In the late 16th century Henry IV of France expressed a desire that everyone in his realm would “have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” That idea showed up again in Herbert Hoover’s promise of a “chicken in every pot”—the politician’s promise of prosperity. I’m not sure whether “a baseball team in every ward” is a promise of prosperity or programming gone awry, but that is essentially what leaders of the MIA suggested in 1922—some years before Hoover made his ill-fated promise. They wrote: “Each ward should have an organized baseball club, and each stake should have an organized baseball league…”
After I returned home from my mission I attended a single’s ward in suburban Washington D.C. in which we had an unusual sacrament meeting one Sunday. One after another ward members came to the podium and delivered the words of the children’s song “I am a Child of God,” each in a different language, a language they knew personally. The effect was surprising; all of us were unified—no one was left out from being a child of God, regardless of race, creed, sex or language. My family experienced a similar surprise several years ago when we arrived at Yankee stadium for a ball game in mid April. We arrived in the middle of the first inning and, after a while, we became a little confused—all of the players were wearing the same number. It took us a little while to figure it out, and when we did the impact was big. Symbolically every player was Jackie Robinson; everyone was number 42.
This April we begin the month looking forward to what comes from 12 men and a few more. We will watch what they do and say, perhaps learning some lessons from them. We may disagree and perhaps even be disappointed in what they do. But we will watch, and what we see will inform how we see the next six months. One of these men has already made a strong statement this week, raising our expectations for this year. Will our expectations be met?
Despite a heartfelt campaign led by his children, LDS baseball star and former Massachusetts Boston Mission President Dale Murphy was not inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, according to the results announced this afternoon. While that result was expected, the fact that fellow Mormon Jack Morris was also not selected was almost as suprising as the fact that the BBWAA selected none of the eligible players this year. The group last failed to add any players to the Hall of Fame in 1996.
“In the 1830s, on the western frontier of Missouri, ball was the favorite sport of Joseph Smith, founder of a new religious sect called the Mormons1.” A couple of years ago I received as a Christmas present the Baseball documentary by Ken Burns, the PBS series that as much as anything has driven my current fascination with the game and led to the Mormon Baseball blog. Early in the first of the documentary’s 10 parts, the narrator makes the above claim, something that even today I don’t hear from Mormon historians. Could it be that Joseph Smith played and loved baseball?
I”m late in updating my list of Mormons in professional football. Its not because last year’s post was hijacked by those talking about playing sports on Sunday. But it may be in part because I’ve focused more on baseball recently. But, I’ve finally got my act together, and here’s the current list, along with the now due list of Mormons in professional basketball — including an additional Mormon playing in the NBA preseason
For some time I’ve been trying to build a list of Mormons playing soccer throughout the world, and over time I think I’ve come up with a start of one. So far I’ve found about a dozen Mormons who have ever played professional soccer somewhere in the world. Amazingly enough, three of these have played at the World Cup level. But only 2 of these are playing now, and one of these two is playing in the U.S. In addition one Mormon is coaching at the professional level and another at the NCAA Division I level (outside of the BYU teams). The numbers are so small in comparison to other sports (including Rugby, which isn’t very popular in the U.S.) that I have to believe that I’m missing many more players.
A week ago, baseball phenom Bryce Harper briefly topped twitter’s trending topics when he characterized a reporter’s question as foolish. The Toronto-based reporter had asked Harper (who, in case you don’t know, is a 19-year-old LDS player in his rookie year) if he was going to take advantage of Canada’s more liberal drinking laws (which allow drinking at 19 instead of 21) to celebrate his home run during the game, and if so, what brand of beer he would drink. Harper replied, “I’m not answering that. That’s a clown question, bro.”
A review of The Last Natural: Bryce Harper’s Big Gamble in Sin City and the Greatest Amateur Season Ever by Rob Miech. Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2012. 356 p. Review copy courtesy of the publisher. The title ‘The Last Natural‘ packs a lot of meaning and connotation into a few words. While ‘natural’ clearly refers to the inherent talent that Bryce Harper seems to have, there are a few other connotations, at least in baseball. Since Harper arrives at what might be considered the end of the “steroid era,” it could be a kind of pessimistic reference to Harper’s eschewing drugs since ‘natural’ can also mean pure or unchanged. It could also be a nod to Bernard Malamud‘s novel The Natural, perhaps the finest work of fiction about baseball and the source for the Robert Redford film of the same name.
I’m late preparing this information for 2012, but since I’m going tonight to a game for the first time this year, I thought I’d better get this information together and post it. After a good year last year that saw two Mormons in baseball’s All-Star game and at one point perhaps 13 active players who are Mormon, the prospects for this year look promising, but not at the level of 2010.
The long-delayed NBA pre-season starts Friday, much to the delight of the nation, and, of course, the Jimmer Fandom (Jimmermaniacs?). And as I reviewed the information I’ve clipped about Mormons in basketball, I faced a surprising conclusion: Jimmer is the only Mormon currently playing in the NBA. Could that be right? If it isn’t, I’d love to know. And if it is, perhaps that is a reason for Jimmer to be named Mormon of the Year?
A few of these are forthcoming, a few have appeared recently. I am compelled to read them all, as soon as I can get to them. Now Available Charles Harrel,“This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (Kofford Books) “In this first-of-its-kind comprehensive treatment of the development of Mormon theology, Charles Harrell traces the history of Latter-day Saint doctrines from the times of the Old Testament to the present.” I have my doubts that someone who does not equally control original Biblical sources and LDS history, as well as the vast amounts of secondary literature on historiography, exegesis, etc. can give LDS doctrine a truly comprehensive diachronic treatment, and compress it into 597 pages. Nevertheless, I’m grateful to Harrel, an engineering professor, for making the attempt and I look forward to reading it. Too many LDS labor under the assumption that the status quo sprang fully formed from Joseph Smith. I don’t recall which of my friends said, but it’s in my Evernote file, “If there’s one thing Mormons excel at, it’s enshrining the status quo and assuming that if we do anything, there must be a good reason for it, and if there’s a good reason, it must have been revealed as the only way to do it, and if so, then it must have always been that way in all dispensations. And a lot of people’s faith can be shaken when it turns out not to always…
This past week three Mormons were called to spend their Sundays during each fall in pursuit of goals quite different than those of most other Church members. In their battles they will face “violence, punctuated by committee meetings.” But none of these three hail from the traditional preparation centers for Mormons.