Though I like sports in general, my favorite sport is Major League Baseball. I’ve been a die-hard Atlanta Braves fan my entire life. My all-time favorite baseball player is Dale Murphy (pictured to the right). “Murph” is a class act who, alas, has been denied acceptance into the Hall of Fame. I’ve also loved many other Braves such as Chipper Jones, Terry Pendleton, Andres Galarraga, Ron Gant, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine. Some other non-Braves favorites include Cal Ripken Jr., Will Clark, Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Dennis Eckersley, Andres Dawson, George Brett, Orel Hershiser, and Don Mattingly. (You can tell by the list that I came of age from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.)
One of the great things about baseball is the quality of writing it has inspired. Few would argue that many of the best sports-related essays ever written were dedicated to our National Pastime. Every spring, I read several baseball essays to help me relish the beginning of the season. Many of them are (ahem) religious reflections on baseball. I thought I’d recommend some of my favorites to you.
John Updike, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” (perhaps the most famous baseball essay ever, written on the occasion of Ted Williams’s retirement in 1960)
Lewis Grizzard, “The Boys of Summer Go Under the Dome” (a humorous reflection on the Braves’ heartbreaking loss to the Twins during the 1991 World Series)
David Bentley Hart, “A Perfect Game” (you have to love an essay by an Eastern Orthodox theologian with the subtitle “The Metaphysical Meaning of Baseball”)
Joseph Sobran, “The Republic of Baseball” (first written in 1990, recently republished in The American Conservative)
Kevin DeYoung, “Our National Pastime” (this one was actually published this year by one of the more insightful writers among contemporary evangelicals)
My fellow Southern Baptist and baseball lover David Prince has written several baseball-themed essays for Baptist Press. You can read his most recent (on the new Jackie Robinson movie) and check out the links to his previous essays in the right sidebar.
I would also add, as a general rule, Rick Reilly’s essays about sports are hard to beat–including his essays on baseball.
Conservative columnist George Will has also written some great essays about baseball, alongside a couple of books (the latter of which, I confess, I still need to read).