By John L. Allen Jr.
ROME (Crux) – My private bucket listing turned one merchandise shorter on Jan. 7, when legendary Dodgers supervisor and lifelong Catholic Tommy Lasorda died on the age of 93. He suffered a coronary heart assault at his residence in Fullerton, California, and was transported to a close-by hospital the place he handed away.
For many years I’ve promised myself that sometime I’d interview Lasorda concerning the intersection between Catholicism and baseball, however, as CCR famously taught us, “sometime by no means comes.” Alas, now I’ll by no means have the prospect – although it’s some comfort figuring out that Lasorda went to his relaxation simply two months after watching his beloved Dodgers win their first World Collection since he was the supervisor.
My fascination with Lasorda wasn’t simply that he was a practising Catholic who, all through his profession, would prepare for a priest to go to the Dodgers locker room earlier than each Sunday sport to say Mass for the Catholics, or who, in his late 80s, may nonetheless recall verbatim conversations he’d had with IHM nuns rising up.
I’ve all the time believed that what Catholicism is to faith, baseball is to sports activities – in different phrases, baseball is the game that greatest displays Catholic instincts and creativeness. Inside that panorama, I’ve additionally lengthy thought that what St. John Paul II was to Catholicism, Tommy Lasorda was to baseball.
Hear me out.
One of many issues I all the time admired about Lasorda was his near-fanatical devotion to the Dodgers franchise, immortalized in his well-known phrase, “Lower my veins, and I bleed Dodger blue.” In an period during which gamers and managers change groups as typically as shirts, it could by no means have occurred to Lasorda to be something apart from a Dodger.
Lasorda managed the staff for twenty years, from 1976 to 1996, profitable two World Collection alongside the best way in 1981 and 1988, and solely stepped down after a coronary heart assault. Later he served because the staff’s Vice President, and as Senior Advisor to the Chairman.
But because the New York Instances famous in its obituary, Lasorda’s relentless cheeriness, his unabashed love of the sport and its gamers, his eager humorousness and his private decency made him a kind of uncommon figures in sports activities who transcend their very own sport. Even individuals who had zero curiosity in baseball knew his title, and the overwhelming majority cherished him.
(After I lived in L.A. for a short spell within the early Nineteen Nineties, whereas Lasorda was nonetheless managing, I knew individuals who would go to Dodger video games with no clue about what was occurring on the sector, however merely in hopes of sneaking right down to the Dodgers dugout to get an autograph or snap an image with the legend.)
One thing very comparable could possibly be stated of Saint Pope John Paul II.
He too was fanatically dedicated to his franchise, in his case the Catholic Church. By status a conservative, he took Catholic instructing and identification critically and was prepared to sanction Catholics who defied it – there’s a reasonably lengthy listing of theologians, clergy and others from the John Paul years who realized that lesson the arduous means.
But like Lasorda, John Paul was admired effectively past the boundaries of his personal Church. He revolutionized relations with Judaism, he turned the primary pope to enter a mosque and a Buddhist temple, he loved the corporate of secular pop stars equivalent to Bob Dylan and Bono, and he made 104 journeys world wide to come across folks of all walks of life and all experiences.
Saint Pope John Paul II’s charisma, his relentless vitality and his effusive spirit of hope made him a common level of reference, maybe probably the most immediately recognizable particular person on the planet within the final a part of the 20th century. The crowds he would draw on these overseas journeys are the stuff of legend, and a few historians consider it’s doable John Paul II met extra folks in particular person over the course of his life than anybody else in historical past.
In different phrases, each Saint Pope John Paul II and Tommy Lasorda incarnated a defining Catholic intuition, to wit: The precise isn’t the enemy of the common. Quite the opposite, solely somebody really obsessed with their very own identification can recognize that very same ardour in others, and actually interact them on their very own turf.
It was exactly as a result of Saint Pope John Paul II was such a loyal son of Poland that he may acknowledge and affirm real patriotism in others, and it was exactly as a result of was such a agency Catholic believer that others with deep non secular beliefs may see him as a kindred spirit regardless of the variations of their creeds.
Equally, it was as a result of Lasorda cherished his staff a lot, as a result of he was prepared to combat and scratch and claw to assist it win, that even baseball followers who hate the Dodgers couldn’t assist however fall in love with him.
It’s typically thought that folks too hooked up to their very own custom, whether or not it’s athletic or non secular, aren’t open sufficient to have the ability to dialogue with others; that to be common, you’ve received to be rather less particular.
John Paul and Lasorda, via their exceptional lives, delivered the one Catholic reply to that declare: Bunk. Specificity and universality aren’t an both/or, they’re a each/and.
For having supplied us that reminder, in addition to numerous reminiscences on and off the sector, we’re all indebted to Lasorda. Requiescat in tempo.