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Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game [Hardcover]

John Sexton , Thomas Oliphant , Peter J. Schwartz

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Book Description

March 12 2013

A love letter to America's most beloved sport and an exploration of the deeper dimensions it reveals

For more than a decade, New York University President John Sexton has used baseball to illustrate the elements of a spiritual life in a wildly popular course at NYU. Using some of the great works of baseball fiction as well as the actual game's fantastic moments, its legendary characters, and its routine rituals—from the long-sought triumph of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, to the heroic achievements of players like the saintly Christy Mathewson and the sinful Ty Cobb, to the loving intimacy of a game of catch between a father and son—Sexton teaches that through the game we can touch the spiritual dimension of life.

Baseball as a Road to God is about the elements of our lives that lie beyond what can be captured in words alone—ineffable truths that we know by experience rather than by logic or analysis. Applying to the secular activity of baseball a form of inquiry usually reserved for the study of religion, Sexton reveals a surprising amount of common ground between the game and what we all recognize as religion: sacred places and time, faith and doubt, blessings and curses, and more.

In thought-provoking, beautifully rendered prose, this book elegantly demonstrates that baseball is more than a game, or even a national pastime: It can be a road to a deeper and more meaningful life.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (March 12 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592407544
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592407545
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 14.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #68,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for Baseball as a Road to God

“In the church of baseball, John Sexton is one of the preeminent theologians.”
—Bill Moyers in an interview with John Sexton on Bill Moyers Journal
 
“This book takes the reader on a remarkable spiritual journey, using the secular sport of baseball to explore subjects ordinarily associated with religion—prayers, altars, sacred space, faith, doubt, conversion, miracles, blessings, curses, saints and sinners. There is magic in these pages.”
—Doris Kerns Goodwin, from the foreword
 
“ . . .a thought-provoking proposition for zealots and skeptics alike.”
Publishers Weekly
 
“An elegant little meditation on life and the afterlife, well worth reading . . .”
Kirkus Reviews

"John Sexton has written beautifully about the magic of baseball: its near irresistible appeal, its legends, its breathtaking moments of drama, its heroes and villians. He has also written with great insight about the intense-felt character of religious perception. And he has—dare I say it?—woven the two together miraculously."
—Ronald Dworkin, author of Law's Empire and the recipient of philosophy's prestigious Holberg International Memorial Prize

"Baseball as a Road to God is both a wonderful collection of delightful baseball stories that allows the reader to relive the moments of joy, despair, anxiety, and inspiration, and a meditation demonstrating that baseball is rife with the profound and complex elements that constitute religion. The stories reflect a love of baseball and call upon us all to live slow and notice, illustrating the availability of a joyful, spiritual life."
—Governor Mario Cuomo

"Baseball as a Road to God illuminates baseball as you've never experienced or thought about it before. John Sexton has given us nine 'innings' of lively stories and insights that take our national pastime far, far beyond the playing field. He has pitched a perfect game!"
—Arthur R. Miller, professor of law and resident scholar at Good Morning America for more than two decades

"John Sexton's book, Baseball as a Road to God, provides a thoughtful and intriguing examination of the connection between baseball and religion. In this wonderful book, John navigates in clear language the complex questions linking faith and America's favorite pastime. Using his parlance, this book is a home run."
—Rachel Robinson, founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation

About the Author

John Sexton is the fifteenth President of New York University; prior to being designated as the university's president in 2001, he served as Dean of the NYU School of Law for 14 years. President Sexton is past Chair of the American Council on Education, the New York Academy of Sciences and the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities of New York. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has served as the Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He received a Ph.D. in History of American Religion from Fordham University, a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and has 10 honorary doctorates, including one from the oldest Catholic University in the world, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. In addition to his executive duties as President of NYU, he teaches four full courses each academic year, making him one of the only university presidents to teach a full faculty schedule.

Thomas Oliphant was a columnist for The Boston Globe for more than forty years and is a New York Times bestselling author. He has been part of the "Baseball as a Road to God" seminar for years. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Peter J. Schwartz is a Bloomberg News contributor, former reporter at Forbes and legal fellow at NYU. He was the first student ever enrolled in the "Baseball as a Road to God" seminar. He lives in New York City.
 


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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  70 reviews
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling and Fun Case for Faith! March 7 2013
By Anthony Gellert - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is not another baseball trivia book, though at least a few of the references will surprise even the most die hard fan. (Learn the true origin(s) of the Seventh Inning Stretch.) Instead, it’s a very clever and very well written case for faith and its role in the human experience, with baseball as the vehicle. And New Yorkers will be especially pleased. There’s plenty about the Yankees, Mets, Giants, and Dodgers.

Sexton replaces the rigid doctrine of organized religion with stories of baseball, and the result is powerful. Was the sense of community surrounding the Brooklyn Dodgers that much different than the sense of community that a church, synagogue, or mosque seeks to create? Don’t the heroes and villains of baseball evoke the same reactions as the heroes and villains of scripture? Is the joy of a ballpark visit or a home team homerun much different from a “religious experience?”

Two parts of the book stood out the most for me. The first was the recounting of Kirk Gibson’s World Series homerun in 1988 for the Dodgers. Sexton points out that Tommy Lasorda had faith in the injured veteran…but had also thoroughly scouted the opposing pitcher, Dennis Eckersley. Faith is important but not all powerful. It compliments but does not replace hard work and preparation.

The second was Chapter (“Inning”) 4. There, Sexton discusses his own conversion from Dodger to Yankee fan (to help his son) and the conversion of other Dodger fans to other various teams. At first these stories sound like a lack of faith. (How could you possibly change teams?!?) But in these stories, he makes a strong case that faith is not rigid, but a living, morphing part of the human psyche.

Fun read. Great message.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grand slam combo of beauty of baseball and meaning of life March 31 2013
By MCR621 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Remarkable combination of entertaining baseball tales and lore with our search for meaning in our everyday lives -- on the one hand, a terrific sports book; on the other hand, a catalyst to think about more serious questions in a light and accessible manner.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart, Entertaining Read March 21 2013
By Eric B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a big baseball fan who isn't exactly a religious theologian, I enjoyed the mix of personal stories and baseball history with religious teachings. The book isn't the way to find God, but rather a way to look at the mysteries of faith in a different light. And hey, if you can do that with funny anecdotes about baseball encyclopedia limo drivers and the Brooklyn Dodgers, I'm all for it!
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars RICK "SHAQ" GOLDSTEIN SAYS: "INEFFABLE... INEFFABLE... YES... INEFFABLE... LINK OF BASEBALL TO G-D" March 20 2013
By Rick Shaq Goldstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author John Sexton is not only the president of New York University (NYU), but he also still teaches a full schedule which is almost unheard of. "More" importantly... he has an absolute lifelong love affair with baseball... as many of us do. Like the author, I was a kid in New York who grew up loving the Brooklyn Dodgers... though for both of us "loving" would not be a strong enough description. After a forward by another Brooklyn Dodger loving child from that exact time frame, Doris Kearns Goodwin, sets the stage for the premise of this book... the reader is transported back in time to the most beautiful... magical... exalted day... in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers... October 4, 1955... the day in infamy when it was no longer "WAIT-TILL-NEXT-YEAR" for Brooklyn's beloved "Bums" and their fans. The author shares a personal, humorous story of how he and his friend "Dougie" "knelt and prayed with all the intensity we could muster, grasping between us in dynamic tension each end of a twelve-inch crucifix we had removed from the wall." When young Johnny Podres got the last Yankee batter out and the unattainable "NEXT-YEAR" was the here and now... Dougie let go of the crucifix to throw his arms up in victory... "the laws of physics drove the head of Christ into the author's mouth chipping his front tooth"...

And thus starts the author's literary quest to link in every way imaginable... baseball and religion. Though the baseball stories throughout time... are lovingly shared by the author... and any old-time fan like me... will applaud the telling...but a believable broad brush bridge between the two is never effectively made in this reader's opinion.

Baseball miracles that range everywhere from the 1914 "miracle" Braves... to Willie Mays' miracle catch in the 1954 World Series... to Bill Mazeroski's walk-off 1960 World Series clinching homerun... to myriad other baseball "miracles" before during and after... and then the author tries to link them to the same platform as religious miracles... just doesn't hold credence. Additionally the author uses fictional writings and movies as "proof" such as the all-time classic movie "Field Of Dreams"... which is as much poetry as it is film. If you're really, sincerely, trying to prove something as important and spiritual as religion... I don't see the impact to the average reader in using fiction to cement a point.

One humorous sub-topic of religion that the author links... and it is quite amusing is *conversion*. On the baseball side I was raised in a family that loved the Dodgers like they were an actual part of our family... and you would rather go to your grave than ever root for the Giants or Yankees. The author felt the same way until after the Dodgers (and the Giants) left New York for California... then the author says he had to make a decision for the benefit of his son... so they could share the love and fraternity of a team together. So the author "converted" to being a Yankee fan for the sake of his son. (Note: four generations of my family would turn over in their graves... and the two most recent generations are still alive) What's hilarious... to the gentile author... as well as the reader... is that his baptized son converted to Judaism and was Bar Mitzvahed, "he is Jewish today, the faith of my wife, our daughter, our daughter-in-law, and our three granddaughters."

Despite my "belief" that the goal stated in the title wasn't met... I still want to recommend this book highly to anyone that loves the game AND the history of baseball. The author lovingly and with the wide sweeping literary flair that you'd expect from the learned president of such a prestigious university as NYU will definitely entertain you.

One final note: I would venture to bet that there has never been a book written in history that uses the word *ineffable* more than this book. I am not joking. In fact this book uses *ineffable* so many times... that this book is probably also the book with the second most uses of this word.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ode to baseball Sept. 5 2013
By lindapanzo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Besides attending 15-20 ballgames every year for the past 40+ years and watching at least one game--and sometimes two or three--virtually every day during the season, I also typically read at least a dozen baseball books per year, sometimes more. This is my favorite baseball book for this year, and, indeed, probably for the recent past. Be forewarned, however. It's not a light read. While the author writes beautifully, at times his writing style is a bit too academic for most readers. It's a book to be read in small doses, and savored.

The author, who is the president of NYU and who teaches a course on the subject of baseball as a road to God, writes about both baseball and religion. Many of the elements associated with baseball, faith, doubt, conversion, and miracles, just to name a few, are also elements associated with the religious experience. This book, which presents many of these common elements in innings, as in a 9-inning ballgame, explains how baseball evokes the essence of religion. Nonetheless, the author admits that, for many people, baseball is not only not THE road to God, it's not even A road to God.

If you're a numbers cruncher type of baseball fan, you may not enjoy this book, which speaks more towards a loftier view of baseball, the meaning of the game. But if, you're a baseball fan, like me, who loves to see the beauty and majesty of the game, someone who loves to see the big picture, you'll probably love this book.

If you love to read about baseball, you'll probably love the appendix, which provides a long list of books and articles assigned for the author's NYU course over the years. Lots of baseball books to add to the wishlist.

I have a few minor gripes with this book. Sometimes, the book is a bit too academic for me. How many times can one author use the word "ineffable," for instance? The St Louis Cardinals do not play Meet Me in St Louis during the 7th inning stretch (though they do play it before the game), and, instead, play the Budweiser Clydesdale Song after the 7th inning. In the big picture, however, these are minor details to an otherwise outstanding book. Very highly recommended!!

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