Friday, December 14, 2007

The *

After bringing peace to Northern Ireland, and trying to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which proved a tough order even for him, former Sen. George Mitchell, has turned his talent for straightening things out to baseball’s steroid mess. The Mitchell Report tried to lay blame where it was deserved (everywhere) and named numerous names, of which the most prominent was the ex-Yankee Roger Clemens, and the current Yankee, Andy Pettite, along with a parcel of other Yankees, in part because a former Yankee trainer was one of the few people who spoke on the record about steroid abuse.

It’s a dispiriting report, because it is probably the tip of the iceberg in terms of the real problem with steroid use, and it has already implicated the best hitter of the recent era of baseball (Barry Bonds) and the best pitcher (Clemens. ) During Bonds's recent pursuit of Henry Aaron’s home run record, it was widely suggested that his home run record deserved to be asterisked, that is to say, in some ways noted as not being the "real" record. And today a parcel of Mets fans are suggesting, given the 14 Yankees named in the Mitchell report, that the Yankee victory in the 2000 subway series be similarly asterisked. By this logic, it is a short step to one giant asterisk being placed on all baseball records and results from about 1990 to the present

The asterisk as a term of baseball art was coined in 1961, the year major league baseball went from a 154 to a 162 game season, and the year Roger Maris challenged and beat Babe Ruth’s old record of 60 home runs in a season. If, Frick, ruled, it took Maris more than 154 games to beat Ruth’s record, it would be in its own category. (It never officially had an asterisk.) Maris broke Ruth’s record in the 162nd game of the season, and the metaphorical asterisk was applied. It was a grossly unfair ruling—no one came close to Maris’s record in 30 years of 162-game seasons until the steroid cases of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds broke Maris’s record in the late 1990s. (And of course Maris supporters now argue that he alone has the unasterisked record.)

Anyway, it’s an interesting historical devise, the asterisk, to be applied whenever a result is achieved through unfair or illegitimate means. To give one example of this might work, at least until 1968, the first presidential election after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, all presidential elections systematically excluded a large percentage of Americans from voting. All the presidents from Washington to Johnson should be asterisked, and Richard Nixon becomes the first real president, the father of his country.

The closest analogy to the baseball asterisk I know of is the Roman Catholic notion of the antipope, a pope who is deemed not to have been canonically elected, and is kept off the official list of popes. In the past 2000 years, there have been about 266 popes and about 30 antipopes. In recent years, since the ascension of Pope John XXIII in 1958 there have a number of conservative critics of Vatican II who have argued that there have been no real popes since the death of Pius XII, but on various technical grounds, only antipopes, while the See of Rome remains vacant. This is a doctrine known as sedevacantism, and like the baseball asterisk, it might have uses outside its original use. Whatever you say about American presidents through Nixon, there is no doubt that the person who claimed victory in the 2000 election was elected irregularly, and confirmed by a biased court. According to sedevacantist doctrine, once irregularly put in office,the illegitimacy continues throughout his tenure. George W. Bush has been an anti-president, and since Jan 20, 2001, the White House has been empty.

But of course the problem with the asterisk and sedevacantism is that history is not concerned with fairness, and that if human history were limited to contests and conflicts that were fairly decided, without bias or prejudice, historians would soon find themselves with nothing and no one to study. There is no record book that we can change to reflect our sense of what should have happened, but didn’t, no Hall of Fame from which to exclude cheaters. History is what it is, or what it was. We can’t change it, though I have long thought that studying history is a very poor substitute for what we really want to do, to change it, and be the assassin who gunned down Hitler, or to tell Julius Caesar to get out of Rome for a March vacation. As Santayana said, those who can’t change history are condemned to live it, or something like that, and the steroid scandal is history at its messiest and most complex, and no amount of burnishing the record book with asterisks will be able to change what actually happened.


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Anonymous said...

Hello there,

I am glad to meet you. I was recently introduced to the Traditionalist Catholic Faith through a boyfriend that I dated (although he just left the Church to join an Eastern Orthodox Community where he was attending Mass). Previously, I was in the New Vatican II Mass Church, and I have left that for now, but, I do have trouble understanding the various differences and factions within the so-called Traditionalist Movement. I have been moving around place to place trying to find true Catholicism. But, I notice more or less each group is in imperfect communion with the other, like Lefebvrists, Sedevacantists, Old Catholics, the Feeneyites, and Thucites, and this group and that group - you name it. All claim they are Catholic, some fight with each other, but more or less you can have communion in both sects at the same time. Ain't that so? Well that troubles my virgin conscience. So I have been praying daily for enlightenment, and I think God and his Virgin Mother has finally answered me. Now, as I was browsing around, I read about this Hot Topic Book being pumped up as a New Top Seller right now, and interesting enough it bears a Latin Title called "Communicatio in Sacris: The Roman Catholic Church against Intercommunion of non-Catholics" by Mr. William J. DeTucci (a seemingly unknown author). You can browse it here:

and also here:

This book seems very authoritative from what I browsed online and I would be very interested to know your theological review of this book as far as its scholarship and academic honesty. The reason I thought you could help me is because I look upon your greater experience and high moral character in the Traditionalist Movement as awe-inspiring compared to my neophyte role right now. Secondly, I am personally struggling with my faith as my ex left me (who I still love) to fully join the Orthodox (after I tried desperately to bring him out of there to at least the Indult Latin Mass). So I have a major stake in this battle, you see. And so I would appreciate any tips or referrals to a book review about Mr. DeTucci's Work, this book could be what it claims "A Monument of the Catholic Faith." And I do plan to send my ex a copy, and also some other friends and family for Christmas gifts, if it is what it seems. So, again, any knowledge you could share about this work is simply "muy bien."

Graciously in the Holy Family,

Rosa Luz

P.S. Mr. DeTucci's, has an interesting video documentary on it featuring that Jewish Snake Michael "Marano" McDimond (my ex use to talk to him for hours and it was through him that he went outside the Catholic Church to frequent these Greek Liturgies and eventually lose the Faith), but I thought that so-called Benedictine Monk claimed to be a Sedevacantist? Well, I watched that video and he seems to contradict himself. Muy loco! You can watch it (it also talks about the Old Catholic Group CMRI (La Iglesia Catolica Vieja) and Deacon Andre Marie of the St. Benedict Center who seems to be a Freemason, here you go: