As I write at length in my book about the early years of the New York Mets, There Is No Cure for This Condition, baseball is in the very marrow of my bones. I went to over 1600 major league games between July 15, 1962, and July 16, 2002. Although I was a huge fan of the game and a student of its history in general (and of the New York Mets in particular), I always understood that the game was one of those legitimate diversions permitted us by God to enjoy in this vale of tears. No diversion is a substitute for life. However, if kept in its proper perspective, a diversion such as baseball provides legitimate pleasure.
Sadly, however, the joy that is derived from baseball has been attenuated in the past decade or so. Horrible, ear-piercing and soul killing music has invaded practically every single baseball stadium. Coarse and even obscene commercials for beer and other products are shown during game telecasts and heard on radio broadcasts.
Most tragically, in my view, as I wrote about last summer in Out of the Old Ball Game, the entity known as Major League Baseball descended into unspeakable depths of indecency by contracting with the Pfizer Company to publicly advertise a product dealing with conjugal intimacy. This product deals with a subject that is unfit to be mentioned in any public forum, especially in the presence of the young, who are entitled to their innocence and purity. I walked out of my beloved Shea Stadium last July 16, vowing never to return, mindful of my duties as a new father to provide no active support by means of my limited disposal income of those things that I know to be injurious for the proper formation and sanctification of souls. As I wrote to Mets' owner Fred Wilpon and baseball Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig last summer, "can there no be at least one refuge in this world for parents who actually care about their innocence and purity of their children to enjoy legitimate pleasures such as baseball without having the refuse of the culture of death ruining the experience?" They have not responded to my concerns. They haven't even acknowledged receipt of my correspondence.
Although I will not be returning to a baseball park again, the game is still in my bones. I love the game and its history, about which I have a fair degree of knowledge and attempt to weave into the aforementioned book. The game has been graced over the decades with a number of true gentlemen who sought to use their God-given skills to the utmost and to give Him the honor and glory that is his due in their chosen endeavor. Gary "The Kid" Carter, a former member of the Montreal Expos and the 1986 World Champion New York Mets, who will be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, this summer, gave public praise to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when he was interviewed following the Mets' seventh-game victory over the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Former Cincinnati Reds manager Jack McKeon told me in the year 2000 that his the rookie first baseman, Sean Casey, went to great lengths to go to daily Mass when the team was on road trips. The late Gil Hodges, a first baseman for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets in their infancy (who later managed the Mets to the first World's Championship in 1969 against the Baltimore Orioles), was a daily communicant who was in love with his Catholic Faith. This list of the truly good guys who have played the game of baseball could go on and on and on.
Thus, it was with such great joy that I read in a special edition of Judie Brown's Communique, issued on February 25, 2003, that the American Life League has started a special program called "Battin' 1.000." The program seeks to establish a pro-life campus to educate people about the facts concerning the sanctity of human life. It will have a physical presence in Stafford, Virginia, the headquarters of ALL, as well as provide on-line and interactive courses and activities to educate and motivate Americans to be so informed about the life issues that they can help to educate their own relatives and friends. The project will involve a lot of education about the life issues. However, it is my understanding that there will also be a little bit about the history of baseball thrown in now and then. Indeed, the whole purpose of recent book was to use my knowledge of baseball as the "hook" to draw people into a consideration of First and Last Things. Thus, I really think that this project, which seeks to raise $1,000,000 to support its activities, is right on base, pun intended.
Ninety men associated with Major League Baseball have signed onto this program. A few are current players (Kyle Abbott, Mike Matheny, Chris Bando, Sean Casey, Walt Weiss). Some are Hall of Famers (Sparky Anderson, Gary Carter, broadcaster Ernie Harwell, Tommy Lasorda, Robin Yount). Others are former all star players (Sal Bando, Dave Dravecky, Terry Pendleton, Bob Boone, Dwight Evans, Jim Lonborg, Bobby Richadson, Frank Tanana, Joel Youngblood). Arizona Diamondbacks' CEO Jerry Colangelo has signed on (something that might not thrill the ever politically-correct Commissioner Selig) as has former Detroit Tigers owner Tom Monaghan. Former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who has been in love with the game of baseball from the time he served as a bat boy for Calvin Griffith's Washington Senators (the franchise that moved to Minnesota and was re-named the Twins in 1961), is an endorser. Also on the list are such baseball notables as Sid Bream, Jerry DiPoto, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella, who was a gutsy player in his days with the New York Yankees and won the 1990 World Series managing the Cincinnati Reds before moving on to Seattle and now Tampa Bay. The list of endorsers is quite impressive, a testament to the fact that as much as the young marketers in Major League Headquarters want to ruin the game's appeal by hawking products that demean the game and despoil its fans, there are still lots of good men involved in the game itself. Jerry Colangelo is to be applauded very particularly for his courage to break ranks with other owners, many of whom are firm supporters of the agenda of Planned Parenthood (thereby helping to kill off their future fan base!).
Judie Brown has asked that pro-lifers around the world e-mail their encouragement to the endorsers by sending a message of support to the e-mail address listed at the end of this commentary. This is very important do as it might encourage other baseball players to "come out of the closet," so to speak, and be willing to run the risk of public criticism for their support of the sanctity of all innocent human beings from the moment of fertilization through all subsequent stages until natural death. There surely must be more than ninety men who have been and are now associated with Major League Baseball who are pro-life. They have to be encouraged to come forward and express their convictions publicly. Such public statements will help many people, but especially the young, to possibly reconsider their uncritical acceptance of and participation in this culture of death.
Spring Training has begun in Florida (Grapefruit Circuit) and Arizona (Cactus Circuit). The regular season starts on March 30, amazingly enough. Although I am absenting myself from games for the reasons stated earlier and as a means of offering a truly hard sacrifice to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart in reparation for my own sins and those of others, I might take a peek at the sports pages now and then to see how the season is progressing. And I will be offering prayers of thanksgiving in gratitude for the ninety men who have signed on to "Battin' 1.000" thus far, praying also that many more will join in the effort to help create a culture of life, both physical and eternal, to replace our culture of death.
Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace, pray for us to have the courage to defend life with all of the strength your Divine Son can give us so that we can see in each of our preborn brothers and sisters His own very image, remembering that He spent nine months as the helpless prisoner of the tabernacle of your virginal and immaculate womb.
The address to e-mail a message of support is firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Battin' 1000, American Life League, P.O. Box 1350, Stafford, VA, 22555. One can also find out how to support this project with financial contributions by logging on to www.all.org and clicking on the battin1000 button. There are different levels of financial support.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.