Who do you count on in the big apple? Go with O'Connor in a "New York minute!"

     Do you think the 500 pound girder that crashed into the seats behind third base at Yankee Stadium the other day was a coincidence? Perhaps it was a God-incidence for the Infinite Manager of all can't be too happy with the Yankee organization and, for that matter, the entire Major League Baseball organization for scheduling games in the afternoon on Good Friday this year. Think about it. The Yankees, headed by "the boss" George Steinbrenner- who always seems to get what he wants, went ahead and scheduled their Opening Day game at 1:05 on Good Friday. On this day not only Catholics, but most Christians reserve the hours between noon and three p.m. in commemorating the three hours Jesus hung on the Cross. It is a time when followers of Christ abstain from as many worldly or secular things as possible, setting those three hours aside in respectful quietude and serenity. Add to the fact that this year Passover also was beginning and the pin-stripers as well as acting commissioner Bud Selig and company offended even more citizens by brashly scheduling a starting time that flew in the face of our suffering Lord, not to mention those fervent souls who love baseball but love Jesus more! One of those souls, an avid Yankee and Mets fan was Cardinal John O'Connor, the esteemed prelate of New York City. Few leaders in America carry the clout this man of the cloth wields. When he speaks, people listen. They may not all agree with this loyal servant of the Roman Catholic Church, such as the gays and abortionists, but they do listen. The Boston Red Sox listened before he spoke, scheduling their Opening Day for 3:05 p.m. Though this is still not a good time considering one had to have left for Fenway Park by 1:30 to be comfortably seated by game time, thus consuming one and a half hours of the precious time reserved for prayer and introspection, at least it was an effort to respect the tradition of Good Friday. The Cleveland Indians, the Yankees' opposition on Good Friday, filed a formal protest objecting to the start time and asking that future scheduling take into account the sensitivities of Christians who reserve this day as so sacred. Hooray for the Wahoos! That's their beloved nickname that Clevelanders embrace so dearly, not a putdown. Observing the sacredness of Good Friday during the Easter Triduum is dear to Cardinal O'Connor for the sake of his flock and he made no bones about his displeasure in his weekly column in the New York CATHOLIC last week. He berated the Yanks and Mets (though they were not involved), but, out of principal, because they are all intricately woven into the fabric known as the American and National Leagues, he vowed to boycott all baseball games this year! That message was heard loud and clear in the New York offices of Major League Baseball who did a fast shuffle, back-stepping and apologizing profusely while vowing it would not happen again. But that was not good enough for the Cardinal and, we suspect, not good enough for his Boss - known as the Holy Trinity! Good for the Cardinal! It's about time more Catholic prelates spoke out against the disregard for the sensitivities of Catholics, as well as Christians and Jews. Catholics have taken a beating with the bashing from liberals and anti-Catholics - from ABC-Disney's short-lived travesty Nothing Sacred to the ballyhooed Dallas sexual abuse trial last summer. In the big apple, the gay and pro-abortionist worms have attacked the Cardinal for his strong stance against homosexuality and abortion. But he's held his own, not backing down one iota. More power to him!

     Speaking of power, that is what Steinbrenner has always wielded. This is a man who is known to be set in his ways - few can tell him anything. If he wants his team to start at 1 p.m. on Good Friday, the hell with the rest, they'll play! But he's met his match, not only in the Cardinal, but in the bigger Boss upstairs Who reminded ol' George he is, afterall, only human! Just as the temple was rent asunder when Jesus died, so also the temple of greed - that 75 year old edifice that has become a shrine - is beginning to be rent asunder. The beam that plummetted into the plastic seats was a strong reminder Who's really "the Boss." Ol' George was forced to vacate his temple and trek across town to Flushing Meadows, home of the Mets at Shea Stadium to play the Angels - something you just know had to gall the Yankee head man. Though the Angels lost that game, the Angels above had to be weeping that society has become so immune to the sensitivities of the sacred that "the game" is more important than the soul. This editor is a big sports fan, always has been, but I too draw the line when it comes to interferring with my faith. Yet I've always loved the game. Baseball is America! Baseball is mom and apple pie! Baseball is family and relaxation. Baseball is green grass and a blue sky. At least it used to be. Now television rules the roost, dictating when most games are played such as the World Series at 9 p.m. at night when most kids should be getting ready for bed and school the next day. Ironically, had the Yankees waited until the evening of Good Friday to play their Opening Day game, they would have garnered higher Nielsen ratings since it would have been in prime time. But Steinbrenner and the League offices opted for their own agenda and the results are evident. The end has to justify the means. When it doesn't, it doesn't mount to a hill of beans. And beans is what ol' George may be left with as he tries to construct a beanstalk out of the decaying house that Babe Ruth built in the Bronx. Yankee Stadium is falling apart just as society is falling apart. It is not one big explosion, but rather an implosion for America's soul is rotting away just as the beams and wood structure of that hallowed hall of Murderer's Row is also rotting away. Building a new ballpark may be easier for ol' George then rebuilding his soul for Jesus said in Matthew 19: 24, "I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven." And sadly, George may have a lot of company trying to push that dromedary through the opening because today the age of family-owned teams has gone the way of the dinosaur. Now we have filthy-rich barons such as Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner, not to mention our old nemesis Disney, who wield the power and if it's good for the bottom line, then forget ethics and spirituality. They have a business to run and they'll do it their way, thank you. Even if the Cardinal won't be chomping down on a hot-dog and enjoying some Crackerjacks, there are plenty who will compromise and rush to take his place at the ballpark and that's all that matters to this new breed of owners: Filling seats and their own coffers along with their "chattel" in uniform who strive to get by on their guaranteed multi-million dollar contracts!

     The Cardinal carries clout and hopefully by lambasting his beloved teams and the entire League it will make a dent in the thick-headed skulls of the decision makers. If not, watch for more ballparks to begin imploding as God sends a message that "it's only a game" and that the real contest is between our priorities in this temporal, fleeting world or celebrating for eternity with Him. It's the bottom of the ninth, two out, bases loaded, you're down by a run. Who do you send up to pinch hit? Bud Selig, any of the other owners, Steinbrenner, or O'Connor? Selig is too unpredictable. The other owners, because they can never agree, won't know which side of the plate to hit from, and as for "the boss" he's got enough problems with his crumbling edifice and million-dollar cry babies. We all know this self-proclaimed "boss" will have to ultimately answer to "The Boss!". So who do you go to in the clutch? It's a no-brainer! Go with the one who's got the clout and providence to hammer home the winning run everytime! Go with O'Connor in a "New York minute!"

Michael Cain, editor

Daily CATHOLIC          April 21, 1998