Before the Dodgers made their “tragic” exit from post-season baseball, I jokingly told friends I could write a treatise on the Catholic perspective of suffering as it relates to the World Series.
With the echoes of the roaring crowds during seven grueling World Series’ games now silent, and Dodger Stadium occupied only by the grounds’ crew, it is time for reflection. Yes, it was both one of the most exhilarating Dodgers seasons and now, in the afterglow, one of its most disappointing.
I did not think this World Series was going to be so stress inducing. Unlike my children, now all adults, I have experienced Dodgers’ world championships and other crushing World Series defeats. This is a Catholic publication so I cannot use the adjectives I would like to use to reference the Yankees. None of my children know what a Dodger championship looks like and that added tension seemed to fuel a lot of angst and discomfort in our household. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something else going on.
I have been a Dodgers fan since I was brought to my first game at Dodger Stadium when JFK was in office, Sandy Koufax was on the mound and St. Louis Cardinal great Stan “The Man” Musial was doing his farewell tour around the National League after a career that spanned more than 20 years.
My dad was born and raised in St. Louis, so he had a soft spot for the Cardinals. He loved Stan Musial because he was a great baseball player, played for his home town of St. Louis and, more importantly, Stan was a Catholic (you had to know my dad) — and he was a good one.
When the Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles — thanks Brooklyn — my dad saw it as a great gift. Not only was there now major league baseball in our city, but the owners of the Dodgers were Catholic and the announcer of the Dodgers was Catholic. And they were all Irish. What more could a guy ask for?
The Dodgers became a big part of Catholic Los Angeles in general and our family’s Catholic DNA. It may sound superficial — and it probably is a little superficial — but this was a time when we, meaning Catholics, still felt a little out of the loop of “mainstream” America, but with the Dodgers we had the “best seats in the house.”
Baseball has always been a game of fathers and sons and, in a lot of ways, so is a journey of faith. I have a lot of siblings and not one of them will tell you that our dad’s example as a Catholic man, warts and all, did not play a vital role in our own faith journeys. Sons especially look for ways to connect with dads. The Church was one way and baseball was another.
The 2017 version of the Dodgers allowed me to “pay it forward” with my own kids, even though they are out of the puppy stage. In my past, baseball and the Dodgers was a way to be closer to a guy who was hard to get close to, and now the Dodgers offer me the opportunity to pass a little bit of my dad onto my own children, who were born far too late to have had the chance to know him — or to see the Dodgers as champions.
Due to the vagaries of corporate greed, we were not able to see many Dodgers games this year, or the year before that or the year before that. We are among the great unwashed satellite customers with the wrong television delivery system.
The lack of ready access to televised Dodgers game ironically intensified my sense of nostalgia and thoughts of my dad. Basically, I was consuming the Dodgers the same way I did when I was a kid, in the days before 24-hour sports television and multibillion-dollar media deals. I followed the Dodgers by listening to the games on the radio, reading about the previous game the next day in the newspaper and attending the odd game in person at Dodger Stadium. It was just like it was when Sandy was on the mound and I’d get the morning paper after my dad was through with it and read all about the previous night’s game.
Vin Scully is retired now and the O’Malley’s sold the team years ago. Things change. In a world with room in it for church shootings, child abuse and all manner of human suffering, pining for a baseball team’s chances in the postseason isn’t all that important. But thinking about my dad and all the good things we shared because of the Dodgers is.
And, as far as my family now goes, there’s always next year.