Baseball is Catholic
That argument has been made many times, though of course people have been making all sorts of claims about baseball since, well, Abner Doubleday (who probably didn’t “invent” the game). But the Marlins’ once and future octogenarian manager, Jack McKeon, makes the best case in the pages of today’s rabidly anti-Catholic New York Times, whose wicked cabal of editors somehow let these passages slip through:
Jack McKeon’s baseball days begin in a pew. At 8 on Tuesday morning, the Florida Marlins’ manager attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, less than 12 hours after his team beat the Mets on a 10th-inning grand slam. Such games are testament to his faith in the saint he prays to every game during the national anthem.
“A good night for St. Thérèse,” he said, sitting in the lounge of a Midtown Manhattan hotel.
In each major league city, McKeon has a favorite, or at least a convenient, Roman Catholic church. If he does not know their names, he can describe them or tell you how to get there. In Cincinnati, it’s SS. Peter and Paul. In Chicago, Mass is at Holy Name Cathedral. In Philadelphia, he goes to what he calls “the oldest church in the U.S.” When the Marlins stayed at a hotel on the East Side of Manhattan, he followed these directions: “Walk out the door, take a left, walk 30 yards, and take a right, where the homeless hang out.”
For each of the regular churches in his personal directory, he learns the Mass schedule.
“At St. Patrick’s it’s 7, 7:30, 8, noon and 12:30,” he said. “They’re very flexible.”
Mornings at church “give me energy,” he said. “You’re free. You feel good.” His daily ritual is part of a baseball routine that is now in its 62nd year, stretching back to D League ball in Greenville, Ala.
“When I go to the ballpark, I have no worries,” he said. “God’s looking after me.”
McKeon said that in 1950, he asked John B. Coakley, an older minor league teammate in Gloversville, N.Y., to join him for Mass one Sunday morning. “He said, ‘I’d love to, but I don’t understand all the signals you have,’ ” McKeon said, laughing at the memory. In a telephone interview, Coakley added: “I told him if he taught me the signals, I’d become a Catholic.” And he did.
Harry Dunlop, who coached for McKeon at Kansas City, Cincinnati and Florida, attended Mass often enough with McKeon to enjoy it.
“If you’re a Presbyterian, it’s tough to go to church on Sundays, because you have to get to the park early,” he said. “So I said: ‘What’s the difference? It’s a house of God.’ ”
He converted, too.
Of course, McKeon’s foil these days are my Mets, who are a curse to their fans. Marlins beat ‘em last night, too, and Santana had a setback from his shoulder rehab. They’re not loveable losers, just losers.
I should pray to a better saint, but the kicker of the McKeon story shows that may not work:
One of McKeon’s partners in faith is Tommy Lasorda, a former Los Angeles Dodgers manager.
At church one morning in Cincinnati, McKeon watched Lasorda light a candle.
“Later,” he said, “when I got to home plate, I said, ‘Tommy, I saw you light a candle, but it won’t work. After you lit it, I went up behind it and blew it out.’ ”