Does a symbol for Jesus Christ belong next to a rubber on a pitcher's mound inside of a Major League Baseball park? The St. Louis Cardinals apparently say, yes, it does.
In a bold but probably well-meaning affirmation of the Christian faith that many of the Cardinals players and coaches have, a groundskeeper at Busch frequently has drawn a cross — along with what is either an Ichthys or a No. 6 for the late Stan Musial — on the mound behind the rubber.
This has at least one fan — watching at home on TV — upset enough to write a complaining letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Riverfront Times, another St. Louis paper, also had heard from Michael Vines and took note of his objections.
Here's what Cardinals beat reporter Derrick Goold wrote about the decorated mound in Sunday's P-D:
Several times this season the Cardinals starter has gone to the mound to find subtle symbols scratched on its backside, near the rubber spikes used to scrub off dirt. “They’ve been there every time for me,” ace Adam Wainwright said. To the left of the spikes is a Christian cross and just below it is a looped figure. It’s a “6” for Stan Musial, the Cardinals great who died in January. A member of the grounds crew puts the symbols on the mound for most home games.So it's not a Jesus Fish! As Vines has noted, the symbols have been drawn when pitchers other than Wainwright have taken the mound. And it's not just players who advertise their faith: Cardinals manager Mike Matheny says that "Jesus Christ is at the center of my life."
Good for him, really, but the St. Louis Cardinals might be getting carried away with the "Saint" in St. Louis. (Hey, and maybe the "Cardinals" part, too, now that you mention it.) Religious references are not uncommon in a heavily Catholic city like St. Louis, but you won't (or shouldn't) find the cross on, say, the Arch. Of course, that's public land. Busch Stadium might be privately owned, but it didn't get built without tax breaks. Legally, as Vines points out, that gives the public "skin in the game." And not everybody in the public is a Christian like Adam Wainwright and Mike Matheny.
Hypothetically going beyond the legal boundaries of church and state, it's awfully presumptuous and ignorant of the Cardinals to draw any religious symbol on the mound. It's not really their mound, or anybody's mound, after all. Jews use that mound. Muslims (might) use that mound. Hindus and Sikhs. Hypothetically, Zoroastrians would use that mound. Diests use that mound. People with no god use that mound. Should the Cardinals really have to be reminded that not everyone is their religion?
Wear a cross around your neck. Hang one in the dugout — maybe — if nobody on the team objects. But the mound is neutral turf and should remain as such.
A message was left with Major League Baseball to get the league's opinion on this. If they respond, we'll update the post.