From 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the barrier, until 1957, when Walter O’Malley hijacked the franchise to Los Angeles and cut the heart out of Brooklyn, the Dodgers represented the best of America. While the United States remained legally segregated by race and fractured by religion and ethnicity, it was the Brooklyn Dodgers who offered the nation a vision that was more inclusive and more just. One year before Harry Truman issued an executive order banning segregation in the armed forces, eight years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, eighteen years before the enactment of federal statutes protecting the right to vote, the Brooklyn Dodgers hired Jack Roosevelt Robinson to play first base. And on an unforgettable day in April in Cincinnati, when racist fans hurled taunts at Robinson, Pee Wee strolled over and put his arm on Jackie’s shoulder. It was an iconic moment and one that transformed not just baseball, and sports, but the world. The boys of summer made us proud to be democratic, proud to be Americans. All good men were Brooklynites, at least some of the time. Moreover, the Dodgers were talented: they won five pennants during those years, and, in 1955, they won the world championship. Half a century later the Dodgers are still the most loved, most chronicled, most mythologized team in history.
What will be written about the Colorado Rockies fifty years from now? The Rockies’ watchword is not inclusion but exclusivity. They are a team not of destiny, but of narrow sectarianism. They search for and hire players of “character”-- which means players of their particular "Christian" denomination.
Their general manager, Dan O’Dowd, is thoroughly delusional. "You look at some of the moves we made and didn't make. You look at some of the games we're winning. Those aren't just a coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this." A hand in what? In a history of failure? In a losing record? Last place in their division once again? God takes sides in baseball games? Either God is bush league with bat and glove or O’Dowd is a one helluva sloppy theologian.
O’Dowd, along with club president Keli McGregor and manager Clint Hurdle, join together for telephone prayer sessions. Is it possible that they hold on to their jobs not because they are capable of assembling a winning team, but because they subscribe to the same beliefs as owner Charlie Monfort (“I believe God sends signs, and we're seeing those")?
Baseball is not about religion. It’s about 95-mile-an-hour fastballs, about hard sliders, about come-from-behind ninth-inning victories. Colorado taxpayers didn’t fund three-quarters of the cost of Coors-–Coors!!!-- Field so that evangelical ballplayers could testify to their faith.
And what a curious faith! The Rockies depart from established Christian thinking and veer toward the banal new cult of “prosperity gospel.” Reformation Calvinism had asserted that an omnipotent deity elects some for salvation and consigns many more to damnation. Believers sometimes understood material success to be a sign (but never, ever a reward) of salvation. The Rockies’ unChristian theology turns Calvinism upside-down and defies common sense when it proclaims that faith leads directly to base hits. (As a matter of fact, “prosperity gospel” seems to work better for the capitalist owners than for the players. The team loses, but the franchise increases in value).
There's no hint of supernatural intervention in the Rockies unremarkable record. If the Rockies were to run away from the opposition, it would indeed constitute a "miracle" -- but a miracle only in the common secular sense of the word. It would be a miracle indeed if an incompetent skinflint ownership could somehow stumble into success.
Are the Colorado Rockies the most foolish, fatuous, and vain organization in the mountain west? Not in the least. There's a church in Broomfield that has a website where “you can send your prayers and encouragement for the Rockies by clicking here.” Click for Christ. Good Lord!
I wonder if the Rockies ever knew, or if they would like to learn, who it was who said “do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." If they could answer this question, they'd be in a position to recognize that there's less real religion in the entire history of the Colorado Rockies than in five seconds of Reese and Robinson.
October 19, 2007. More on the Rockies and religion? Click here.