Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Baseball......the "Ineffable"


Baseball can be fun for some, a nice recreational outlet from life's stresses and challenges.  For others of us, it can be much more.

As a young person, baseball for me built self-esteem, self-confidence, positive self-concept.  It provided social activity, socialization, recreation.  Baseball helped me in college selection and admission and helped with my college tuition.  Baseball resulted in travel opportunities as a young person I would not have otherwise experienced, exposure to the world, my first airplane flight, an unforgettable trip to Cooperstown with my son, Spring Training trips with my wife, and much, much more.

As was so beautifully expressed in a wonderful book I recently read, "Baseball as a Road to God" by John Sexton, baseball can provide very deep meaning for some of us.  For some, baseball can touch the spiritual dimension of life......the "ineffable", as Sexton explains, that which cannot be defined or captured with words.

Sexton reveals a surprising amount of common ground between the game and what we most recognize as religion: sacred places and times, faith and doubt, blessings and curses, hope, struggle, redemption, joy.  He talks of the heroic deeds of those such as the 'saintly' Christy Matheson, the 'sinful', deceptive antics of a Ty Cobb, the loving intimacy of a game of catch between a father and a son.

For some of us, baseball can be about what Sexton describes as "hierophany"....a touching of transcendent places....."when the sacred manifests itself in space, where the real unveils itself", as Elide wrote, "that sacred space, deep and personal to each individual, which may seem quite ordinary to others."  (For Sexton, those "spaces" being such places as by the radio as a child in 1955 on his knees praying for Dodger victory in Game 7 of the World Series. For others, at Forbes Field or in front of the television in 1960 as Bill Mazeroski hits his walk-off home run in Game 7 against the hated Yankees). 

Baseball can be meaningful or it can be mundane.  Either way, a part of Americana it has certainly remained, and for me, yes, "ineffable." 

For beautiful, descriptive, meaningful writing about baseball, I recommend the writing of Renaissance man, former Baseball Commissioner and Yale President, the late A. Bartlett Giamatti.  To read about what the game baseball has meant to my good childhood friend Miles Wolff, and he to it, click here.

(About the collage pictured above:  It contains many of my most meaningful baseball shots...Rob with Phil Rizzuto at Fenway Park, big league umpire friend Drew Coble and me at Elon alumni game, me at first base in Yankee Stadium, Jim Bouton, Johnny Smith and I together, a best friend Mike Carruthers (best hitter outside the big leagues I ever saw), me by my late-friend Thurman Munson's plaque in Yankee Stadium, Mickey Mantle, 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson, on and on.  A few are not baseball, only a few.  Below, hallowed ground).

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