The Dodger Betrayal

As the daughter of a Dodgers minor-league team owner and the wife of a former Dodgers player, the team is in my blood. Yet as a Catholic I now find myself humiliated by their anti-Catholicism.

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The decision by the Los Angeles Dodgers organization to honor the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence”—a gay-advocacy group that has spent the last four decades denigrating Catholics by dressing as lewd nuns—may not have been intentionally designed to humiliate Catholics, but it certainly has had that effect. It is clear that the Dodger organization no longer cares about how Catholics might feel about the decision to honor a group that mocks and ridicules them in the most wicked ways.  

While they claim to be satirical in their motto “Go and sin some more,” the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s satire fails in their blasphemous statements mocking the “real” Catholic sisters who have selflessly given their lives to Christ.  

If I seem to be taking this humiliation personally, I guess I am. As the daughter of one of the owners of the “Waterbury, Connecticut, Dodgers”—one of the storied Double-A teams of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Eastern League back in the 1970s—I can remember when the Dodgers cared very much about Catholics. In fact, I married one of the [Catholic] members of one of those Double-A Los Angeles Dodger teams nearly 50 years ago.

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We have always admired the Los Angeles Dodgers and Walter O’Malley, the faithful Catholic owner of the Dodgers from 1950 until 1979. Mr. O’Malley credited his Catholic faith for his success in the westward expansion of baseball in 1958 and for helping to design, build, and privately finance Dodger Stadium, which opened on April 10, 1962. Under his leadership—and inspired by his faith in God—O’Malley led the team to four World Championships and 11 National League pennants.   

According to The Angelus, the Catholic newspaper of Los Angeles, Walter O’Malley credited his Catholic faith for his success. Named “Brooklyn’s Catholic Man of the Year” in 1952, O’Malley was a daily Mass attender. In celebrating the 1955 World Championship, O’Malley sent a note—and a signed game ball—to Archbishop Patrick A. O’Boyle, in Washington, D.C., to thank him for being on “our team.”   

When Gil Hodges scored the winning run in the 12th inning to give the Dodgers a 6-5 playoff over the Milwaukee Braves and their first National League pennant in Los Angeles, Walter O’Malley and his wife, Kay, went to give thanks at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church, a short distance from the Coliseum. O’Malley said: “The team was battered and bruised, but our boys had their chins out today…that’s why we stopped at St. Vincent’s. Many people have their own way of giving thanks…It’s largely a matter of personal training and belief.”  

Walter and Kay O’Malley were faithful Catholics throughout their tenure leading the Dodgers. Kay O’Malley founded the annual Memorial Catholic Mass at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida, to commemorate those individuals who worked or were guests there through the years and are remembered by name each spring. Their Catholic witness was shared by a long list of Catholic players—including, most notably, Hall of Famers Gil Hodges and Vin Scully.   

Gil Hodges never missed Sunday Mass. Even when he was on the road, he often was seen praying his Rosary before a game. A member of the Knights of Columbus, Hodges volunteered to give up his baseball career to serve his country in World War II as an anti-aircraft gunner in Okinawa. He earned a Bronze Star Medal with Combat V for heroism under fire. 

When he returned to the major leagues in 1947, he became close friends with Jackie Robinson, who had just broken the color barrier in major league baseball. According to a documentary about his life, when Hodges died in 1972, Robinson told Gil Hodges Jr. that “next to my son’s death, this is the worst day of my life.”

Hodges knew that faithful Catholics are taught to humble themselves. The selflessness displayed by Hodges, Scully, and O’Malley are characteristic of the faithful Catholics that today’s Los Angeles Dodgers’ ownership intends to humiliate on June 16th. And despite the despicable decision by the current ownership, the selfless Catholic legacy continues to be seen in some of the more courageous Catholic Los Angeles Dodger players, like Blake Treinan who refused to remain silent in light of the humiliation that the Dodgers have inflicted on Catholics.    The selflessness displayed by Hodges, Scully, and O’Malley are characteristic of the faithful Catholics that today’s Los Angeles Dodgers’ ownership intends to humiliate on June 16th.Tweet This

Mark Walter, the current owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, likely knows nothing of this Catholic legacy as he continues to live off the Catholic Capital that Hodges, Scully, and the O’Malley family accrued for him. As the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, Mark Walter parlayed his brilliant business acumen into a “federation of businesses” that includes the Los Angeles Dodgers as just one more asset to eventually sell to the highest bidder. Hedging his bets, Mark Walter must have figured that humiliating Catholics is a small price to pay for the benefit of pleasing the elite Pride Night celebrants.

Catholics have indeed been humiliated by this decision by the Dodgers. We have been humbled. And in some ways, that can be a blessing because it tells us exactly what organizations like the Los Angeles Dodgers’ current ownership think of us—and what we need to do about it. 

Author

  • Anne Hendershott

    Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. She is the author of The Politics of Envy (Crisis Publications, 2020).

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