God of the Bunt
April 10, 2015
by Megan Castellan
This is part of an interview with Buck O’Neil, where he talks about the founding of the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame museum, and why he thought it was so important. If you have trouble viewing the video, click here to open a new page.
I really like baseball (also soccer, but we’re not talking about that right now.)
Ergo, one of the things that delighted me upon moving to Kansas City was visiting the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame. The Negro Leagues were founded right here, in the 1920s, because Black players were forbidden, by virtue of a tacit agreement, from playing in the major leagues. So, they created their own. And players like Satchel Paige, ‘Cool Papa’ Bell, and Joshua Gibson played the game better than anyone else has ever played it.
Because the leagues were segregated until the 1950s, the styles of play developed differently in the different leagues. The MLB came to rely more and more on power hitting—slam the ball into next week, and then you don’t have to worry so much about how fast you can run. No one ever accused Babe Ruth of being speedy, but he was a famous home run hitter.
In the Negro Leagues, especially among the reigning Kansas City Monarchs, they played differently. Buck O’Neill, the spiritual father of baseball in Kansas City and founder of the museum, observed, “At the time, [Major League] baseball was a base-to-base thing. You hit the ball, you wait on base until somebody hit again…but in our baseball, if you walked to first, you stole second, they’d bunt you over to third, and you stole home…actually scored runs without a hit. This was our baseball.”
This second, raucous style of play is really fun to watch, but it doesn’t happen that often in professional sports. Perhaps it’s because there’s some glorified idea of being the hero, who can score a run all by yourself, or perhaps there’s some sense of shame around being out, left over from childhood, but it turns out that professional, extraordinarily highly paid athletes don’t want to fail publicly. Even for a good purpose. Even to help their teammates.
There is for us non-baseball playing folk, I think, a similar all-encompassing drive towards perfection. Yet God doesn’t need us to be perfect all the time—indeed, even risen again from the dead, Christ had the wounds still on his hands and his feet. Perfection is not what God asks of us, nor what God created us to be. Imperfection–creative failure—is more often how God works through the world. Through Moses’ lisp, to the prophets’ reluctance, to that twist where Jesus was betrayed and crucified.
God works through bunts and sacrifice pop-ups.
What’s one thing that you can bravely allow to remain imperfect today? If you’re really brave, share it on social media. #holyimperfect