The summer game: a memoir

George Weigel

When I shed this mortal coil it may surprise St. Peter, on examining my file, to discover that I was once a sportswriter.

Indeed, not a mere sportswriter, but a baseball writer, a craft which, at its best, is to the general run of sportswriting what a Vladimir Ashkenazy concert is to your ten-year old’s piano recital. Not that I did anything approaching the wizardry of such modern masters as Tom Boswell of the Washington Post or columnist George Will. I was, however, a certified baseball correspondent, with a laminated pass that got me everywhere: the pressbox, the locker rooms, the field during batting practice. And if, in retrospect, the clips are not exactly the prose I’d want chiseled on my tombstone, at least, as they say, I took a serious cut at the ball.

Like most good things in life, the whole business was accidental. I was writing about religion, foreign policy, and whatever else struck my fancy for the Seattle Weekly when our baseball guy quit to become the Associated Press stringer in Seattle. The idea quickly struck: why not? So I brashly proposed to the publisher and editor, my friend David Brewster, that I take over the baseball beat in tandem with another friend, John Miller, then a TV news commentator but within two years engaged in an even stranger profession: Congressman. Brewster, a skillful editor and a man happy to try anything once, acquiesced in this madcap scheme, so Miller and I were duly anointed the baseball correspondents of the Seattle Weekly.

The venue for our labors was the late Kingdom: with the sole exception of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, probably the worst place to play baseball ever built. But, hey, it was a real major league ballpark, and I had the run of it. The Seattle Mariners in 1982 were in a “building phase” that bid fair to extend into the indeterminate future, and were nothing like the wonderfully skilled semi-juggernaut they are these days. Still, there was a nice mix of eager youngsters and grizzled retread veterans, and for a few months in mid-season they made a real run.

Thus, among other things, I got to watch Gaylord Perry greaseball his way to his three hundredth career victory; my scorecard for that epic game, duly autographed, bears telltale stains indicative of Gaylord’s fondness for the effects of certain carnal lubricants on the aerodynamic properties of a baseball. During the game (surrounded by media luminaries like the late, great Dick Schaap, a truly lovely man), I tried to adumbrate a moral theory to the effect that what Perry was doing was wrong, but not precisely sinful, to no discernible effect on the media brethren in conclave assembled.

Earl Weaver had announced his retirement for the end of that season so, as a native Baltimorean, I was eager to meet the great man on the Orioles’ last trip to Seattle. The visiting manager’s dressing room in the Kingdome was, at best, ten by ten — and the visiting coaches had to dress there, too. After the game Weaver held court, sitting buck naked behind an army-surplus metal desk, beer can in one hand, chain-smoking Raleighs with the other, and talking baseball. The next day, I told my wife that I now had some idea of what it must have been like to listen to Homer recite the “Iliad.”

The Mariners had several very smart players that year, including Bruce Bochte, a hard-hitting first-baseman who liked to think about the meaning of sport and had serious religious interests. One night in the dugout, during batting practice, I talked with him about what it meant, spiritually, to live so intensely through your body, attuned to its every nuance because it was your livelihood, your craft, and, in a very precise way, your self all rolled up into one. It was, in its way, a preliminary discussion of John Paul II’s theology of the body, which insists that we take being enfleshed creatures with utmost seriousness — unlike our culture, which treats the body as a machine we happen to inhabit and can manipulate at will.

The summer of ‘82: if this be our exile, what shall our fulfillment be?

COMING UP: Archbishop: In this time of need, join me for a Rosary Crusade

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When God chose to enter the world to save us, he chose Mary, whose deep faith provided the way for Jesus to come among us. She believed in the words of the angel, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk 1: 37). As she expressed her deep confidence in the promises of God, the Word became flesh. In our current time of crisis, our Church, world and our country need faith in God and the protection and intercession of Mary. And so, beginning on August 15, I am launching a Rosary Crusade to ask Mary to urgently bring our needs to Jesus.

The last several months of the coronavirus epidemic, the civil unrest that has broken out in different parts of the archdiocese and our nation, and the challenges the Church is facing have made the need for Mary’s intercession abundantly clear. Mary is our Mother and desires only our good like the Father.

In her appearance to Juan Diego, Our Lady reminded him and reminds us today, “Listen and let it penetrate your heart…do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain.  Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

Saint Padre Pio, who was known for his devotion to the Rosary offers us this advice: “In times of darkness, holding the Rosary is like holding our Blessed Mother’s hand.”

We turn to Mary in our difficulty because she is our spiritual mother, who with her “yes” to the Lord embraced the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. She is “the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that ‘nothing will be impossible with God,’ and was able to magnify the Lord: ‘For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #273).

We know, too, from history that Mary has answered prayers brought to her through the Rosary and that she has personally asked people to pray it for the most serious needs, especially for the conversion of souls.

Pope Pius V famously asked all Christians to pray the Rosary in 1571 to prevent Christianity from being overrun by the invading Ottoman Turks, and the Christian naval forces were subsequently victorious in the Battle of Lepanto. In the apparitions at Fatima, Mary identified herself as “The Lady of the Rosary” and asked the shepherd children to whom she appeared to pray a daily Rosary for world peace and the end of World War I.

During his pontificate, Saint John Paul II spoke of the Rosary as his favorite prayer. In his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, he added, “The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort” (RVM, 2).

This past May, Pope Francis encouraged praying the Rosary, saying, “Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial.”

During this time of trial, we need to hear the words of Jesus spoken often in the Gospel, words spoken to Mary by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, “Be not afraid.” We need to pray especially for a deeper trust and hear the words of Elizabeth spoken to Mary in our own hearts. “…blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). The Lord is with us in this time as he has promised! Praying the rosary helps us, with the aid of our Mother, to relive in our own lives the mysteries of Christ’s life.

I personally invite all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Denver to pray the Rosary every day between the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, August 15, through the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15. I would be remiss if I did not thank Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita for inspiring this Rosary Crusade by launching one in his diocese at the beginning of August.

As we unite in asking Mary for her intercession and protection, please pray for the following intentions:

* For a growth in faith, hope and charity in the heart and soul of every human being, and most especially in our own that we may seek only the will of the Father

* For a recognition of the dignity of life from the moment of conception until natural death and that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God

* A quick end to the coronavirus pandemic

* For all who are suffering from COVID-19, for their caregivers, and for those who have died from the virus

* In reparation for the sins of abortion, euthanasia, and racism

* In reparation for the sins and failings of our spiritual leaders and for our personal sins

* For healing and justice for all those who have been discriminated against because of their race

* For the conversion of the world and the salvation of souls

* For all those who are persecuted throughout the world for the Faith

* For the conversion of those who carry out acts of desecration against our churches, statues and religious symbols

* In reparation for these acts of desecration, especially against Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

* For our civic leaders and those who keep us safe to experience a deeper conversion, to govern justly, and to seek the common good

* That we may learn how to love and forgive from the example of Jesus

* For all marriages and families, neighborhoods, churches and cities to be strengthened

* For an increase in vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life

Thank you for joining me in this prayer on behalf of our world, country and our Church. I am confident that many of the faithful will respond in turning to the Blessed Mother who “shine[s] on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope” (Pope Francis’ Letter to the Faithful for the Month of May 2020). May you always know the protection of Mary as she leads you to her Son!