced” reporter.”

“Yeah, church politics and the writing of history huh?”

“You know it even then, but old Paul and I did patch things up when he got to Rome.”

We walked down the concourse to the far concession stand down the third base line where my buddy Gerry from Gordon Biersch works with his volunteer organization.

“Hey Gerry!”

“Hey Steve, how are you doing?” said Gerry who is about the same height and build as Pete.

“Gerry, I’d like you to meet Pete, he’s from out of town.”

“Really, where from?” asked Gerry.

“Oh here and there, right now travel around with my boss doing good stuff and getting in some baseball wherever we go.”

“Cool, so Pete are you a Yankee’s fan? I love the jersey”

“Pretty cool, huh? Babe Ruth’s number”

“Yeah, got it special, so what team do you root for?”

Gerry shook his head and gave a slight chuckle “well I’m a Reds and Indians fan, from Ohio.”

“So the Big Red Machine huh? They have a pretty team this year, lots of young talent and they are willing games in the last inning and the last a bat like something I’ve never seen” replied Pete “and I’ve been around quite a while.” Pete paused took a deep breath and continued. “I think that they have a a real shot at making the playoffs and taking the N.L. Central this year.”

“It’s been too long Pete, I’ve been around quite a while and I haven’t seen them play this well in a while.”

“I think some of the sports reporters and columnists are going to eat Cardinal on this one.” said Pete.

Gerry laughed out loud and blurted out “You mean crow don’t you?”

“Nope, Cardinal, like in St. Louis type.”

“That’s funny, what can I get for you guys?”

“A couple of Tides dogs with chili, right Pete?”

“Can I have a big order of fries too?”

“Sure Pete” replied a very cheerful Gerry since you’re from out of town they’re on me.” Gerry pulled his wallet out and told the cashier that he was getting the fries as I handed over the money for the Tides Dogs.

“Anything to drink Steve?”

“Gerry you know that I don’t drink the beer from this stand.”

“That’s true; we just have the Bud and Bud Lite here, you going across the way to get a Yuengling?”

“Is that good?” asked Pete. Before I could answer Gerry said “a lot better than what I have here.”

“It’s not Gordon Biersch but it’s alright” I replied. “Besides, Budweiser is like the wine that they were serving at Cana until the Boss dropped by.”

“That bad huh?” replied Pete as Gerry chimed in “you’re too much sometimes Steve, you talk to Pete like he was there or something” as I simply chucked, and said “Yeah, something like that.”

A lady brought our hot dogs to us and we went and got our beer from the kiosk opposite Gerry’s stand and we began to walk down to our seats once again greeting Elliott on the way down.

“Hey Padre, these are nice seats, you have to pay through the nose and have connections big time for seats like this at Yankee Stadium and the boss won’t cover that, he thinks it’s a bit extravagant and wouldn’t look good on the organization.”

“So he’s not a big fan of high prices that keep regular folks from getting great seats?”

“No, he’s like to see everyone get a chance to sit behind home plate in a big park like that at least once” as he looked at his ticket and sat down across the aisle from me.

“So Pete, so why do you keep calling me Padre? You can call me Steve.” I said as I took my first drink of my Yuengling Lager. Pete picked up his cup and said “cheers Padre” and lifted the cup to his lips drinking the amber lager. “Not bad, we didn’t have much beer back in the day, Judea and the Mediterranean was more of a wine place. There was some beer back then but it wasn’t that good, it took the Monks working for the organization in Germany to get it right” as he took another drink from the cup and wiped beer from his beard “nice beer, I’ll have to tell the boss about it.” Pete paused for a second and went on “good choice Padre.”

“There you go again you can call me Steve, I don’t mind Padre but if you let me call you Pete and not Pope Pete why don’t you just call me Steve?”

Pete looked and me and smiled. “Padre, that’s what you are, it’s who you are, remember that whole Sacrament of Holy Orders thing?”

I kind of felt silly, I like being called Padre, beats the heck out of “the Reverend” or something like that but still having Saint Peter, the first Pope call me that was kind of humbling especially when he had no objection to being called Pete.  “I know that you’re right Pete, but still, you were like the first Pope you really outrank me.”

“Padre, I never paid any attention to “rank” as you call it when I was Pope. Back then it was not really a career or longevity enhancing job, no palace, no red shoes, even though Ben’s aren’t made by Prada like some people say and none of the big hats and stuff like that. If it was up to me the hats that clergy wear would be more practical, I like baseball hats, Matthew kind of likes a Fedora and a couple of the other guys like hats like that Indiana Jones character when the are not travelling as part of the team.”

“Really?” I asked quizzically.

“Oh yeah, back in those days we didn’t have much in the way of vestments and heck I wasn’t in charge of very much, a few priests and deacons and “parishes” if you could call them that pretty much house churches or places in the catacombs where we could celebrate a simple Eucharist and hope that the Roman police wouldn’t show up.  Heck we didn’t even cause anyone any trouble, just no one liked us. Romans called us “atheists” if you can believe that and guys that used to be friends in Judea had no problem turning us over to them whenever they could. Nope, being the Pope was not what it is now, no Popemobile or anything.”

“No Popemobile, that’s just wrong, not even a chariot?” I asked with a bit of humor in my voice.

Pete didn’t catch my attempt at humor and narrowing his eyes blurted out “are you kidding? We didn’t have didilly squat.” He paused and looked at me. “You know it actually offends me how the Church can surround a leader, any leader in that kind of in that sort of opulence, and to think that they named Saint Peter’s after me. Do I look like I would even hang around in a place like that? Judas might have liked it but I’d rather they named a ballpark after me.”

“Well it could be worse.”

“How?” Pete gave me a curious glance.

“We’ll it could be like the studio that the Terrible Blond Network uses, the one that looks like an ecclesiastic French brothel.”

“Oh Padre, don’t get me going on that subject, those people really piss off the boss, and to think of all the money they bilk out of folks.  He took another drink of his beer “not bad stuff and the dog is pretty good too for ballpark food.”

“Glad that you like it.”

“Thanks, you know there Padre I don’t think I would want to be Pope now, my successor Benedict has his hands full mainly because they try to run the place like a massive government all those bureaucrats and clergy functioning as diplomats and everything but being priests, and it’s not just the Roman part of the church. It’s like you said, those guys on TV talking about being happy healthy and wealthy as the crux of the Christian life haven’t got a clue.  Same with the folks that try to get away from the excesses of the prosperity Gospel heretics so much that they throw out the baby with the baptismal waters.”

Pete paused and I broke in. “Pretty messed up, if you ask me.”

Pete continued. “Yeh, it’s messed up all right but the Church has been messing up for 2000 years, I messed up pretty bad at times too.” He took another gulp of his beer and continued. “Nowdays though, it’s like 2000 years of getting stupid have really made an impact. Some of these churches seem to be afraid of even looking Christian, like that whole Willow Creek bunch, they don’t want to offend people, and then the stadium sized churches that seat more people than Harbor Park, and others that spend so much on things that look nice but really aren’t needed. I don’t think that any of them have a clue, no sense of decorum or real understanding of what the Boss was talking about.”

“You almost sound like Andrew Greeley.” I chuckled.

“I think that Padre Andrew has done a lot of good, he makes that Blackie Ryan fellow believable and the kind of priest that you would want to be around. I like his Bishop Blackie mysteries, always fun to read, and a lot about the grace of God in them too.”

“I know, they helped me get through Iraq and the past couple of years when I pretty much was an agnostic.”

“That suck Padre, people don’t like to admit how hard it is to believe sometimes. I remember back after the Boss got crucified. My world crashed around me. If he had waited longer than three days to get himself resurrected I might have completely lost my faith. I’m not surprised that you did but at least you are on the way back.”

“Thanks Pete, I hope so.”

“You know Padre, back in the day we had very little but did try to keep a sense of decorum and sense that Jesus was with us because he said that he was with us in the breaking of the bread.  I’ll tell you what it shocked the heck out of me when he started talking to us about “eating his flesh,” that my friend chased a lot of the hangers on away.  I don’t know why people that call themselves by the Bosses’ name have to make things so hard, and I’m not even talking dogma and doctrine just living the Christian life, you know that thing that the Boss said about the top two commandments, love God and love your neighbor.  For us that was mind blowing because a lot of the really religious folks in our day were all about rules that made life hard for regular people, just like today and you can be sure that the Sadducees and Pharisees wouldn’t be having a non-Kosher Tides dog and beer with you a Gentile military officer, no way” a brief pause and he continued “no offense intended.” He stopped and looked at me and I replied “none taken my friend.”

You remember the movie Bull Durham Padre?”

“Of course Pete, I watch it at least two or three times a year, it’s almost a religious thing.”

“You know where the manager gets mad at the players and said “It’s a simple game, you catch the ball, throw the ball and hit the ball?”

“Who wouldn’t?”

“Anyway, that’s a lot like the Christian life, it’s really not that difficult but we can make such a mess of it.”

Somehow the ball game seemed like it was background noise, Pete was really wrapped up in what he was saying and I knew that he meant every word. He smiled at me and continued.

“Of course Padre there are all of those churches that are more interested in promoting certain social agendas from all over the political spectrum than focusing on the top two commandments. They make themselves look like pawns of the politicians rather than the Bosses’ Church.  I tell you Padre there are times that the Boss really does get frustrated with what some of his people do in his name; I think that’s why he spends so much time at ball parks now.” Pete paused for a moment, took another gulp of his beer, wiped his beard and looked at me as he took a deep breath and sighed looking out at the diamond where left hander Troy Patton was pitching well for the Tides and the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs were imploding defensively as the Tides hitters were pounding out hit after hit.

“The Tides, an Orioles farm team huh?”

“Yep, that they are Pete.”

“Well I tell you the O’s are having problems but as a Yankees fan I’m kind of glad because when they get well they will be a pain in the ass to the Yankees, all they need is a first rate manager to get the kids to pull things together and to get that owner of theirs, Angelos is it, to spend some money to get some solid all star caliber veterans to build around and to help nurture these guys along. They do have the young talent, just need the leadership to make it happen, they need another Earl Weaver type of manager to do the job.”

“I’d like to see Bobby Valentine or Buck Showalter.”

“I don’t think Valentine is the man, but if the O’s can get Showalter things will change in a hurry.”

“I hope that they get someone like that, anything’s got to be better than the leadership that they have had for so long.”

It was amazing to me how Pete went from what he viewed as the problems of the modern church back to baseball so quickly and I realized that he needed this.

About this time Tides outfielder Jeff Salazar smashed a pitch over the right field wall bringing the crow to its feet including Pete who was applauding loudly and as Salazar crossed the plate looked at me and said “high five” before his massive hand slapped my pip squeak hand causing it to sting just a bit. As the crowd continued to cheer Pete reached in his pocket and pulled out a cell phone and looking at me said “just a second, it’s the Boss.”  He put the flip phone to his ear and I tried to listen in just a bit. “Yeah Skip, its Pete, what do you need?” I could not hear what was being said on the other end of the phone just Pete’s responses which were punctuated by his head nodding up and down and words like “yes, okay and sure.”  I still have no idea what they were talking about but it looked serious. Pete then said “I’ll get on it Skip, take care, later.”

Pete looked at me. “The Boss sends his congratulations on getting selected to promotion. You know that he really liked the military people that he met, the professional soldiers like the Centurion and that it was a military guy, Cornelius the Centurion and his family that was the first Gentile family that I got to spend some time with, they were really great folks.”

“Wow, that’s pretty cool coming from the Boss himself.” I said.

“The Boss also told me to tell you not to let it go to your head and to make sure that you keep it real.”

“I think that I can do that Pete, after all I wasn’t always a Priest or Chaplain, just a Navy Chief’s kid that has been in the military for a long time.”

Pete looked at me and by the look on his face I knew that he was not done talking. “Padre, the Boss wanted me to let you know that he cares for your dad and for you not to worry about him.”

“Why should I worry, he’s got Alzheimer’s now and doesn’t know me but he’s been medically stable for a good amount of time and last time I talked to my mom she said that he didn’t look too bad the last time that she visited him.” I looked at Pete as he was finishing his beer.

“The Boss just told me to let you know that he loves your dad and cares about him.” The look in his eye was far away. “I remember my dad, a fisherman like me, he was already gone by the time the Boss came into my life, and he just passed away in his sleep one night after a long night and day on the boats on the Sea of Galilee.”

“Sounds like you miss your dad.”

“I do Padre, but I tell you what, we’ll have to do this again. The boss told me that he needs me to come up and see him up in D.C. it seems that he wants some of the team to meet him there conduct some business and take in a National’s game, sure hope that he gets us tickets to see Strasburg.”

“That would be cool, think that I can come?”

“No not this time Padre, but I’ll talk to the Boss for you to join us somewhere on the road, or maybe even back in time. Besides you’re going to have a lot to do soon.”

Pete got up from his seat and patted me on the back. “Take care Padre, be safe on your way home.”

“Pete you take care too.” Pete turned and began to walk up the steps where he shook Elliott’s hand before he left.  Shortly after Pete left I went to Elliott and Elliott said to me. “Padre you have some interesting friends, you have some interesting friends.”

“I know my friend, funny how you knew Pete too.”

“What can I say?” replied Elliott as Pete got to the concourse, shook hands with Dave, said a few words and headed out of the ball park.

“Seems like Pete knows a lot of people huh?” I said as I looked back at Elliott.

“He gets around there Padre, he gets around.”

 

5 Comments

Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, christian life, faith, norfolk tides, Religion

The Yankees Strike Back: Defeat Rangers 7-2 as Bats Come Alive

C. C. Sabathia shouts after striking out Mitch Moreland in the top of the 6th inning (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The New York Yankees rose like the Phoenix from Arizona to extend the ALCS and their season in a do or die game at Yankee Stadium.  The Bronx Bombers who had had empty bomb bays for all but one inning of the ALCS found their payload and unloaded it on Rangers’ starter C. J. Wilson who had mastered the Yankees in game one and the Rays in the ALDS. 

Mitch Moreland goes down on a called third strike in the top of the 6th (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The Yankees struck early with a 3 run first inning that began with a walk to Alex Rodriguez and a one out walk to Lance Berkman. Jorge Posada then singled to drive in Rodriguez Curtis Granderson then singled to score Berkman and Posada scored on a throwing error by Rangers’ right fielder Jeff Francouer’s throwing error to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.  The Yankees continued their mugging of Wilson with back to back home runs in the bottom of the third inning by Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano. 

The Rangers attempted a rally in the bottom of the 5th inning when catcher Matt Traenor homered to left and was followed by Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus singled but the inning ended when Josh Hamilton hit into a double play. The Yankees added another run in the bottom frame as Lance Berkman sacrificed to score Nick Swisher to give the Yankees a 6-1 lead.

The Rangers mounted another rally attempt in the top of the 6th inning as David Murphy, Ian Kinsler and Jeff Fancouer had back to back to back singles to load the bases with one out. Matt Traenor was out on a ground ball that scored Murphy but that would be all the Rangers would muster for their efforts. The Yankees added another run in the bottom of the 8th as Curtis Granderson  homered to make the score 7-2.  Mariano Rivera entered in relief in the top of the 9th and shut down the Rangers in a non-save situation.

Alex Rodriguez, Lance Berkman and Jorge Posada celebrate after game five

C. C. Sabathia got the win despite allowing 11 hits.  The Yankees now force the series back to Rangers Stadium on Friday where Phil Hughes will face Colby Lewis.  If the Yankees get by Lewis they will face their nemesis Cliff Lee in game 7 and that sports fans will be an interesting matchup. The question is do the Yankees have the gas to come back? I predicted the Yankees to win the series but I will not underestimate the Rangers especially with Cliff Lee in waiting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball