Bottom of the 9th - Fellowship
by Keith Wahl
(This week's Bottom of the Ninth is the fourth in a series walking readers through basics of the Christian faith integrated in the game of baseball through Francis Chan's BASIC video series)
Do you recognize the man pictured above or his name? Our younger readers probably have no idea who this man is or his significance, while our elder statesmen and women (myself included) might be able to state his impact on the game. However, have we stopped to consider how Satan has twisted this important event to destroy part of the fabric of the game of baseball?Flood was traded from the Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1969 season, but refused the trade suing MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in the process. After being notified of the trade in an impersonal letter from then-Cardinal General Manager Bing Devine, Flood articulated the following in this letter to Kuhn:
"After twelve years in the Major Leagues, I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.
It is my desire to play baseball in 1970, and I am capable of playing. I have received a contract offer from the Philadelphia Club, but I believe I have the right to consider offers from other clubs before making any decisions. I, therefore, request that you make known to all the Major League Clubs my feelings in this matter, and advise them of my availability for the 1970 season."
Sincerely yours, Curt Flood
The lawsuit would eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and pave the road for free agency in the modern era in all sports (side note - there is no small irony that an African-American player earned freedom for all players moving forward). Players were no longer indentured servants to their millionaire owners, but rather a human being with rights. This was a pivotal moment in sports history, and a good and right thing.
So how has Satan twisted this? While baseball is a team sport meant to be played in fellowship with others, the game now resembles an individual sport with individuals pursuing individual goals with little regard for learning the value of team. This is evident at the big-league level in the pursuit of money over team success, and filters down to the youngest levels of the game in youth players and parents seeking free-agent opportunities for their nine-year-old son to play on group with the best collection of talent (notice I did not use the word â€œteamâ€ there on purpose). Satan has taken this beautiful team game, and made it into an individual pursuit of individual glory.
How does God attempt to redeem the sport and us? Fellowship. Promoting unity with the Holy Spirit. One of the great counterattacks in this war being waged above our heads is God exalting the teams who figure out the value of the team over the individual. Whether it is in the MLB or College World Series, you rarely, if ever see a bunch of chest-thumping, but rather a picture of guys pointing back into the dugout celebrating the gift they experienced with the team.
As Francis Chan points out, we canâ€™t proclaim the excellencies of God without other people. You canâ€™t share Jesus by yourself. Godâ€™s plan is for us to be in fellowship so that we may live out Christâ€™s teaching in John 17:22-23:
"The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me."
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