Mike Piazza – Baseball Hall of Fame Speech: “…the greatest gift a mother could give a child, the gift of my Catholic Faith.”

Famed-catholic Mike Piazza (AVG .308 HR427 RBI1335 OB% .377 Total Bases 3768 Slugging % .545) was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame today.

During his understandably emotional speech he thanked his mother for…

“…the greatest gift a mother could give a child, the gift of my Catholic Faith.  This has had a profound impact on my career and has given me patience, compassion and hope. Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘One who has hope lives differently.'”


Baseball: The Sport God Loves Most

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Eric says:

    Piazza was a great player and, more importantly, continues to be a great guy. He showed a great mixture of fortitude and courtesy.

    Q: How do we know baseball is God’s favorite sport?
    A: He starts the Bible, ” In the big inning”

  2. PTK_70 says:

    Just some reflections of a personal nature on the theme “Baseball: The Sport God Loves Most”…..

    My grandfather taught me baseball skills when I was young and my dad worked with me on fielding and throwing. I played Little League in a rural midwest town (yes, there were fields of corn and beans close by). I also played for a team after 9th grade but, with the exception of an at-bat in my younger brother’s league game (I was called out of the stands to fill in for someone – funny how an at-bat can be so memorable), I didn’t play ball again until my 40s. Having reached 40 and feeling a desire to step “outside the box,” I was toying with the idea of motorcycling when I saw a recruitment announcement for a baseball team in a local adult recreational league in the Southern state where I lived at the time. To be clear, I’m talking about baseball, NOT softball. Overhand, fast pitch. 90′ base paths. Wood bats. It was the real deal, except there were provisions in the rules which did allow for the manager to keep players from sitting on the bench too long (a minor concession, and completely reasonable, given the recreational nature of the league).

    I ended up playing two seasons before work sent me away, and the last season I was a player-manager. My devotion and appreciation for the game intensified for having played those two seasons. While I don’t have the link now, I hope to share an essay which powerfully articulates the excellence of baseball, especially in America’s socio-cultural setting. One of the author’s points: when the game reaches a critical juncture, the manager isn’t willy-nilly able to craft a play around the team’s star (such as might happen in football or basketball). No, in baseball there’s a line-up, which means you’ll have to step up when it’s your turn.

    My grandmother once told me that my grandfather played shortstop on his town’s team in rural Illinois. They would play against teams from other towns. This might have been just before WWII. So baseball wasn’t just for kids or high schoolers or professionals. It was THEIR game. And I want to believe that it helped give life and vigor to their communities.

    I am grateful to have connected in a certain way with that America by playing in an adult league myself. To those men who may be reading this, perhaps there is venue in your town or city for getting back into “The Sport God Loves Most”……

  3. stuart reiss says:

    Ahem..Cricket is the game God loves the most…I have that on good authority Fr Z

  4. mo7 says:

    Eric :-D

  5. billy15 says:

    Yet another reason to love Mike Piazza. I loved watching him (and Ken Griffey Jr.) growing up. But guys like Piazza and Mike Sweeney are awesome for other reasons, in that they were always vocal about their Catholic faith. How cool that he quoted Pope Benedict XVI in his speech! And there’s no shortage of great Catholic ballplayers today. David Phelps on the Marlins is one great example. Tyler Flowers on the Braves is another. I know the priest who says Mass for the White Sox every Sunday (who also happens be a Byzantine/Latin bi-ritual priest, who offers the TLM often!) and he said Flowers was a convert to the faith and never missed Mass during his tenure with the Sox. J.B. Shuck is apparently another strong Catholic ballplayer too from what he told me.

  6. robtbrown says:

    Roger Maris was also a practicing Catholic. Also Yogi.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Yes, but….http://supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.lu/2013/12/vatican-cricket-team.html

    and an old blog post of mine:
    2 April 2011 at 8:02 pm
    Cricket is to sport what Catholicism is to religion.

    Firstly, it is universal.
    Secondly, it is disciplined, with rules and regulations which need to be studied only in prayer and contemplation in order to understand such concepts as LBWs.
    Thirdly, all men are treated alike, either as batsman, bowlers or fielders, in true sportsmenship and gentlemanly behavior before God and humankind.
    Fourthly, the umpire, like the hierarchy has the last word in the play and all must obey him. Only heretics follow the instant reply in test matches.
    Fiftly, those who are initiated must go through a period of faith and hope, until knowledge supplants waiting for understanding. Usually this takes either one year of limited overs, or three five day test matches. Then, one may read Wisden’s and learn more in a period of deep meditation.
    Six, Cricket is a culture, not merely a game. It inspires one to higher goals, such as breaking Tendulkar’s records, or eating strawberries and cream with champange in 40 degree weather, wearing summer clothes and not admitting to being cold.
    Seven, Cricket inspires duty, as waiting for your partner batsman to settle in instead of being a “hotdog” and trying for runs. The virtue of Patience is learned early on and inspires other virtues, such as not cursing, clapping for the opposition, and obeying the umpire (see above).
    Eight, the culture of Cricket is passed on in the home. Parents inspire their children to duty and grace through the summer game, allowing these children to explore their own God-given talents of either score-keeper, batsmen, bowler, or fielder, without prejudice.
    Nine, the culture of Cricket demands that one accept the Tridentine white garb or the test matches, as well as the Novus Ordo pajama wear of the world cups or limited overs games. If respectfully done, even the pajama Cricket inspires hope and peace. However, one hopes that some day the International Cricket Cricket admits that the only true Cricket is played in whites.
    Ten, the sacred books must be read and passed on. The traditions surrounding the game are manifold and demand duty based on love.
    Eleven, Those who love Cricket will be changed into martys for the game, including sitting until the umpire decides if decreased light has stopped play ( a game which can only be played in the light and not in the darkness is truly sublime) and waiting for the rain to stop so that a few more innings may be accomplished. Again, faith , hope and love become daily habits of virtue.
    Twelve, the game is surrounded by many traditions, too many to list here, which enables the initiate to become more enculturated over a period of time. Such things as listening to the commentators as they discuss birds flying over buses on the St. John’s Road, or discuss the ties of the Out for a Duck Club, or the contents of a luncheon box in India, all contribute to this enculturation, which determines one view of life.
    Lastly, the center of Cricket activity is Lord’s. Baseball has nothing like the religious contents of Cricket.


  8. LarryW2LJ says:

    “There are only three things that America will be remembered for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: The Constitution, Jazz music, and Baseball. These are the 3 most beautiful things this culture’s ever created.”

    ? Gerald Early

  9. introibo says:

    OK, not a Mets fan (husband is, I’m a Yankees fan) but I think I’m gonna go out and procure a Piazza team shirt…

  10. robtbrown says:

    LarryW2LJ says:

    “There are only three things that America will be remembered for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: The Constitution, Jazz music, and Baseball. These are the 3 most beautiful things this culture’s ever created.”
    Gerald Early

    The second should read: Jazz music and the cuisine of New Orleans.

  11. Giuseppe says:

    How about the internet?
    Without which we could not be having this conversation in Father Z’s living room.

  12. LarryW2LJ says:

    Not my quote – that was from historian and author Gerald Early. I’m not smart enough to come up with good stuff like that.

  13. SaintJude6 says:

    I agree with rot brown on the necessary addition of New Orleans cuisine.

  14. PNeri says:

    Of course baseball is the spirt God loves most; the very best hitters bat only at .400. It is humbling!!

  15. PTK_70 says:

    “Baseball is a mirror of American liberty and of the virtues necessary to sustain it.” – Diana Schaub, “America at the Bat”, National Affairs, Winter 2010


  16. stephen c says:

    Nice gesture by Mike Piazza – I have been a Mets fan since before he was born and was glad when he joined the team. He seems to have learned humility somewhere along the way, good for him. For the record, I am not a big fan of the Gerard Early quote. Of course, like Gerard Early, I like the Constitution, Jazz Music, and baseball. It is good to like one’s country. That being said , generations from now, the Constitution will only be considered a temporary success at best, if Americans don’t do a better job of retaining a general sense of morality; and if they don’t, the Constitution will be no more admired than the average written doctrine of the average obscure medieval political movement. Jazz is all right but every generation is able to discover its own melodies and dance rhythms, and there is no reason that a century or two from now , much less 2000 years from now, people will admire jazz more than any other by-then-ancient form of music – as for me, pre-jazz American music (Gottschalk and Foster, the stuff Beiderbecke and Armstrong listened to when they were kids, Sousa, western music, ragtime, the bandshell music of the 1890s) is closer to my heart than jazz is. I like jazz best when it is nostalgic for that music. Contra Gerard Early, I believe that if the world is around in two thousand years, America will be remembered best for its saints and its hundreds of thousands of unimaginably selfless military heroes, and at a distant second, its artists. Famous Musicians, politicians, sports stars and the games they play – not so much.

  17. PTK_70 says:

    Since I’m a bit invested in this thread, I’ll indulge in jumping into the baseball/cricket fray.

    Once I understood the rules of cricket at the 80% level, I found the game to be rather entertaining. However, it is not an American game and I suppose it never will be. To say that baseball is inferior (to cricket) is tantamount to saying that the USA is somehow inferior (to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc) and in this matter I can only be a partial judge so I will hold my tongue.

    One more reflection…it seems to me that cricket might be likened to the Missal of 1962 (or, instead perhaps, the Anglican use of the Roman Rite) while baseball might be likened to the Missal of Bl Paul VI. One is more prim and proper, the other seems designed for a democratic setting. A cricket match may be settled over the course of days or it may be contested on one day only and this might correspond with High and Low Mass settings in the Extraordinary Form. Baseball has shown itself prone to abuse (think steroid era) even as agenda-driven actors have taken advantage of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. But the worth of baseball and the sacrality of the Missal of Blessed Paul VI remain intact.

    At its best, baseball exists at the nexus of community, sport, leisure, virtue, tradition, orderliness and democracy.

  18. Filipino Catholic says:

    Quaestio: are there any practicing Catholics in the other ball sport that begins with a B?

  19. un-ionized says:

    Pat Riley? Kobe Bryant?

  20. JMody says:

    Now folks, the Church, and thereby God Himself, tell us not to fear but rather to embrace pain and suffering. How can baseball surpass rugby in light of this?

  21. PTK_70 says:

    @JMody…ever been hit by a baseball? That said, baseball is not all pain all the time so I am prepared to concede that rugby surpasses baseball in the pain department. But surely the salutary Christian life is not defined by the seeking out of pain. In this baseball also could be said to image Christian existence….you don’t take an at-bat hoping to be hit, but you know it could happen and “wear it” when it happens.

  22. HobokenZephyr says:

    @JMody, physical pain is not the only measure of pain. The Dark Night of the Baseball Soul? Bases loaded, bottom of the 9th. Two out. 3-2 count on the team’s best hitter. He’s looking fastball but gets a curve. He’s frozen, unable to swing. It’s called strike 3. Game over. Series over. Season over.

    Prefer a Catholic reference? Google Ralph Branca, Brooklyn Dodgers, pitching to Bobby Thompson, New York Giants. That, ladies and gentlemen, is pain.

  23. KateD says:

    Piazza will always be a Dodger in my book.
    (There is no higher compliment for a baseball player)

    Go Blue!

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