On Faith: Baseball and religion

March 30, 2012|By Rabbi Mark S. Miller

I am pleased to respond to a special request from the features editor for a column timed with the start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season.

I want to begin with a favorite story about my beloved Chicago Cubs:

A 7-year-old Chicago boy challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him.

The boy had been beaten by his parents, and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt. The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents, and he adamantly refused to live with her.

When the judge suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him. After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him.


And after two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the Chicago Cubs, who the boy firmly believed were not capable of beating anyone.

Baseball and religion have much in common.

Both speak about following the right path and warn of consequences for straying.

Both are filled with rituals, ceremonies, and special days.

Both are governed by myriad rules. Both emphasize fundamentals: a player must learn to bunt, slide, and develop hand-eye coordination, just as religion instructs us to apply our faith to the basics of living.

Baseball and religion venerate tradition, emphasize community, and ascribe significance to special foods, be they peanuts and Cracker Jacks or matzah and latkes.

Umpires function like clergy, telling the player when he has transgressed the rules and meting out penance for sinners.

Pitcher Greg Maddux, a Chicago Cub for 10 years, used preparation and control to compensate for lack of an overpowering fast ball. Religion, too, teaches that we should not aspire to overpower others, but that the best accomplishments are won through self-control.

Both religion and baseball preach a simple philosophy.

Satchell Paige had a one-sentence rule of pitching: "Keep the ball away from the bat."

Religion teaches us to keep the person away from the sin.

Both emphasize practice. A player must practice in order to give his best on the field, and the believer must practice his faith to give his best in the game of life.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles