Baseball and Grace


I don't like seeing my two youngest grandchildren fight.  It is usually over silly things and one usually gets hurt. But, it is almost always revealing of our human struggle.


"Why did you hit her?" shouts their Mom.


"It's not fair! Those are my water goggles and she took them. You always side with her.  It's not fair," screams my disgruntled grandson.


Something in us wants to believe we will be special, and life will be fair.  We want it both ways-special and equal!  What an irony!


Jesus told parables about this conundrum. The story of the prodigal son and his elder brother, Luke 15: 11-32, is the best known. Then there is the parable of the vineyard workers, Matthew 20: 1-16, which often leaves us fairness-folks befuddled. The vineyard's owner pays the same wage to those he hired for a partial day of labor as he does to those who worked the full day.  It's not fair!  Why do they get special treatment when we worked the long, hot day and they did not?


We aren't eager to confess it but, for the same reasons, we are very uneasy with death bed confessions that lead to forgiveness.


Once again, this issue is before us when we least expect it. We don't start reading a baseball tale and anticipate a parable of end-of-life-confession-and-forgiveness. So who else but the master storyteller, John Grisham, would dare to blend baseball and forgiveness, to challenge our disquieted side?


Calico Joe is so simple, so direct, so disturbing, so confronting as to haunt our sleep. There is a pitcher whose best years are behind him, if he ever had any good years.  He is an alcoholic, philandering, self-absorbed, abuser who abandons his wife and children. There is a young, rising star who is brilliant at batting, fielding and base-running. This phenom has only been in the big leagues a few weeks when the jealous, nasty pitcher hurls a pitch at his head, nearly killing him.  The young man is blinded, never to play another game. The old pitcher hangs on to his lie of innocence for thirty years. We cry for the young man.  We want to hate the old pitcher.


Suddenly, we are back to our childhood and our life-long question of specialness and fairness.  Is it fair for such an evil man to make a death bed confession and receive forgiveness?  Those of us who are like the older brother or the laborer who toiled the long day are not going to sit easily with the possibility.


Oh, John Grisham, you devilish provocateur-you blend our great national game of baseball with evil, innocence, revenge and outrageous Grace!  Is that really fair?


Benjamin Pratt