Beisbol's WBC

America's love affair with Baseball is not absolute. Consider, for example, that its college game gets barely a fraction of the attention so hugely lavished on football, basketball, even hockey (where it's waged).

Yet in the end -- despite that substantial promotional deficit -- more people in this country this year will pay more money to watch more baseball being played than all the other games combined. As plodding, pastoral, scandalized, even flawed as it may be, dear old baseball bears on. Can you imagine interest in an NFL football team persisting the length of a 162 game schedule every year? I can't.

It's baseball's deep roots in the American mythology that has sustained its unique stature. The genius of this game has always been its ability to transform the mundane into the mystical, again and again every generation, creating legendry out of mere memory.

No amount of bumbling or even crookedness has fouled up this near sanctified process, at least so far. Baseball has survived all the scandal, institutional racism, the tyranny of the monopoly, outright greed, wars, booze, rebellion, expansion, the Yankees, and idiocy of leadership. Which is why I'd bet the ranch, Bunky, that it will survive performance enhancement drugs like steroids too.

The bonds of baseball are binding in the culture. Or, as the Philosopher Jacques Barzun famously wheezed about a half century ago, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn Baseball." Nor was the very distinguished Dr. Barzun -- to the best of my knowledge -- even a fan. Baseball is not so much a game as a state of mind.

All of this might explain why older devotees of this heartfelt game know and care much more about what happened 50 years ago than what happened last season. But I'm not going to be dumb enough to argue that this blissful state (at least for baseball) is everlasting. For it may also explain why younger fans are more interested in football and basketball and all the games social media plays than baseball. America is changing in ways not even guys as smart as Jacques Barzun could have possibly foreseen.

Can I imagine the American public one day running out of patience with a 162 game annual professional baseball schedule? The answer is, 'Yes.'

What bestirred all these vague and idle musings is the World Baseball Classic (WBC), now rumbling to a somewhat indifferent conclusion; 'indifferent' that is if you are a citizen and baseball fan of the U.S.A. But if you come from an under-privileged Third World Caribbean nation hovering deep in Goliath's shadow and regard a mere baseball tournament as a golden opportunity to rattle Goliath's chain, it is quite another matter. Politics undergirds the WBC; at best, a mixed blessing.

Yet in theory, the WBC is a terrific idea. International proliferation has been the American game's lofty goal since early in the last century.

In the Thirties, Connie Mack and John J. McGraw took fabulous MLB all-star teams to Japan for a succession of happy festivals aimed at exporting our favorite game even as that nation's warlords were weaving the military master-plan that would culminate in Pearl Harbor. If they weren't crazy about us they sure loved Ruth and Gehrig, Foxx and Grove, etc. Everybody who was anybody in baseball was delighted to be part of the effort to evangelize the Japanese, although it's important to note those barnstorming extravaganzas took place after the regular American baseball season, not before it.

After the War, the international movement took a major hit when colorful Mexican impresarios seeking to set up a rival league south of the border raided MLB for choice talent and got smacked down for their temerity. It was all in good fun and perfectly reasonable when you consider the despotism of the American baseball owners who-- so nicely empowered by the Reserve Claus -- were able to keep their players in virtual bondage.

There was enough talent withering on the vines of our then vast minor league network to float fine leagues in a dozen countries. But to the lordly MLB moguls that was not the point. Their righteous wrath was terrible and swift. The Mexican movement in all of its fetchingly musical flair was ruthlessly crushed. The defectors were harshly penalized. Mexico remains resentful. There would be little more talk of globalizing baseball for another 30 years.

And then they began to come to us. First it was from Cuba and Puerto Rico and then from all over Latin America until by the turn of the millennium choice baseball talent was flowing to the American major leagues from the farthest corners of the world, most notably Asia, to the point where today an MLB roster without players from faraway places is unthinkable. We did not globalize the game. The game globalized itself.

It was on this premise that the World Baseball Classic was conceived. The thinking was sound. Like every commissioner since Bowie Kuhn, Bud Selig has been ardent in his promotion of the international game. As for the owners, they've always been warm to the idea, sniffing potential profit that could even become vast. But few have backed it up with solid support and increasingly most allow their players to participate only with the greatest reluctance while scrounging for excuses to keep them from doing so.

In short, the entire business has been half-hearted in this country. But everywhere else --among the involved -- it's been quite another matter, making the evolving results both inevitable and logical. We don't really care. They do. We lose, they win! Simple enough and reasonable, too!

For the third time, the U.S team didn't come close and for the second time, it didn't even make the semi-finals. Wouldn't you agree a lineup that parades Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, Giancarlo Stanton, Joe Mauer, Eric Hosmer, Jimmy Rollins, Brandon Philips, Ben Zobrist and our own $40 million man, Shane Victorino, might be as good as any in the Major Leagues and would be odds-on favorites to go all the way? There are three ex-MVP's in that lineup. But what about the pitching, says you? Well, for openers the staff was anchored by a sitting Cy Young awardee backed by a star of last fall's World Series.

Admittedly, the manager was week. Those who watched closely say Joe Torre did a lame job. But then Torre, now well into his 70's, lost his edge near 10 years ago, well before the Yankees finally woke up and canned him. But it's wrong to blame Torre. He took on the task because no one else both available and of necessary stature was willing. The first pick was Tony LaRussa. But Tony -- a very smart guy -- turned it down. Thanks, Tony. As we were saying, the American effort is half-hearted and such attitudes don't win, chum.

In their elimination game -- a 4-3 loss to an aroused Puerto Rico squad in what all describe as a corker of tilt -- the mighty Yanks were humbled by a certain Nelson Figueroa, a journeyman hurler exiled from the Majors two years ago. The win was saved by J.C Romero a journeyman reliever still looking for a job this season.

Hey it's baseball, you say, ever wonderfully and wildly unpredictable. The Netherlands eliminated Cuba in a more shocking upset. That's baseball's glory. Upstarts prevail far more often than in other games. True! But one suspects the explanation, in this case, runs deeper. Baseball is personal. We just don't identify with the World Baseball Classic. The WBC is not our thing.

So it will be the Dominican Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico, and Netherlands in the showdown for what they can arguably claim is world supremacy in the precious game we invented, perfected, and so long believed, in our vanity, that we entirely and exclusively owned.

The final rounds are beginning as this is written and so you know who won but I already know who lost. It was us! And the fact that few of us noticed let alone gave a hoot doesn't diminish that.

Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...