So I had this idea to get me writing more than just historical/sports related essays in my free time, you can learn about it here http://derektulowitzky.wordpress.com/ . Also, yes I’m aware having people ask me questions is completely egotistical and implies that anyone actually cares about my opinion about anything, and you’re right, but i’ve been writing things that no one has cared about for four years now so this should help write something that at least one person cares about.
I’m not sure I’ve had that a-ha moment when I realized that I’ve fallen in love with sports. I’m not even convinced that moment happens with sports fans; maybe it’s more of a gradual understanding that you could talk for hours about Ichiro’s career. The closest thing to this moment in my life is when I went to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field with my grandfather. They were playing the Diamondbacks that day, which seems appropriate because my grandfather has lived in Arizona for much of my life. I remember walking through the gates and staring at the metal beams running across the concourse. I was 9 so everything was monolithic to my small frame at the time. The commotion, the happiness, the smell; all of it still burned into my memory. My grandfather still remembers watching my eyes light up when we walked through the stadium. The funny thing is that I remember my grandfather’s face lighting up when we visited the Cathedral at Notre Dame. My grandfather isn’t Catholic but he is a religious man, Nazarene to be exact. I imagine his face looked the same as mine, only slightly more aged, that day at Wrigley. Sports affects us in various ways, one of which we sometimes don’t think about is religiously. There may not be a Church of Sammy Sosa out there, but the rituals found in religion can easily be replicated within sports.
Baseball is not a religion, of this I’m sure, but if does fall under the language used to define a Civil Religion. In an article for the San Francisco Chronicle, William Herzog II is quoted saying, “People are incurably religious…We have to have some form of religion, and for some people it’s baseball. It’s only a game, but it has elements that point beyond.” The passion people have for sports can be found in various other mediums, religion being one of the clear standouts. As a cubs fan, Wrigley is my church, my cathedral, my mosque and as a cubs fan, I can’t stand the white sox or their mobile phone park, their church, their cathedral, their mosque. I can worship at home perfectly fine, but worshipping at Wrigley is really where I feel the love. Every summer my friends and I plan a trip to Wrigley to watch a game, preferably against the Cardinals; this is our pilgrimage and Wrigley is our Mecca. This creation of Wrigley as a sacred space has altered how I feel not just about Wrigley, but also of all ballparks. Most churchgoers have a regular church, but they respect the churches of others; this is how many baseball fans feel about ballparks. This however changes when talking about a rival ballpark. While I wouldn’t say all, but rather some Christians find mosques to be threatening and therefore feel aggressive towards them, and towards their religion. It’s an Us vs. Them mentality that separates the two religions; this mentality is also alive in baseball. The competitive nature of baseball may bring this out more so than in religion but the aggressiveness in baseball is easily mimicked by some religious peoples.
The rituals in baseball also mimic religious rituals. Many churches sing a hymn before a service or play some new hip contemporary worship music; at the ballpark we sing the national anthem as well as the seventh inning stretch later in the service. In some churches they partake in communion with bread and wine, which is supposed to refer to the bond between Christ and his followers; I think, it had been quite some time since I’ve been to church and even then I didn’t understand communion. At a baseball game, within my sacred space, I happen to enjoy a hot dog and a beer; even the liquids are alcoholic, the resemblance is uncanny really. This ritual of ballpark communion even goes as far as to extend into my living room, with a few more accessories. While watching a game at my house, I usually try to grab a beer and a hot dog before it’s over. The ritual often makes me feel more like I’m apart of the action; it also may be a little bit superstition.
Superstition plays a large role in sports, especially one as old as baseball. Baseball is known for its famous “curses,” most notably the curse of the Bambino that led the Red Sox to almost a century of disappointment in the postseason. In Understanding Religion and Popular Culture, Terry Ray Clark writes about the attempt to renew this curse between the Red Sox and the Yankees. Terry recalls the story in Jeremiah where the prophet asks Seraiah to perform a form of sympathetic magic by reciting the words of Jeremiah and sinking a scroll into the Euphrates River. He then refers to an event where a Red Sox fan,who was working on the construction of Yankees Stadium, buried a David Ortiz jersey in the concrete and said, “The Yankees are done for the next 30 years.” Terry’s article is mostly about looking at the strength of these curses and where the authority comes from. While baseball has no God, unless we’re talking about Kevin Youkilis, it’s hard to find the authority in the jersey curse, yet there is some sort of uneasiness about the whole situation. In baseball, there is little fear that one will be stricken down by causing an error, but if a player is known for dropping very important balls he can be deemed curses by some ambiguous deity. If the church of Sammy Sosa exists we would know who would be doing the cursing, but unfortunately no such church exists. This fear of cursing gives some legitimacy to these sports curses, perhaps because as people we’re religious. We’re well aware of the spiritual and the transcendent. We believe in miracles and curses and we don’t know where either are exactly coming from, even though some would be as to bold to say they know without a doubt.
The cubs have such a curse involving a goat being kicked out of Wrigley. I for one do not subscribe to such a curse because I happen to believe the Cubs never winning is mostly due to poor management, but I’m also an apatheist. My grandfather; however, is a strong advocate of the goat curse theory, perhaps because he is a Christian. I can’t know for sure if my secular ideology has influenced my thoughts on the curse, much like I can’t be sure that his spiritual ideology influenced his. I do think it’s an interesting coincidence though. A generally accepted superstition in baseball is counting outs. Counting outs is perhaps the reason for the Steve Bartman incident at Wrigley in 2003. This superstition is more like the “don’t walk under a ladder” or “don’t cross paths with a black cat” superstitution and less about bringing disasters on an entire city. Still, people find legitimacy in these actions without the threat of authority. I mean, I by no means saw Kevin Youkilis nudge Bartman over the ledge or whisper in his ear for him to catch the ball, yet still some believe it was a higher power at work.
I find it important to mention that I’m by no means advocating the Church of Sammy Sosa or Church of Walks to First Base by Kevin Youkilis, but rather am attempting to point out the ritualistic and thematic similarities of baseball and religion. I know that there are 52 Sundays in a year, which perhaps means 52 church visits for a somewhat fanatical Christian. I also know that the Chicago Cubs will have 82 home games next season. It is possible for the months between April and September for a fanatical cubs fan to go to more games at Wrigley field then a fanatical Christian will go to in their favorite church over the course of a whole year. An interesting notion is that I’m sure it will happen.
 (San Francisco) San Francisco Chronicle, September 29, 2003.
 Terry Ray Clark, “Cursing then and now,” in Understanding Religion and Popular Culture, ed. By Terry Ray Clark & W. Clanton Jr., (Routledge, 2012) 191-192
 Clark, “Cursing then,” 195.
 Clark, “Cursing then,” 192.
Everyone seems to know about Jackie Robinson breaking the color line, as in he just did it and that’s that. Simply saying, “breaking the color line,” is easy, but truly understanding Jackie’s amazing story is something of a different monster. Truly understanding how much the event meant, not only to the black community, but also to baseball as a whole is effort. When Jackson first strutted out to the field for the Dodgers minor league team, Baz O’Meara wrote, “This in a way is another Emancipation Day for the Negro race.” Jackie, in a way, was giving back freedom to the black community with a spot on the field for the first time in the 20th century. However, like all-important moments in history, there are two sides to every story. When Branch Rickey signed Jackie to a major league deal, was he doing so because he believed the gentleman’s agreement was wrong, or was he simply trying to have a leg up on the competition? While a racist by no means, Rickey wasn’t perceived to be a civil rights activist and more so a great competitor, because of this Rickey perhaps broke the line to gain a more competitive edge in major league baseball.
Rickey knew that if he were to bring a black man into major league baseball he would have to be just the right man. After a few years of searching Rickey would eventually come across Jackie Robinson, whom he deemed to be the perfect fit for the Dodgers and for his mold of the “right man.” When interviewing Jackie for the job, Robinson asked, “ Mr. Rickey, do you want a ballplayer who’s afraid to fight back?” To which Mr. Rickey responded, “I want a player with guys enough not to fight back.” Guts were something Robinson had in truckloads. While at UCLA Robinson was known for his quick temper, which had some writers unsure of whether or not he was going to be able to make it in the big leagues. Rickey wanted to change Robinson, into something he knew would be more commercial with the prominently white crowd. Rickey wasn’t thinking along the lines of Fredrick Douglass’ idea of equality, but rather equality can be reached if African Americans fit into the mold upper class whites have set for them. Many people would agree this is no form of freedom at all. A new storyline may have emerged, which Rickey may have predicted; a story of a black man changing his rough ways because of this great opportunity.
Another tendency of Rickey’s one cannot be so quick to disperse is his great competitiveness and ability to find talent in cheap places. Rickey created the farm system while he was still in St. Louis, a way for Rickey to bring the brightest stars up through the Cardinals organization. The farm system gave the cardinals a huge competitive edge in baseball during the 1930s. Rickey had loved to win, especially when using unprecedented resources to do so. Rickey knew there were African American players who were just as good as white players and he knew where to find them. The Negro leagues offered cheap players with just as much talent, and Rickey knew he could exploit the leagues due to no contracts with the teams. When Rickey talked to Jackie about coming to play for the Dodgers he offered his Negro League team no compensation for Jackie, as he deemed that they did not fall under the same rules as major league baseball, which is somewhat true. However, soon after Negro League stars began to be poached from the Negro National League owners started asking for compensation, yet even then it was vastly underpaid; Ernie Banks being the highest paid poached player earning $20,000. Effa Manley called this poaching a,” bargain basement rush.” Perhaps even worse, Rickey knew that these players would bring more money once they reached the majors, at one time flipping a player to the Braves for a profit of over $95,000. It would seem that if Rickey had honestly believed that these players were of equal value, he would have at least offered them something more reasonable. I do not recall white southerners in the south during the reconstruction era being called civil rights activists for allowing African Americans to sharecrop on their land, all the while exploiting them without their knowledge.
While I will not go as far as to say that Rickey did more harm than good to African Americans by breaking the color line, I urge people to perhaps think of the damage done to the Negro Leagues after they were pillaged by such men as Rickey. When the cause all of a sudden became less beneficial to these men they allowed the Negro Leagues to dissolve without its stars. Of course Rickey was right in setting off a string of events that would eventually lead to integration beyond African Americans into baseball, but let’s not forget motivation for doing right acts is possible of coming from a wrong place.
 Jules Tygiel, Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, (Oxford University Press, 1997), 4
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Turning my Tumblr into an LBJ fansite, fuck, might as well