Legendary Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers baseball broadcaster Vin Scully will broadcast his final game on October 2, 2016, when the Dodgers play their final regular season game against the Giants in San Francisco.
Scully has broadcast for the Dodgers for 67 consecutive seasons, even making the cross-country switch with the team from Brooklyn, New York to sunny Los Angeles, California, which is the record for the longest time any broadcaster has been with a single team- not just in professional baseball history, but in professional sports history.
Scully has called some of baseball’s greatest moments including broadcasting 25 World Series, 12 All-Star Games, 20 No-Hitters, and 3 perfect games, among others. But did you also know he’s Catholic?
He attends mass every Sunday- at Dodger Stadium when preparing for broadcast- and openly credits his Catholic faith with getting him through some of the darkest times in his life: the death of his first wife by accidental overdose and the death of his son by helicopter crash. He even lent his voice to narrate the Rosary on CD and digital download for Catholic Athletes for Christ.
With one of the all-time greats (maybe the great) retiring to spend the rest of his days squeezing the juice out of life with his wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and since he’s Catholic, here are other baseball players you may not have known were Catholic:
1. Babe Ruth
The Great Bambino! The Sultan of Swat! He is widely regarded as the greatest baseball player of all time and is most remembered for his time with the New York Yankees, though he debuted with the Boston Red Sox and also played for the Boston Braves. Ruth was sent at age 7 to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore, Maryland where he learned about the faith and life skills, and where he was taught to play baseball well by Brother Matthias. He later became a Knight of Columbus and donated much money back to St. Mary’s, and also visited many orphanages, hospitals, and schools throughout his life.
2. Mike Piazza
A catcher who played most notably for the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, Piazza has also played for the Oakland Athletics, Florida Marlins, and San Diego Padres. He has been called the greatest hitting catcher of all time. Piazza was featured in the DVD documentary Champions of Faith and its follow-up Champions of Faith: Bases of Life, which explored the intersection of Catholic faith and sports.
3. Tommy Lasorda
Tommy was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and has been with the organization in one capacity or another for 68 non-continuous seasons (he played one season for the Kansas City Royals) which is the longest in the club’s history, edging out fellow Catholic Vin Scully by one season. Lasorda is godfather to Thomas Piazza, younger brother of Mike Piazza, and also to Chicago White Sox catcher Alex Avila whose middle name Thomas is in honor of him. On his faith, he was once quoted as saying, “I like being a Catholic because of the faith. The faith is very true. I was taught by the sisters for my first eight years of school and they not only taught me religion, they taught me so many other facets of life.”
4. Willie Bloomquist
Although primarily a shortstop and outfielder during his career, Bloomquist played ever position at some point, except pitcher and catcher. Bloomquist played for the Seattle Mariners, with stints playing for the Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, and Arizona Diamondbacks. He gives God thanks for his abilities and offers them back to the Lord: “Before I play, I take a few minutes to give thanks to Jesus. He knows my heart, and selfishly I want to play well in the end, I ask Him to use my abilities to the best of my abilities.”
5. Justin De Fratus
De Fratus made his MLB debut in 2011 with the Philadelphia Phillies as a relief pitcher, then played one season with the Seattle Mariners, and was just traded to the Texas Rangers. He struggled with his faith early in his career, noting that it was hard to find other Catholic athletes and that many of the small towns that housed minor league teams didn’t have any Catholic churches. After sustaining an injury, he found that the Catholic faith gave him the strength to get through it, realizing that God was giving him another chance to continue to grow as a player…and a person. De Fratus hopes to go to seminary after his baseball career.
6. Matt Moore
Moore is a pitcher who made his debut with the Tampa Bay Rays and currently plays for the San Francisco Giants. Moore has a tattoo of St. Michael the Archangel on his left shoulder, who he took as his confirmation saint. Moore says that St. Michael reminds him of baseball because he is the patron saint of battle and that it’s a battle on the field, but it’s also a battle in life.
7. Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola
Berra and Garagiola grew up across the street (Elizabeth Street, to be precise) from each other in the Italian-American neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri called The Hill and were lifelong friends and competitors. Both were catchers, though Berra had a Hall of Fame career, and Garagiola once said of Berra’s ability, “Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn’t even the best catcher on my street!” Garagiola played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and New York Giants, while Berra played for the New York Yankees and New York Mets and went on to manage and coach both of his former teams, and, additionally, coached the Houston Astros for a few seasons.
Both attended South Side Catholic School (now St. Mary’s High School) in St. Louis. Garagiola died on March 23, 2016 and his services were held at the same place he was baptized- St. Ambrose Catholic Church in St. Louis. Berra died on September 22, 2015, 69 years to the day after his MLB debut.
8. Andre Ethier
Ethier is an outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers and in 2009, earned the nickname “Captain Clutch” after accruing six walk-off hits (four of which were walk-off home runs), which is the most by any player in the Major Leagues since 1974. He also hit three home runs, that season, in a game against the Seattle Mariners and drove in a career-high six runs in one game. Ethier is a practicing Catholic who doesn’t hide his faith, noting that it has shaped him into the man he is and that “to shun away from that just because you’re supposed to be more vanilla in certain areas, it wouldn’t be me. I’m always trying to portray myself as who I really am, so that’s definitely part of me — the faith part.”
9. Jeff Suppan
Suppan is a pitcher who played for 17 season in the MLB, playing for the Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, and San Diego Padres. In 2006, he won the World Series as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and was named the National League Championship Series MVP. Suppan appeared on the DVD Champions of Faith and is also an active member of Catholic Athletes for Christ. He also helps out with the baseball program at his former high school- Crespi Carmelite in Encino, California. Suppan has said that the best advice he can give for maintaining and furthering the spiritual life is continual, daily prayer and to get an orthodox spiritual director.
10. Mike Sweeney
Sweeney was a first baseman and also played catcher for a short while. He made his Major League debut with the Kansas City Royals and has also played for the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, and Philadelphia Phillies and has played in five All-Star games. When his family had to evacuate their home due to San Diego fires, he said they grabbed their marriage certificate, three wedding photographs, everyone’s birth certificates, and two pictures of their children with Pope Emeritus Benedict for safe keeping. Sweeney has appeared on EWTN’s Life on the Rock and in a political ad opposing the embryonic stem cell research bill in Missouri. He is also the advisory chairman of Catholic Athletes for Christ and a spokesman for Life Teen. In 2007, he and his wife hosted Lunch for Life and raised money for crisis pregnancy centers throughout Kansas City.