They Knew

From today’s NYT…the results of an major investigation by Louis Freeh, the former director of the FBI:

Freeh’s investigation — which took seven months and involved more than 400 interviews and the review of more than 3.5 million documents — accuses Paterno, the university’s former president and others of deliberately hiding facts about Sandusky’s sexually predatory behavior over the years.

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders of Penn State University” “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.”

Our church knows deeply the pain that is inflicted when cover ups happen when children are abused by child molesters. It is so tough to think that people could be that cold to not protect a child and it’s so easy for all of us to grow unforgiving and hateful towards them.

Are they in fact, too hard to forgive? If so, what does that say about us as so-called people of forgiveness? What does it say about justice if we dare to forgive them?

Justice is not blind. But do we sometimes become blind by not being able to forgive people–allowing our hatred to turn us into people who seem to be controlled by hatred.

And instead of channelling that justice that we can clearly see more positively, doesn’t evil have a way to keep us in our desolation? Where we seek revenge, rather than reconciliation.

I really hate Jerry Sandusky for what he’s done. But my hatred doesn’t help protect children who might be victimized by someone like him down the road. And I can’t change what Mr. Sandusky did in his horrible past, his monstrous, devious, sick life. I can only choose to move on and not let his vileness turn me into someone who can’t see that love always conquers hatred. We can’t seem to control our emotions–and I think we need to do that. And good religion teaches us to temper our dark passions and lead us not into the temptation that evil would rather have us turn to. Rather it hopes to deliver us from all that is evil.

They knew. And now we know that we know now. But where does that call us to be? May we be challenged today by forgiveness, justice and a sense that all may be brought to healing by God’s love.

Including those who find it hard to forgive.

King of All Baseball Geeks

And we mean that in the nicest way possible…

My best man, Mike “Crash” Caragliano (pictured, right) is known for winning the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) Trivia Championship and this year was no different.

Well..wait a minute…it actually was different.

Crash won the individual championship again, his 8th time which ties him with the all time leader, Al Blumkin, another New Yorker.

However, Crash also played with a team this year and they won the team championship. It was the first time that’s ever been done! A big congratulations.

In the team round, his team fell behind early and it looked like they might get crushed until they hit a Jeopardy-style “Daily Double” question and risked all their 27 points on this question:

What player said: “I’d rather be known for being more like Cy Young, than Pete Gray?”

Know the answer? I did. First person to tweet it to me who was not at the conference, gets a copy of my new book when it comes out in print. (@godgoogler)

For those who know Mike Caragliano, they know that he’s a “salt of the earth” kind of guy. He’ll do anything for a friend. He once drove into the city from the Bronx when I got stranded there missing my last train home to Yonkers. Mind you, it was 2AM. He’s a great dad to two kids now and has been a long time producer and engineer at WABC.

But while to many, he’s the guy with an incredible memory for baseball, I’m much more proud of the fact that he’s just been a great friend! One I’d be worse off for not knowing. And we’re proud of him today! Congrats, Crash! Next year, the crown is yours alone!

Sandusky Lawyer: If He’s Guilty He Deserves to Rot in Jail

Yeesh, with a lawyer like that…who needs the other side?

Jerry Sandusky is going to go to prison. I was listening to Jim Rome yesterday and I can’t fathom a jury not convicting him on at least some of the counts he’s charged against.

And then this hit the news yesterday:

From Yahoo:

Just hours after the sex abuse trial of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky wrapped up on Thursday, his adopted son revealed that he had been “a victim of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse” and had offered to testify against his father.
It is unclear whether prosecutors were prepared to put Matt Sandusky on the stand. But NBC News reports that Jerry Sandusky’s defense team decided against having the former coach testify on his own behalf after they learned that prosecutors planned to call a new witness — believed to be Matt Sandusky.

This is just getting more bizarre by the second. What troubles me most is that it took this long for this guy to be found out.

Now to add a different perspective…

What does this mean for college athletics and for coaches? Well, the same standard of zero tolerance should be applied that the church was forced to apply as per the Dallas charter. Coaches and trainers and all those who have access to children and even to athletes below the age of 18 (read: potentially all of them) should have to take Virtus or some other form of child protective course.

But let’s see if THAT actually happens. Because as you know, the church is always held to a higher standard than others, and rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean that other secular organizations shouldn’t be held to at least similar standards.

Guest Blogging at American Catholic

I have been remiss (since I have been traveling) to mention that because the NY Yankees beat the Reds I was given the opportunity to guest blog over at AmericanCatholic.org courtesy of Barbara Baker (who you know by the twitter handle @BarbaraKB). A snip:

“Click-clack, click-clack, click-click-click. Click-clack, click-clack, click-click-click.”

I looked up when I heard the sound and there he was, Yankeee first baseman Don Mattingly, taking two steps in his cleats and then skidding his spikes on the floor to create sparks.

“Cool, huh?” he said to me, a cub reporter in my first game covering the New York Yankees for WFAN radio.

I was immediately transported back to being a 15-year-old and trying to ask a girl out for the first time. That went badly. She laughed at me and then told all her friends. I thank God Facebook didn’t exist in 1985. It was bad enough with just a small group knowing, nevermind the whole school.

Read the rest and enjoy a nice summer post on baseball and discernment.

When Doctor K Became Doctor No

Growing up as a Mets fan there was nobody more dominating that Dwight (Doc) Gooden in the 80s.

In 1984, Gooden became the youngest player to appear in an All-Star Game. He struck out the side in the 5th, as AL batters: Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon, and Alvin Davis grabbed the pine. Fernando Valenzuela had already struck out the side in the fourth, as future Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, and George Brett all fell victim to him. The two pitchers’ combined performance broke an All-Star game record, that stood for 50 years (Carl Hubbell’s five consecutive strikeouts in 1934).

He threw much of his career away to cocaine but then one last spring evening in May Doc Gooden grabbed the spotlight.

It was 16 years ago today at Yankee Stadium that Doc Gooden threw that no hitter. I covered the game for WOR Radio. The final out as you saw was a high pop up that seemed like it would never come down. Afterwards we asked Jeter what he was thinking as he hovered under the ball.

“Don’t drop it.”

Gooden was asked by my esteemed colleague, Jack Curry, then of the NY Times if this made his comeback complete. He thought so and thanked all of those folks who believed in him, especially George Steinbrenner who gave him a second chance.

He had a few good moments in his career but never regained that old late 80s form.

He ran afoul of the law again and again. Eventually he ended up on celebrity rehab.

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:uma:video:vh1.com:672917

Doc was always a nice guy in the locker room and knows he clearly is an addict, someone who has no control over his demons. People often don’t understand addiction. So today let’s pray for all those caught in that trap of addiction and for those who try to help them recover.

For news on Doc Gooden and his continued recovery—follow him on twitter @DocGooden16

Girls Can’t Play

This one got to me today, and thus will produce a rant below:

From Irish Central

A fundamentalist Arizona Catholic high school is refusing to play in a baseball final as their opponent’s team includes a girl on second base.

Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic school, in Phoenix, will forfeit the final rather than play against Mesa Preparatory Academy because 15-year-old Paige Sultzbach is on their team.

The fundamentalist Catholic school is run by the U.S. branch of the Society of Saint Pius X. The group represents conservative, traditional priests who broke from the Catholic Church in the 1980s.

The school’s statement read, “Our school aims to instill in our boys a profound respect for women and girls. Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we choose not to place them in an athletic competition where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty.”

Paige’s mother Pamela responded by saying, “This is not a contact sport, it shouldn’t be an issue. It wasn’t that they were afraid they were going to hurt or injure her, it’s that they believe that a girl’s place is not on a field.”

Read more: here

So ya wanna know what I think (said in my deepest Bronx-laden accent)?

I think they’re scared.

I think these misogynist cowards might just be afraid that this girl is better than half of the WIMPS on their team. And they’re too scared to pitch to her, lest she get a hit off of one of their pitchers.

As Tom Hanks would say, “There’s no crying in baseball.”

I played a year of soccer on my high school’s junior varsity team. My school didn’t field a girl’s soccer team and so, Dawn Burns became our goalie. We were horrible. But Dawn made some saves that I know I wouldn’t have made, nor would anyone else have.

On my street the Kosmolsick girls were some of the best athletes around, especially in basketball. My dear childhood friend Donna Bechtold hit a softball one day that still hasn’t landed. And when we played fast pitch stickball, a woman named Stacy hit a tennis ball that flew out of the park so quickly that rocket ships might not have caught up to.

Girls can play too. Sometimes better than us boys.

They call the religion that the protesting school follows a “Fundamentalist Catholic” one. I would challenge that because Catholics are not fundamentalists. In fact, to be fundamentalist is exactly what it means to NOT be Catholic–and it insults centuries of our great intellectual tradition and it’s a fairly new development of thought amongst people who simply want to reform Catholicism to their own brand of what they think Catholicism should become. But I get the author’s thought.

I have another word to describe them. Goofy.

Hey Paige Sultzbach, I hope you understand that not all Catholics would bar you from the right to play a sport you love.

Or serve at the altar. Or be a lector.

You go girl…and keep swinging.

And h/t over to Deacon Greg

Baseball as Religion

John Sexton, a Fordham grad and the current President of NYU teaches a course on Baseball and Religion. Where do I sign up? Two of my most favorite things.

And the metaphor of baseball as religion, in Dr. Sexton’s hands, is a long way from the cornball claptrap about stadiums being “green cathedrals.” Over the current semester, the students are reading and discussing the work of theologians and cultural historians like Abraham Joshua Heschel, Michael Novak, Robert N. Bellah and Johan Huizinga alongside novels and reportage by literary chroniclers of baseball like Robert Coover, W. P. Kinsella and Doris Kearns Goodwin. (Dr. Sexton is distilling his own ruminations into a book, “Baseball as a Road to God,” which will be published in early 2013.)

When the class met on the night before opening day this year, Dr. Sexton took out the intellectual version of a fungo bat to knock questions around the room: Was the fisherman in Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea” having a religious experience? If he was, how did that experience resonate for the students in the class?

“In the depth of his adversity,” said William Visone, a 19-year-old junior, “he keeps talking about how the big fish is out there. That’s a kind of faith. And it’s like last week when I said that I believe that in my lifetime I will see the Mets win the World Series.”

I totally resonate with this. I remember being a Mets fan as as kid watching the 1986 World Series with my dad in our living room. All was lost…the Red Sox had taken the lead and surely the series. I had never seen MY Team win the world series–too young for 1969.

And then…

That ’86 team often came back when the chips were down. Having faith that they always would was the true mark of a fan. When Carter got the single I turned to my dad and said, “They just might have one more in them.” He thought I was nuts. When Knight crossed the plate I jumped up and nearly cracked my head open on the chandelier in our living room. I tackled my father and was sternly warned by my mother to not react the same way when they won Game 7.

Baseball often provides you with character. There’s an element of forgiveness associated with baseball. Sox fans needed and wanted to forgive Buckner. I have longed to forgive Fred Wilpon for ruining a team, my team…and for treating a bunch of us media types awfully bad in the late 90s. I vowed not to root for the Mets until he sold the team—and karma may still come for Mr. Wilpon before it’s all over, though it seems that he’s escaped having to sell the team for now.

Until that day, I root for the Cubs in these days. They help me build a bit of character. An old ballpark in a great city with great and intelligent fans. The ghost of Harry Caray and Ron Santo and the longing for a World Series. I remember those feelings growing up longing to see MY team win a World Series just once.

I knew I had become a Cubs fan once this happened:

The wheels came off after that play with the Marlins scoring 8 runs after an additional error by SS Alex Gonzalez. They went on to win 8-3 and then again the next night and Steve Bartman became infamous.

Baseball is about loss. It’s almost never about winning. The day in and day out grind of the season reminds me of an imperfect world, where bad things often happen to good people. Even the best teams lose more than a third of the time. You make an out more than 75 percent of the time unless you’re a star and still, you don’t come close to only failing 60% of the time.

The second thing is that baseball is almost never about what happens–it’s about what COULD happen. Anticipation both as a player and an observer is paramount. Strategy is at an all time high with every pitch and every single one is important. Alou makes that catch and Gonzo is shaded a bit differently and perhaps makes a double play a bit easier. It’s a tough game and one moment indeed can make a difference.

I can see Sexton comparing Steve Bartman and Bill Buckner’s one mistake to Richard Wright’s character Bigger Thomas in Native Son, where Bigger, a black man, accidentally smothers a white woman after chauffeuring her home carrying her into her bedroom because she has passed out. Her blind mother entered the room and Bigger thought he would be accused of rape if he was caught in her room. So he stifled her with a pillow and in doing so accidentally kills her. The rest of the story is all downhill from there.

One moment often makes a big difference. That’s life and that’s baseball.

The Grace of Coaching

David Quo thinks that he was an ass at his kid’s soccer game. Why? Because his kid is far from becoming the next David Beckham, the kid doesn’t always listen to the coach and he thinks he did a good job when he kicks the ball into his own net.

And all that annoys David–who’s far from an athlete himself.

But I share the following viewpoint with him:

I HATE the coddling of America’s youth. I HATE everyone always been told that everything is terrific no matter how much it sucks. I HATE that we lead the world in self esteem and suck at math and reading. I HATE soccer games that don’t keep score. I HATE participation ribbons. Now I’m mad at our culture too.

I REALLY want to say, ”Well buddy, you’re trying and that’s AWESOME. But part of trying is listening to the coach. Why don’t you try that too?” I want to give him a hug and tell him how much I love him and how great he is actually doing at this, his first game of any sort. I really do want to say those things. But I don’t. I just sit there with the staggering knowledge I just told him he did badly.

I used to coach kids at a summer came. I would add that some of these kids were so afraid of the ball that they’d run away from a ROLLING ball. The key is getting them to believe that you aren’t giving up on them–but also (and more important) to not praise them when they don’t get it right.

Some examples:
“Good try but how about this way?” “Look, here’s what you’re doing wrong–not THAT way, it’s THIS way–now you try! Nope, try again. Good job!”

None of those voices can be in a raised tone. In fact they should be hushed tones mostly, with an added “You can do it, I know you can.”

One of the most awesome moments of my life was when a 6 year old afraid-of-the-ball-for-far-too-long shot his first basket. It was grandma moses style and it took him 20 attempts—but it was just the two of us and watching Mark Kissel’s face light up was worth every second of hard work. I remember him and his smile and how I held him over my head like the Stanley Cup and we ran around the gym together and grabbed a snack right after that basket.

Wanna know what happened next? He wanted to go practice some more. And he made 7 more baskets.

Kids want to get it right and improve their skill and they want mentors and coaches who guide them firmly and not just lie to their faces and tell them that they are great when they know they suck. The key is gentle firmness as well as patience. Instruction doesn’t have to be angry or browbeating. But it also doesn’t have to be superficial.

Not every kid deserves a trophy or a ribbon. But what every kid deserves is the respect of a coach who takes the time to make sure that they are being instructed properly and that they believe in them. Even when kids lose (I cried hard after that first little league loss—we lost 27-0. You’d think I would have caught on after the 3rd inning when we were down 13-0.) they need to have the support of a coach–and their parents. “It’s OK to lose. We all lose. Indeed we can’t win them all. We’re gonna lose again. They key is doing your best and pushing yourself to do better next time.”

Those were the words of Tom McKineley, my first little league coach.

And they are indeed words to live by that I have not forgotten for nearly 40 years now.

Now go find a kid and have a catch. And make sure he doesn’t throw like a girl.

And make sure she doesn’t either.

Slaughter the Baseball Player?

So as Spring Training is heating up in Florida, baseball season is not that far away.

I miss being near a major league team, although the AAA Buffalo Bisons is not bad baseball indeed. Buffalo really got a the bum’s rush when they thought they’d be granted a MLB team and weren’t.

Regardless, someone brought up the famed Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First?” routine. Which is hysterical old time comedy. Their sense of timing is incredible, the mark of a good comic genius.

However, I think the entire show where Who’s on First? originated should be heard in its entirety to really appreciate it even more. The show’s premise is that Costello has been asked to take Joe DiMaggio’s place on the Yankees while he recovers from foot surgery (for heel spurs–the injury is the only true part of the story). The rest of the show is a whirlwind of some of the best radio comedy of all time.

But I think who’s on first takes a back seat to when they go into a sporting good store. I have the show somewhere on cassette and had a lot of this memorized. Here’s just a snip of what I can remember from the scene–where they refer to Cardinals great Enos Slaughter.

Abbott: “Excuse me sir, do you have any bats?”

Salesman: “Certainly, here’s a fine bat! Autographed by Slaughter of the Cardinals. This bat was made for Slaughter!”

Costello: “Ain’t ya got one that was made for baseball?” (BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)

Salesman: “No, no. Slaughter the baseball player.”

Costello: “Slaughter the baseball player?! With that bat you could slaughter ANYONE!”

Salesman: “Young man, everyone knows Slaugher. E-nos Slaughter (emphasis on long e here).”

Costello: “Well, maybe he knows Slaughter but I don’t know him!”

Hysterical.

They do a similar bit on Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians. “What Feller is pitching for the Cleveland Indians?” is the key to that one.

But here is the famed original “Who’s on First?” routine for your enjoyment.

And happy spring training: