In a follow-up to Gabriel Garnica's piece from last week Remember when they played by the book?, my thoughts ran towards the transformation of the game that, despite Japan's obsession, is truly America's game: Baseball. Since the grand old game has played a big part of this editor's life from one of his earliest job assignments with the Minnesota Twins in old Metropolitan Stadium working both an All Star Game and a World Series from the Press Box to later projects working with the San Diego Padres in promotion and assistant editor of the game programs, and since I have sat in box seats and bleachers and the back row of many a ballpark throughout this land, I think I am eminently qualified to expound on something that seems obvious, yet few have expressed.
I am talking about the nostalgic trend in baseball to return to the tried and true of the golden days of the game - the thirties, forties and fifties when ballparks were cozy and unique. It is no coincidence that the seventies not only saw turmoil and change in the Church, but also in the game for demolished were those grand old shrines where cleated ghosts seek the verdant fields of the game, blocked so by concrete and steel. Vaunted cathedrals of Crosley Field in Cincinnati with the sloping terrace in the outfield. My bride Cyndi remembers fondly this ballpark where her dad Leonard Joseph took her when she was young, growing up in St. Pius X parish across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky.
As for myself, one of my earliest memories was taking the Great Northern train with my mom and dad to Chicago to visit my uncle who took us to see the White Sox against the Yankees in old Comiskey Park. Riding the El on those rickety old tracks above the buildings was an experience I've never forgotten, nor will I forget, even though I was a toddler, the thrill of seeing all those fans, the smell of grass, and seeing a fellow in centerfield by the name of Joe Dimaggio play. He was already a superstar and to me he was even bigger because I saw him play. Talk about something to brag about when you're a kid!
This same scenario was playing out everywhere in major and minor league ballparks across the land, but there was something different back then. Baseball, sports, were not gods. They were a pasttime. Sundays were reserved for church and people flocked to the beautiful cathedrals, basilicas and churches not only because they needed to, but because it had become part of the Catholic culture. Play and work during the week, Sunday was for God and family.
In those days before the upheaval of the sixties there was the famed Polo Grounds where Willie "Say Hey" Mays made his patented basket catches and that famous catch and throw from 480 feet deep in centerfield in the 1954 Fall Classic off Vic Wertz screaming drive to dead center to stop the Cleveland Indians' rally in a Giants sweep. There was the intimate Forbes Field in Pittsburgh where Bill Mazerowski smashed the extra inning homer over the left field wall in 1960 to defeat the mighty Yankees of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. Shibe Park was the home of the Whiz Kids of the 50's with Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn. Fans of St Louis long flooded Sportsman's Park to watch their beloved Cardinals from the 1930's "Gashouse Gang" and cheer on the hapless St. Louis Browns before they became the first of the nomad teams by packing up and shipping to Baltimore to become the Orioles. St. Louis didn't mind for they still had Dizzy Dean, Enos "Country" Slaughter and Stan "the Man" Musial. Heroes all and, with the revolution of the new, the places they plied their noble trade were ransacked and destroyed in order to make way for modernizing.
Sound familiar? It has been happening in our beloved Church for the past 40 years and was never more evident than what is happening right now in New York City where a few churches are soon to feel the crushing blow of the wrecking ball all thanks to an uncaring, greedy and modernist prelate - none other than the Archbishop of New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan who turns a deaf ear to the pleas and plight of parishioners who are so feverishly trying to save these bastions of the Faith where so many souls sought refuge over the last century. One such House of God is St. Ann's Church. The same is happening in Boston thanks to one feckless Cardinal Bernard Law who has only given way to one just as irresponsible in Archbishop Sean O'Malley who has been conspicuous in his lukewarmness and fence-sitting over the shocking scandal of John Kerry, but then he's use to such inaction since he has been the ordinary for Ted Kennedy and the rest of the clan at Hyannisport when he was the prelate of the Fall River Diocese. In fact, the only thing constant and true in Boston is legendary Fenway Park where the foreboding "Green Monster" both intimidates and encourages. So easy to reach the fence, so difficult to clear it.
A website we have recently been referred to is Anti-Abomination.com whose sole purpose, as stated is the fact that "any bishop who would expose a consecrated House of God to destruction has lost his Catholic mind!" Amen to that! The site's author Anthony Flood wrote on Holy Saturday the following:
No assault on traditional liturgy is complete unless it deprives Catholics of art and architecture that embody and express tradition. After all, it's hard to take liturgical revolution seriously when a church's very walls shout "Liars!" at the revolutionaries. Clearly, in their minds, these walls must come down.
So do the vestibule plaques heralding the names of the Catholics who sponsored these brick-and-mortar markers of their earthly sojourn. They did not sacrifice for their children alone, any more than did, for example, the Catholics of Milan build their churches just for one or two generations of Milanese. No, those who erected these corruptible expressions of the Everlasting did so with the tacit understanding that they would perpetually glorify God, proclaim their own sacramental walk, and serve the spiritual needs future Catholics.
The revolutionaries helming the chanceries, however, have their own ideas about those needs. They aim to sever any lingering "attachment" to the Catholicism of the first 98% of its story, i.e., normative Catholicism. Removing historic churches from the historical scene is a good way to that. Their frankly Marxist counterparts understood that. The religious specimens of this disease proceed more cautiously, but no less zealously.
Flood completes his plea to Egan by asking him to reconsider in light of what Our Lord clearly stated in Matthew 24: 15 which Anthony paraphrases as "To render a House of God desolate is an abomination." What Jesus said refers directly to our times: "When therefore, you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand." We know this first occurred in 700 BC in the Book of Machabees where only a few, most notably Judas Machabeus and a small band of brethren stood up against the idolaters instigated by King Antiochus. We read in the Douay-Rheims in 1 Machabees 23:
"And he [Antiochus] proudly entered into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the vessels thereof, and the table of proposition, and the pouring vessels, and the vials, and the little morars of gold and the veil, and the crowns, and the golden ornament that was before the temple: and he broke them all in pieces."
Is this not Cardinal Egan's same ploy? Was it not Archbishop John Quinn's tactics when he shut down and sold so many churches in San Francisco? Is it not the same with Cardinal Roger Mahoney in the land's largest see? Is not the same applicable to Cardinal Francis George in Chicago, O'Malley in Boston, and so many other bishops who must raise blood money for the sins of their appointed ones? And America thought the Black Sox Scandal in 1910 was terrible? Please!
And where are these same 'shepherds' when it comes to protecting their flock? Nowhere to be found. They are the ones who have relaxed the rules except where it truly counts. Consider earlier in 1 Machabees 12-16:
"In those days there went out of Israel wicked men, and they persuaded many, saying: Let us go, and make a covenant with the heathens that are round about us: for since we departed from them, many evils have befallen us. And the word seemed good in their eyes. And some of the people determined to do this, and went to the king: and he gave them license to do after the ordinances of heathens. And they built a place of exercise in Jerusalem, according to the laws of the nations: And they made themselves prepuces, and departed from the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathens, and were sold to do evil."
Think about that and ask yourself is this not exactly what has happened to the New Jerusalem - the Church Christ founded? Have not the modern rulers sold out to the devil by departing from the holy covenant Our Lord established? And have they not taken up lustful lives and condoned sexual sins and other aberrations against God by their silent consent? The answer, sadly, is a resounding Yes!
And the results? Exactly what happened to the Israelites of old as recorded in 1 Machabees 25:
"And he made a great slaughter of men, and spoke very proudly. And there was great mourning in Israel, and in every place where they were: And the princes, and the ancients mourned, and the virgins and the young men were made feeble, and the beauty of women was changed. Every bridegroom took up lamentation: and the bride that sat in the marriage bed, mourned: And the land was moved for the inhabitants thereof, and all the house of Jacob was covered with confusion."
Wow! If that doesn't describe the predicament today, what does? Consider both the great slaughter of men as in human beings in the womb and the slaughter of men's souls. Consider how the beauty of women has been changed by the sexual revolution which has turned topsy-turvy the moral barometer. It is akin to putting the vulgar unfeminine Roseanne Barr on the mound instead of an ace pitcher who knows what he's doing. Oh, yeah, I forgot they did that!
I'd like to forget what the progressives have done since Vatican II as well, but it's not easy when their grimy fingerprints are all over everything. As to their fruits? They've been shut-out. Nada, no hits, but plenty of errors. Christ clearly identifies what Vatican II has wrought in Matthew 7: 15-20 for indeed a bad tree cannot bear good fruit and a good tree could never yield bad fruit. "By their fruits you shall know them" (Matthew 7: 20)
Amidst all the confusion that exists today just as in the time of the Machabees, we must stand with Judas Machabeus and resist the agendas of today's leaders that definitely harm the spiritual welfare of souls and Christ's holy Church. Just as in Machabees evil begot evil, so also today we find the same problems. Men who have replaced false shepherds have themselves adopted the same vile traits. Is it in the Novus Ordo water or what? It is no secret Paul VI was not only a bad, bad Pope who we pray at least made it to Purgatory though we have our doubts, for the offenses against God he committed not only included instituting the "abomination of desolation" with the creation of a synthetic Protestant service - the The Great Sacrilege as Father James F. Wathen so nobly and valiantly wrote in 1971 and has yet to be refuted for his words are true - but Paul VI is also suspected of spawning and legitimizing the sodomite agenda whose ugly side has finally been revealed to the world. Atila Sinke Guimaraes documents this in his latest book in his Eli, Eli, Lamma sabbacthani series Vatican II, Homosexuality and Pedophilia and specifically suspicions of Paul VI's perversity on pages 158-162. Ah, yes, the bitter and vile fruits of Vatican II! And we wonder why so many are confused?
We read further in 1 Machabees 38-42:
"And this was a place to lie in wait against the sanctuary, and an evil devil in Israel. And they shed innocent blood round about the sanctuary, and defiled the holy place. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled away by reason of them, and the city was made the habitation of strangers, and she became a stranger to her own seed, and her children forsook her. Her sanctuary was desolate like a wilderness, here festival days were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into reproach, her honors were brought to nothing. Her dishonor was increased according to her glory, and her excellency was turned into mourning."
Is this not exactly what has happened to the New Jerusalem in the last 40 years? Has not the Faith of our Fathers become a stranger in this new novelty created from Masonic and Modernist means of destruction? Have not many of her children forsaken the Roman Catholic Church because She no longer provides the steady stern and moral compass that steered so confidently and straight the Barque of Peter prior to the sixties? Despite all the plaudits and false figures that try to justify progress, there is none for her honors have been brought to nothing. With the breaking of the sex scandal, which this author still asserts is only the tip of the satanic iceberg, her dishonor is increasing. The magnificence of the Faith and excellency that once was has been turned into mourning. No doubt about that.
Just as a consistent pennant winner has gone from first to last and become an unproductive cellar dweller with the crowds decreasing such that the massive stadiums had to be torn down for they were an embarrassment to the manipulators of the money. They will pay for their sins. Those who destroyed the home-grown Ebbets Field and the proud Polo Grounds are stuck with Shea Stadium. Those who bought into the lie that the old Cathedral in downtown LA had to be torn down and a new edifice built are left with nothing but a massive mausoleum rising up on the edge of the Hollywood Freeway. The Taj Mahony as it has been dubbed is the symbol of the New Order - barren, sterile, devoid of all devotion, dishonored and mocked. I daresay if Egan goes through with his threat to sell St. Ann's magnificent Armenian Catholic church, the new post office that would go up would at least be more reverent than Cardinal Roger Mahony's scandalous monstrosity.
Though I have never been a Dodger fan, I have to say that seems to be the only thing that has remained constant in Los Angeles - Dodger Stadium and its unique multi-level access levels chiseled out of Chavez Ravine. I must admit I have been a Dodger-hater even before they left Brooklyn because the team of my boyhood - the Minneapolis Millers were a Triple A farm team of the New York Giants. I actually saw in person as a toddler Willie Mays before he was called up to the big club in 1951. I saw him roam the outfield of old Nicolet Ballpark on Lake Street in Minneapolis, an old, but cozy bandbox with a green monster wall similar to Fenway and the quirkiness of many of the "new old-fashioned" ball parks rising up over the last decade. Nicolet Park, named after a devout Catholic Jean Nicolet who, as the agent of a French king sought territorial expansion of Holy Mother Church, for he was dedicated to the salvation of souls. Nicolet Park was a neighborhood haunt where we could hop a bus and see a day game during the summer on knothole day or go with our dad for an evening game and the tall lights would illuminate the entire area. All this for only four bits. That's fifty cents to those who don't remember. Those in the Twin Cities remember the cozy confines of Nicolet Park in being dropped off at the front gate on the bus or streetcar, and later as I grew older ride my bike four miles to the Park. A far cry from the walk-forever parking near the sterile Metrodome. Another thing Minneapolitans remember is that no respectful City of Lakes residence ever cheered for "Dem Bums" because their farm team was the AAA St. Paul Saints where Jackie Robinson, Duke Snyder and Roy Campenella all did their stint before being called up to the big club in Brooklyn. Anyone growing up in the Twin Cities realizes the heated rivalry between the two cities. Truth be known, St. Paul was more heavily Catholic than their western neighboring city which was heavily influenced in Scandinavian and German Lutheranism, whereas St. Paul boasted of ethnic Polish, Irish and Italian communities. Despite all this, I often argued that St. Paul had only one thing better than Minneapolis and that was a better view across the River!
And speaking of rivers, it was a flood of sterile stadiums that were constructed besides the mighty rivers of our country in the 70's when the Church was going through such a flux and more confusion. While Riverfront Stadium cast its shadow over the Ohio, Three Rivers Stadium took up space near where the Monongahela and Alleghany flowed into the Ohio. Near the banks of the mighty Mississippi Busch Stadium and its arched portola took form in St. Louis at the same time the great arch was constructed. There was Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia, Atlanta Stadium just south of the city, Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, all circular structures more reminiscient of the Coliseum in Rome than a ballpark or cathedral for the grand old game. In these barren, modern stadiums everything looked the same. Only the Superdome, a blot on the old French city of New Orleans remains from that era and it is devoid of baseball, so it's not even considered. God's green grass was replaced by the aberration known as Astroturf, created in much the same way the Novus Ordo was - as a synthetic novelty that would replace the authentic. The Astrodome was the first. It is now rubble. The same with Veterans' Stadium, Three Rivers, Riverfront, Atlanta, and others such as the rickety old structures such as Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Tiger Stadium, old Comiskey Park, Baltimore Memorial Stadium and Milwaukee County Stadium. All gone the way of the wrecking ball, all distant memories with few things of substance to remember, specifically in the circular edifices that sprouted in the seventies and early eighties.
Is this not what happened to new churches built in the sixties, seventies and beyond which have only grown more grotesque by the decades in architectural design? They were devoid of statues and ornate altars, built to accommodate a theater in the round if you will. Baptismal fonts became swimming pools, a most Protestant concept. The Tabernacles were moved out of these pagan temples and, while we might lament such, it was appropriate considering the abomination that had already been instigated. Why should Our Lord be subjected to further torture by having to be present for this idolatry? So He was stuck in the back, or a closet or somewhere where He wouldn't disturb man's agenda. Sounds harsh, but it's true. Would you suppose there would be such shock and awe at Mel Gibson's depiction of Jesus' terrible, bloody scourging in his masterpiece for the ages - 'The Passion of The Christ' if the crucifixes that our grandparents were weaned on were not removed and replaced with a 'resurrexix' for, to quote several CCD teachers, "the crucifix was too traumatic on the children." Please! Thank God Mel is sounding the clarion of the truth of the pain and torture Christ suffered for us and pushing so many millions to the "edge" of realization and recognition of the atonement.
Perhaps a new era is breaking on the horizon, one that baseball wisely saw and put a stop to the aberrations that so muddied the seventies, eighties and nineties. We can only hope the Church will return to the same common sense, realizing the tried and true is the only path. Over the past 40 years modernists tinkered with the game, forgetting the roots and virtues of the game. Cavernous, static and sterile stadiums were erected. Contrary to 'Field of Dreams', if you build it they will come, they forgot to add, only if you give them something of value. It is not value to strip the game of the traditions, to introduce new innovations like the designated hitter, ridiculous uniforms, crazy novelty promotions to try to keep the people coming while they raised ticket prices that it was beyond reach of the common fan. The fat cats kept pouring bad money after bad, offering obscene salaries to men who, for the most part couldn't get a job for a tenth of the price they were being paid in the common work force. Spoiled, pampered athletes became even more unreachable and obnoxious. The likes of a Tony Gywnn and a Cal Ripken were far and few between. Because of this direction of greed, America saw the game lose its popularity. How do you bring them back?
We have been asking the same thing about the Catholic Faith for it was tinkered with, changed and in place of the beautiful churches, basilicas and cathedrals, sterile, cavernous auditoriums were built that no longer resembled the sacred, profound and pragmatic, but the practical, proud and profane. Whatever architecture and conveniences would accommodate and make it easier for man was adopted. Never mind accommodating or pleasing God! The result, as we have seen in the statistics and the bitter barren fruits has been a mass exodus by millions from the Faith, a cavalier attitude towards the Sacraments and Church Doctrine, and a loss of belief in not only the True Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, but a total loss of respect for the hierarchy. The latter they have brought on themselves, just as the overpriced, haughty athletes have been booed for their lack of loyalty to a team. The difference is the latter can hit .300 or win 20 games and their past sins will be forgiven with their new team, but they'll forever be abhorred among fans of their old team. The bishops? That's another story. Few can change teams and, for the most part they more often represent a bureaucratic government where, no matter inept performance, they can't get fired and thus they litter the ranks with dead weight. You wonder why there are so many problems in government and lack of trust, the modern church is a mirror of that with the exception that the latter is responsible for the spiritual welfare, and the former the temporal welfare. While both have failed on those counts, the latter has failed miserably and knows it. But they won't admit it.
That is the difference between baseball and the church. Baseball has realized they made mistakes and have decided to return to their traditions to win fans back. For the most part they have been successful. It began in Baltimore. Interesting for the Catholic Faith in the United States did as well. Yet don't put much hope in Cardinal William Keeler, ordinary of the back bay city.
Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards was the first to return to tradition by building it where Babe Ruth's father ran his cafe to the old railroad yards where the Babe worked. Nostalgia and tradition returned. Cleveland soon followed with Jacob's Field and sell-outs night after night were assured. Fans came back in droves. The same in the high altitude of Denver and the wide horizon of Texas where The Ballpark at Arlington rose out of the prairie. I remember taking our sons to several games there and sitting in great seats in the outfield where the kids could scramble for homerun balls on the sloping grass beyond the fence in center field. All for only $5 a person. Yes, tradition had returned. Soon Houston and Seattle tore down their domes. Replacing them were the quaint, even quirky but loyal to the traditions of the game. These last two ballparks each included the Iron Monster rolling along tracks beyond the outfield. In Houston they even reinstituted the Crosley Field terrace in center field except this time placing a unique obstacle in dead center: a flag pole. In Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago's south side new old ballparks replaced monstrosities. The fans have returned ten-fold.
This year both my beloved Padres and the storied Phillies moved into new ballparks, both quaint, old fashioned and true to the game. Though 46 Hummingbird Lane is far from Petco Park on 19 Tony Gwynn Lane, I was present when San Diego officials and owner John Moores turned the first shovel in a dilapidated warehouse section just east of the renovated Gaslamp Quarter and just north of the new convention center on San Diego Bay. That was well over 5 years ago, but legal matters held up construction until this year. It took time, but it was worth it. The same with the people in Philadelphia who remember the coziness and intimacy of Shibe Park. The new Phillies ballpark with the city skyline beyond center field is a big improvement over Veterans Stadium which was imploded earlier this year. We can only pray that the new modern cathedrals, which no longer resemble true Houses of God, could be imploded and replaced with new old churches that would return the ornate altars and tabernacle to the center and construct communion rails, choir lofts, confessionals, side altars and adorn them with statues and the reverence that baseball has been so meticuous in recreating for their diamond cathedrals.
Three ballparks remain from the days of old. All of them have seen some renovation, but for the most part have not lost their character or appeal. They are, of course, Yankee Stadium, Fenway, and probably baseball's all-time favorite ballpark which identifies with the game and the common man: Wrigley Field on Chicago's north side with its patented ivy-covered brick walls and nearby roof-top perches. Up until 1988 it was void of lights which kept it as pure as possible and the home of the lovable Cubs and their truly fanatic fans. As I said, though I am a die-hard Padre fan, there are no more loyal fans in any sport than Cub fans. Except for 1984, I have been cheering for the Cubs to win it all. Someday, despite Bartman and the goat, they will. And someday, pray God, the true Traditions and the Latin Mass will be returned to their proper place in every church and cathedral. We can always pray and dream of a return to sanity and virtue.
Before O'Malley starts closing and selling churches in Boston perhaps he should look to old Fenway and realize how important tradition is. That brings us back to New York and Cardinal Egan. I would equate Yankee Stadium to old St. Patrick's for both will forever be landmarks in the Big Apple. Both have been renovated but possess the same exterior. While Yankee Stadium has kept its shrine in center field, so has St. Patrick's, though they have installed the abominable Novus Ordo table in its sanctuary. It wouldn't take much to rid them of this nuisance, but don't expect Egan to do it. But you can expect him to close down and allow the magnificent Armenian Catholic St. Ann's to be razed. So much for tradition. As to the outrage, well on a smaller scale it is akin to tearing down the beloved shrine of baseball. Consider the outrage Chicagoans would express if it were announced that Wrigley was to be torn down and a post-office put up on Addison and Clark! Well that same outrage has been expressed to Egan and he's turned a deaf ear to their plight. Why? So the Archdiocese of New York can raise funds to pay off money for the terrible sex abuse scandals. Well, your Eminence, why not put St. Patrick's on the block - up for auction. Maybe the Donald will get a whiff and seek to build the Trump Tower at St. Patrick's. He might even agree to a post office in the lobby. But then Catholics would be outraged at selling St. Patrick's and well they should. My question: why aren't all Catholics equally outraged at selling, closing down and wrecking the venerable St. Ann's? I'll tell you the very reason: because St. Ann's has always remained loyal to tradition in her architecture and in the sanctuary.
That's the sad reality of the game being played today by the VaticantwoArians. That whole line-up needs to be benched permanently. Prayerfully and hopefully with a new batch of orthodox priests being groomed, they will realize the futility of staying with such a failed, disastrous experiment that Vatican II has wrought and, like baseball, return to the Truths and Traditions. Baseball did it, why can't the Church? Yes it will take time. But anything worthwhile does. They've waited well over five years in San Diego for their new ballpark; the Cubs have been waiting over a century for a World Series. We've been waiting forty years for the return of Truth and Tradition. As the nightmares continue, so does the waiting. But we realize that in God's time if loyal Catholics persist and build these traditional cathedrals, they will come for Catholics everywhere, hungry for substance and truth, will realize that, in those churches where the Traditional Latin Mass and Catholic architecture have been kept intact and preserved, only there is where Catholics will rediscover the True Field of Dreams!