Good evening, Brothers. I am truly humbled to be the lecturer for the upcoming year and whether he realizes it or not, I’d like to thank Dave, Babicz and also all my fellow Knights for inspiring me to step into this role. Dave, you left me some huge shoes to fill but I’m definitely confident that the holy spirit will work through me in my goal is to leave each and every one of you with a message of faith to take with you as we leave our monthly fellowship.
With tonight being the midway point of the baseball season and the all-star game, the theme for this evening for this evening is Faith and Baseball.
I grew up in Central Ohio and as a result, similar to Illinois, where you're either a Sox or a Cubs fan, in Ohio, you're either a Cleveland Indians fan or a Cincinnati Reds fan. I am a Cincinnati Reds fan. I was fortunate enough to be part of what was arguably one of the best eras in baseball and that was the Big Red Machine of ‘74, ‘75 and ‘77.
I have two very fond memories as a nine-year-old boy. The first was my dad coming home from work. Uh, on a school night and taking me to the auto dealership called Spitzer Dodge. We waited in line for two hours to get a signed, autographed picture with Pete Rose.
The second was our annual ritual in June of driving 90 miles south to Riverfront Stadium. We sat in a very last row of the upper deck to watch the game. My family didn't have a lot of money and mom would pack sandwiches that we brought from home because of the price of the concessions at the stadium.
But to this day, I look back on those times as a truly special part of my childhood.
So tonight, I want to share with you a recent episode from Relevant Radio. Which is actually the deathbed confessional of George Herman, Babe Ruth.
Bad boy ruth. That was me.
Don't get the idea that I'm proud of my harem-scarem youth. I'm not. I simply had a rotten start in life, and it took me a long time to get my bearings.
Looking back at my youth. I honestly didn't think i knew the difference between right and wrong. I spent much of my early boyhood living over my father's saloon, in Baltimore - and when I wasn't living over it, I was in it soaking up the atmosphere, i hardly knew my parents.
Saint Mary's Industrial School in Baltimore, where i was finally taken, had been called an orphanage and a reform school. It was in fact a training school for orphans, incorrigibles, delinquents and runaways picked up on the streets of the city.
I was listed as an incorrigible. I guess I was. Perhaps I would always have been but for Brother Mathias, the greatest man I had ever known and for the religious training I received which has since been so important to me.
I doubt if any of appeal could have straightened me out except a Power over and above man - the appeal of God. Iron-rod discipline couldn't have done it. Nor all the punishment and reward systems that could have been devised. God had an eye out for me, just as he has for you, and he was pulling for me to make the grade.
As I look back now, I realize that knowledge of God was a big crossroads with me. I got one thing straight (and I wish all kids did) - that God was Boss. He was not only my Boss, but Boss of all my bosses.
Up until then, like all bad kids, I hated most of the people who had control over me and could punish me. I began to see that i had a higher Person to reckon with who never changed, whereas my early authorities changed from year to year.
Those who bossed me had the same self-battles – they, like me, had to account to God. I also realized that God was not only just, but merciful, He knew we were weak and that we all found it easier to be stinkers than good sons of God, not only as kids but all through our lives.
That clear picture, I’m sure, would be important to any kid who hates a teacher, or resents a person in charge. This picture of my relationship to man and God was what helped relieve me of bitterness in rancor and a desire to get even.
I've seen a great number of “he-men” in my baseball career, but never one equal to Bother Matthias. He stood six feet six and weighed 250 pounds. It was all muscle. He could have been successful at anything he wanted to in life - and he chose the church.
It was he who introduced me to baseball. Very early he noticed that I had some natural talent for throwing and catching. He used to back me in a corner of the big yard at Saint Mary's and bunt a ball to me by the hour, correcting the mistakes I made with my hands and feet.
I never forgot the first time i saw him hit a ball. The baseball in 1902 was a lump of mush. But brother Matthias would stand at the end of the yard, throw the ball up with his left hand, and give it a terrific belt with the bat he held in his right hand.
The ball would carry 350 feet, a tremendous knock in those days. I would watch him, bug-eyed.
Thanks to Brother Matthias I was able to leave Saint Mary’s in 1914 and begin my professional career with the famous Baltimore Orioles. Out on my own…free from the rigid rules of a religious school…boy, did that go to my head. I began really to cut capers.
I strayed from the church, but don't think I forgot my religious training. I just overlooked it. I prayed often and hard, but like many irrepressible young fellows, the swift tempo of living shoved religion into the background.
So what good was all the hard work and ceaseless interest of the Brothers, people would argue? You can't make kids religious, they say, because it just won't take. Send kids to Sunday School and they too often end up hating it in the church.
Don't you believe it. As far as I'm concerned, and I think as far as most kids go, once religion sinks in, it stays there - deep down. The labs who get religious training, get it where it counts - in the roots. They may fail it, but it never fails them.
When the score is against them, or they get a bump pitch, that unfailing Something inside will be there to draw on.
I've seen it with kids. I know from the letters they write me.
The more I think of it the more important i feel it is to give kids “the works” as far as religion is concerned. They'll never want to be holy – they’ll act like tough monkeys in contrast, but somewhere inside will be a solid little chapel.
It may get dusty from the neglect, but the time will come when the door will be opened with much relief. But the kids can't take it if we don't give it to them.
I've been criticized as often as I've been praised for my activities with kids on the grounds that what I did was for publicity. Well, criticism doesn't matter. I never forgot where I came from. Every dirty-faced kid I see is another useful citizen.
No one knew better than I what it meant not to have your own home, a backyard, your own kitchen and ice box. That's why all through the years even when the big money was rolling in, I'd never forget Saint Mary's, Brother Matthias and the boys I left behind. I kept going back.
As I look back those moments when I left the, when I let the kids down - they were my worst. I guess I was so anxious to enjoy life to the fullest that I forgot the rules or ignored them. Once in a while you can get away with it, but not for long. When i broke training, the effects were felt by myself and by the ball team - and even by the fans,.
While I drifted away from church, I did have my own “altar”, a big window of my New York apartment overlooking the city lights. Often I would kneel before that window and say my prayers.
I would feel quite humble then. I'd ask God to help me not make such a big fool of myself and pray that I'd measure up to what he expected of me.
In December 1946, I was in French Hospital, New York, facing a serious operation. Paul Carey, one of my oldest and closest friends was by my bed one night.
“They're going to operate in the morning, Babe”, Paul said. Don't you think you ought to put your house in order?
I didn't dodge the long, challenging look in his eyes. I knew what he meant. For the first time I realized that death might strike me out. I nodded, and Paul got up, called in a Chaplain, and I made a full confession.
“I'll return in the morning and give you a holy communion,” the chaplain said, “But you don't have to fast..”
“I’ll fast,” I said. I didn't have even a drop of water.
As I lay in bed that evening I thought to myself what a comforting feeling to be free from fear and worries. I now could simply turn them over to God. Later on, my wife brought in a letter from a little kid in Jersey City.
“Dear Babe”, he wrote, “Everybody in the seventh-grade class is pulling and praying for you. I am enclosing a medal which if you wear will make you better. Your pal - Mike Quinlan.
P.S. I know this will be your 61st homer. You'll hit it.”
I asked them to pin the Miraculous Medal to my pajama coat. I've worn the medal constantly ever since. I'll wear it to my grave.
So, what I took away from this is the importance of the Foundation of Faith. Planting that seed; and although we all have loved ones and family members that have strayed or left the Church, through Prayer and our examples of how we live our life, there is always Hope that they will come back.
I want to leave you with Matthew Chapter 7, Verse 24-25.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock, and the rain fell and the floods came and the winds beat upon that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock. Thank you.
Lecturer, KofC Council #11666
July 11, 2023