Saddened by lack of sportsmanship

Seamus Walsh

De mortuis nil nisi bonum, the ancients said. Or as we’d say, “Say nothing but good about the dead.” And I go along with that, but I must tell you that after listening to Bert Blyleven on Minnesota Public Radio this morning, I’m making an exception in his case. Jim Souhan headed his piece on Monday in the Minneapolis Star Tribune with the heading With grace and humor, Blyleven enters Hall. I beg to differ.

I’m sure all agree that Bert Blyleven richly deserved to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York last Sunday. He was one of the great pitchers of our times, and made us Twin fans proud and happy when his curveballs made the Minnesota Twins mighty.

In his interview on Minnesota Public Radio, Bert talked about the influence his father had on him. He was proud of his father’s demanding ways and he spoke glowingly of them. His father is dead now, and so couldn’t be with Bert and Bert’s mother on his son’s great day.

The Star Tribune gave me the first inkling of the kind of man Bert’s father was. In 1969 when the Twins offered Bert a contract, a salary and an offer to pay for his college education, his father spoke up for him and said: “He doesn’t want to go to school. He wants to pitch. Come back with more money.”

And in his radio interview this morning Bert spoke about his Dad. With pride and a chuckle he reminisced that if Bert’s team lost a game, his dad let the umpires know that they were at fault. And Bert went on to speak glowingly about the many times his dad was forbidden to be near the game, and even forbidden to be at the game because of his boorish antics. Blyleven even mentioned the times his mother refused to sit with her husband when their son was playing, and sat instead with the fans of the opposing team she was so embarrassed with her husband’s loutish outbursts.

We are seeing the same louts and boors at many of our children’s’ games – parents who don’t agree with the referee. They embarrass us and we don’t want them near because of the pressure they are putting on their children and the fun they are taking from children’s sports.

Bert Blyleven was richly blessed with extraordinary talent as a baseball pitcher, but when it came to the sportsmanship that he admired in his father, he disappointed me deeply.

Each month a member of the Cook County Ministerium will offer Spiritual Reflections. This month our contributor is Father Seamus Walsh of St. John’s Catholic Church in Grand Marais.

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