When I dip into life’s memory bank for moments of unalloyed joy, the afternoon of October 9, 1966, quickly surfaces.
On a brilliant autumnal Sunday, I was sitting with my Grandfather Weigel behind first base in Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium, which erupted in jubilation when Lou Johnson’s fly ball settled into the glove of center fielder Paul Blair and the underdog Orioles completed a four-game sweep of the World Series against the lordly Los Angeles Dodgers. That victory was made all the sweeter by the fact that the Dodgers, even after their 1958 translation from Brooklyn to Lala Land, remained the class act of major league baseball — the franchise everyone tried to emulate. (The Yankees were, and are, an empire, not a franchise).
It was the Dodgers who had broken baseball’s infamous “color line” by playing the immortal Jackie Robinson, “42,” at first base on Opening Day 1947. It was the Dodgers, “Dem Bums,” who inspired what is arguably the best book ever written about a baseball team, Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer. True, those 1966 Dodgers had a mean master of the brushback pitch in Don Drysdale. But they also had silken shortstop Maury Wills and the noble Sandy Koufax, who declined to pitch Game One of the 1965 Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. Those Dodgers also gave baseball two of its most elegant radio wordsmiths, Red Barber and Vin Scully.
Over the decades, the Dodgers remained the consistently successful team no one loved to hate (unlike the gang in the Bronx). Can any serious baseball fan’s spine not tingle when watching replays of Kirk Gibson, barely able to walk, hitting a pinch-hit home run off the great Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series? Or, to revert to unmitigated joy, how about the look on Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda’s face when he charged out of the dugout to embrace Gibson? This was the national pastime at its best. This was Dodger baseball, and, as the psalmist said, we rejoiced and were glad in it.
Over the past several weeks, the Dodgers have demonstrated a cringe-inducing cravenness in the face of woke pressures. The team that once defied racists has now caved in to anti-Catholic bigots. In the name of “inclusion,” of course, and, be it noted, the first and greatest of capital sins, Pride.
Like virtually every other professional sports team, the Dodgers sponsor a “Pride Night” during June, “Pride Month.” This year, “Pride Night” in Dodger Stadium was to include special recognition of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an “LGBTQ+ advocacy group” (in the Washington Post’s anodyne description) whose actual modus operandi is the obscene mockery of consecrated women’s religious life and its ridicule of the chastity that is one of Christ’s three evangelical counsels. As Matt Hennessey reported in the Wall Street Journal, “Members of the group go by names like Sister Jezebell of the Enraptured Sling and Sister Shalita Corndog. At Easter, they host ‘Foxy Mary’ and ‘Hunky Jesus’ contests.” In a word, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are blasphemers.
Protests to the Dodgers from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and others led to the “Sisters”’ invitation to Pride Night at Dodger Stadium being rescinded. But then came the inevitable tsunami of woke pushback and the Dodgers caved, issuing a groveling apology that included a pledge to “work with our LGBTQ+ partners to better educate ourselves, find ways to strengthen the ties that bind, and use our platform to support all our fans who make up the diversity of the Dodgers family.”
Branch Rickey, the crafty general manager and devout Methodist who signed Jackie Robinson, must be spinning in his grave, as his heirs in the Dodger front office emulate the “confessions” extracted at Stalin-era show trials in the Soviet Union.
The Dodgers’ kowtow to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and to the corporate and political forces that support them, is a blatant illustration of the sorry fact that anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in American elite culture. Imagine, if you can, special recognition at a major league baseball game being given to groups that obscenely mock Evangelical Protestant ministers, Jewish rabbis and cantors, or Muslim imams. You can’t, can you? But it remains open season on consecrated Catholic religious life because elite culture, deluded by the idea that freedom is sheer willfulness, has abandoned any pretense of respect for the sensibilities of devout Catholics, and has done so because of the demands of disturbed, aggressive people who need help, not adulation.
Thus the once-classy Dodgers have decayed into the Los Angeles Cravens: The Wimps of Summer.
(George Weigel’s column ‘The Catholic Difference’ is syndicated by the Denver Catholic, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Denver.)
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