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Cover story

‘Baseball is religion without the mischief’

Compiled by NCR Staff

Now one of the halves or hemispheres used to make the baseball can represent Yang, and the other Yin, and their union around the spirit or core creates a life within Life, a force within Forces, the tao within the Tao, imbued with the possibilities of expression in terms of the fundamental laws of Yin and Yang. And like all of creation, no two baseballs are alike, both in their form and in their history, pitchers will discard some because of their feel, others they will scuff to modify their function; some will be historic and occupy Cooperstown, others will be delegated as practice balls; some will be autographed souvenirs, some will be in use at this moment. Baseballs are not capable of awareness, although in a very strange way they are alive since we have created them. They are extensions of ourselves and of our world uniquely held together in the Tao of man against man in the game we call baseball.

--Go, The TAO of Baseball, 1991

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True, there are differences between baseball and religion, no way around it. Religions have at least one god. Baseball only has demigods. Religions know the Truth. Baseball only has statistics. Still, nit-picking aside ... they’re about the same. Baseball is religion without the mischief.

--Thomas Boswell, Author, How Life Imitates the World Series, Washington Post columnist

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Next to religion, baseball has furnished a greater impact on American life than any other institution.

--Herbert Hoover, 31st U.S. president, 1874-1964

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The diamonds and rituals of baseball create an elegant, trivial enchanted grid on which our suffering shapeless sinful day leans for the momentary grace of order.

--Donald Hall, American poet, “Baseball and the Meaning of Life,” 1985

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At a ballgame, as in a place of worship, no one is alone in the crowd.

--John Thorn, The Game for All America, 1988

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I believe in the church of baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshiped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic’s rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball. And it’s never boring. ... It’s a long season, and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the church of baseball.

--Annie Savoy, in “Bull Durham”

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There are days when you know that God invented baseball to give us all a concept of eternity. ...

--Michael Olesker, American journalist, 1983

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Baseball? Just a game, as simple as a ball and a bat. And yet as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. A sport, business and sometimes almost even a religion.

--Ernie Harwell, baseball announcer, Tuned to Baseball, 1985

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Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand.

-- Wes Westrum, major league baseball player/manager

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I felt like I was part of something there, you know, like a church except it was more real than any church, and I joined in the score keeping, hollering, the eating of hot dogs and drinking of Cokes and beer, and for a while I even had the idea that ball stadiums, and not churches, were the real American holy places.

--Robert Coover, American author

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Kids don’t learn the fundamentals of baseball at the games any more. You should enter the ballpark the way you enter a church.

--Bill Lee, American baseball player

National Catholic Reporter, September 18, 1998