In this third part of the series we will be talking about the fifth and sixth innings in the bigger picture of baseball as a metaphor road of to God.
5th Inning: Miracles:
Prayer changes people, not things.John Sexton
Same can be said the most nuanced notions in the study of religion is miracles. Some are looked at as answers to prayers, an effect of a magic trick. But miracles are really a special kind of hierophany. The definition of a miracle is moments of deep inspiration emerging from unlikely outcome at the most crucial times. Baseball miracles invoking ecstasy, electricity, and awe with the fans. To go deeper into the definition is to understand the Latin root of the word miraculous-object of wonder, a manifestation of the divine, and a revelation on a different plane.
True miracles in baseball change the course of the game, a series, and a season. Most of these miracles happen in September and October with the occurrence of the World Series. One true example is the perfect game played during the 1956 World Series game. That day in baseball lore, the game was pitched perfectly not seen since 1922 World Series game. To this day the miracles that happened during this game has not been seen to this day in any other World Series played since.
But there is of course “false miracles” in baseball which appear to be miraculous, but in truth are really ordinary products of coincidences or probability. One such example in the “Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff” also known as the “shot heard’ round the world.” What Giant’s Bobby Thomson’s swinging connection on a fastball from the Dodgers pitcher resulted in pennant game. The ball to this day is missing in the stands. But decades later the unsettling fact became clear that the Giants had cheated using a sophisticated signaling system to players on the field. A miraculous moment diminished as false.
How do baseball’s miracles coincide with religion’s take on miracles? Miraculous is the gist of myth, myth permeates religion. Sometimes the story of a miracle entails the intervention or manifestation of a higher power. In itself, miracles convey a wonderment and amazement that transpires a sacred about all place. In baseball some of the solid hits become line drive outs, some of the weakest become box scores hit, few even win games. Other times players accomplish what their team needs at the expense of their statistics diminished as a result both on paper and scoreboard. All comes to the idea of concupiscence.
6th Inning: Blessings and Curses
What makes baseball so great is that everyone can play it- little kids and old people. But only the blessed are destined to play in the majors.Tippy
When we speak of a blessed ballplayer, we use the word blessing in many other ways and contexts in both religious and secular. Blessing is a function of our belief that somehow God is on our side-either the team, the individual players and the fans are invoking a God as well. However, the deeply connected sibling of blessing is a curse. The word bless is ecstatic sensation one experiences after the release of profound accursedness, where a curse is associated with painful prolonged suffering that “sticks” to an object. Both are intertwined as faith and doubt. This all plays into baseball by the slow intense rhythms the game goes through at times.
The great baseball curses are associated with painful prolonged championship droughts, booted ground balls, most of all wrenching defeats. Blessings and curses also are tied to events off the field in bizarre stories of omens and harbingers. This bizarre practice even involves teams whose identities are deeply tied to how they and the fans have dealt with accursedness and epic adversity. It not so much how the teams, towns, and fans handle the curse, but how a reaction to it. The reaction, in the end, shapes the blessing when it comes and determines the effect it will have as a whole. This is where the famous cry in baseball come from “wait’ll next year.”
For teams accursed repeatedly to suffer preordained pain or hardship, the hardship is a necessary prelude to being released from its clutches and receiving great blessings. The most famous of all curses in baseball is the Course of the Cubs World Series appearance drought. It would take until 2016 to finally lift the curse dating back to 1945 and a World Series win since 1908. All this time Cub fans have accepted the fate with a good measure of cheer. Neither hopeful nor despairing but delighted in the status of baseball’s lovable loser.
Adversity is baseball’s handmaiden; the great challenge and it’s a great lesson. Like in religion, a baseball game is founded on aspirations rarely met. It generates far more failure than fulfillment. No matter how high the aspirations are, there still is joy, defeat, a cause of sorrow, but it is not about the curses, but about baseball and the moment of ecstatic release of blessing. Baseball can be a catalyst for everyone everywhere to see through curses there are blessings.
As in life, baseball too has it’s saints and sinners. In the fourth and final part of the series, the last three innings inches closer to the clubhouse of life. Stay tune!
Baseball As A Road To God: Seeing Beyond the Game, by John Sexton