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Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game Hardcover


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Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game + And God Said Play Ball: Amusing and Thought-provoking Parallels Between the Bible and Baseball + Crossing Home: The Spiritual Lessons of Baseball
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; 2.5.2013 edition (March 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592407544
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592407545
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

I see great things in baseball, Walt Whitman rhapsodized in 1846. A century and a half later, Sexton and his collaborators see such great things in the game that they look to it for spiritual enlightenment. Readers learn how such enlightenment comes to fans in sacred places such as Wrigley and Forbes Fields, during rituals such as Opening Day and the seventh-inning stretch, through saints such as Christy Mathewson and Roberto Clemente, and by means of miracles such as The Catch made by Willie Mays and the perfect game thrown in the World Series by Don Larsen. To be sure, Sexton acknowledges that baseball has had its sinners, including Ty Cobb and Pete Rose. He further concedes that some great baseball stars, including Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, have actually stayed away from the diamond to honor religious commitments. But because of the way its timeless rhythms foster serious reflection, Sexton still evangelizes for baseball as an underappreciated wellspring of faith. A surprisingly profound new look at America’s national pastime. --Bryce Christensen

Review

Praise for Baseball as a Road to God

“In the church of baseball, John Sexton is one of the preeminent theologians.”
—Bill Moyers in an interview with John Sexton on Bill Moyers Journal
 
“This book takes the reader on a remarkable spiritual journey, using the secular sport of baseball to explore subjects ordinarily associated with religion—prayers, altars, sacred space, faith, doubt, conversion, miracles, blessings, curses, saints and sinners. There is magic in these pages.”
—Doris Kerns Goodwin, from the foreword
 
“ . . .a thought-provoking proposition for zealots and skeptics alike.”
Publishers Weekly
 
“An elegant little meditation on life and the afterlife, well worth reading . . .”
Kirkus Reviews

"John Sexton has written beautifully about the magic of baseball: its near irresistible appeal, its legends, its breathtaking moments of drama, its heroes and villians. He has also written with great insight about the intense-felt character of religious perception. And he has—dare I say it?—woven the two together miraculously."
—Ronald Dworkin, author of Law's Empire and the recipient of philosophy's prestigious Holberg International Memorial Prize

"Baseball as a Road to God is both a wonderful collection of delightful baseball stories that allows the reader to relive the moments of joy, despair, anxiety, and inspiration, and a meditation demonstrating that baseball is rife with the profound and complex elements that constitute religion. The stories reflect a love of baseball and call upon us all to live slow and notice, illustrating the availability of a joyful, spiritual life."
—Governor Mario Cuomo

"Baseball as a Road to God illuminates baseball as you've never experienced or thought about it before. John Sexton has given us nine 'innings' of lively stories and insights that take our national pastime far, far beyond the playing field. He has pitched a perfect game!"
—Arthur R. Miller, professor of law and resident scholar at Good Morning America for more than two decades

"John Sexton's book, Baseball as a Road to God, provides a thoughtful and intriguing examination of the connection between baseball and religion. In this wonderful book, John navigates in clear language the complex questions linking faith and America's favorite pastime. Using his parlance, this book is a home run."
—Rachel Robinson, founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation

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Customer Reviews

A very easy read.
drdavid
This is my favorite baseball book for this year, and, indeed, probably for the recent past.
lindapanzo
This is one of the most interesting books that I have read in a while.
Wade Steen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Gellert on March 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is not another baseball trivia book, though at least a few of the references will surprise even the most die hard fan. (Learn the true origin(s) of the Seventh Inning Stretch.) Instead, it’s a very clever and very well written case for faith and its role in the human experience, with baseball as the vehicle. And New Yorkers will be especially pleased. There’s plenty about the Yankees, Mets, Giants, and Dodgers.

Sexton replaces the rigid doctrine of organized religion with stories of baseball, and the result is powerful. Was the sense of community surrounding the Brooklyn Dodgers that much different than the sense of community that a church, synagogue, or mosque seeks to create? Don’t the heroes and villains of baseball evoke the same reactions as the heroes and villains of scripture? Is the joy of a ballpark visit or a home team homerun much different from a “religious experience?”

Two parts of the book stood out the most for me. The first was the recounting of Kirk Gibson’s World Series homerun in 1988 for the Dodgers. Sexton points out that Tommy Lasorda had faith in the injured veteran…but had also thoroughly scouted the opposing pitcher, Dennis Eckersley. Faith is important but not all powerful. It compliments but does not replace hard work and preparation.

The second was Chapter (“Inning”) 4. There, Sexton discusses his own conversion from Dodger to Yankee fan (to help his son) and the conversion of other Dodger fans to other various teams. At first these stories sound like a lack of faith. (How could you possibly change teams?!?) But in these stories, he makes a strong case that faith is not rigid, but a living, morphing part of the human psyche.

Fun read. Great message.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By MCR621 on March 31, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Remarkable combination of entertaining baseball tales and lore with our search for meaning in our everyday lives -- on the one hand, a terrific sports book; on the other hand, a catalyst to think about more serious questions in a light and accessible manner.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eric B. on March 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As a big baseball fan who isn't exactly a religious theologian, I enjoyed the mix of personal stories and baseball history with religious teachings. The book isn't the way to find God, but rather a way to look at the mysteries of faith in a different light. And hey, if you can do that with funny anecdotes about baseball encyclopedia limo drivers and the Brooklyn Dodgers, I'm all for it!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author John Sexton is not only the president of New York University (NYU), but he also still teaches a full schedule which is almost unheard of. "More" importantly... he has an absolute lifelong love affair with baseball... as many of us do. Like the author, I was a kid in New York who grew up loving the Brooklyn Dodgers... though for both of us "loving" would not be a strong enough description. After a forward by another Brooklyn Dodger loving child from that exact time frame, Doris Kearns Goodwin, sets the stage for the premise of this book... the reader is transported back in time to the most beautiful... magical... exalted day... in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers... October 4, 1955... the day in infamy when it was no longer "WAIT-TILL-NEXT-YEAR" for Brooklyn's beloved "Bums" and their fans. The author shares a personal, humorous story of how he and his friend "Dougie" "knelt and prayed with all the intensity we could muster, grasping between us in dynamic tension each end of a twelve-inch crucifix we had removed from the wall." When young Johnny Podres got the last Yankee batter out and the unattainable "NEXT-YEAR" was the here and now... Dougie let go of the crucifix to throw his arms up in victory... "the laws of physics drove the head of Christ into the author's mouth chipping his front tooth"...

And thus starts the author's literary quest to link in every way imaginable... baseball and religion. Though the baseball stories throughout time... are lovingly shared by the author... and any old-time fan like me... will applaud the telling...but a believable broad brush bridge between the two is never effectively made in this reader's opinion.

Baseball miracles that range everywhere from the 1914 "miracle" Braves...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By lindapanzo on September 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Besides attending 15-20 ballgames every year for the past 40+ years and watching at least one game--and sometimes two or three--virtually every day during the season, I also typically read at least a dozen baseball books per year, sometimes more. This is my favorite baseball book for this year, and, indeed, probably for the recent past. Be forewarned, however. It's not a light read. While the author writes beautifully, at times his writing style is a bit too academic for most readers. It's a book to be read in small doses, and savored.

The author, who is the president of NYU and who teaches a course on the subject of baseball as a road to God, writes about both baseball and religion. Many of the elements associated with baseball, faith, doubt, conversion, and miracles, just to name a few, are also elements associated with the religious experience. This book, which presents many of these common elements in innings, as in a 9-inning ballgame, explains how baseball evokes the essence of religion. Nonetheless, the author admits that, for many people, baseball is not only not THE road to God, it's not even A road to God.

If you're a numbers cruncher type of baseball fan, you may not enjoy this book, which speaks more towards a loftier view of baseball, the meaning of the game. But if, you're a baseball fan, like me, who loves to see the beauty and majesty of the game, someone who loves to see the big picture, you'll probably love this book.

If you love to read about baseball, you'll probably love the appendix, which provides a long list of books and articles assigned for the author's NYU course over the years. Lots of baseball books to add to the wishlist.

I have a few minor gripes with this book. Sometimes, the book is a bit too academic for me.
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