VATICAN CITY. In a break from long-standing tradition, Pope Francis I yesterday forgave fans of American League baseball teams in his weekly address from St. Peters, saying it was time to end the policy that barred them from the Roman Catholic church because of their belief in the designated hitter rule.
“While we continue to believe the rule is dogmatically erroneous, we welcome fans of both leagues to our churches, and hope they will drop something in the long-handled baskets at collection time,” the Pope said as he washed the feet of representatives from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit, the cities whose teams made up the original American League. “Also, be sure to stop in the vestibule gift shop for great deals on holy cards and glow-in-the-dark statues during our Spring Fling Blow-Out Sale.”
The designated hitter was adopted by the American League in 1973 when Joe Cronin, the league’s president from Boston, nailed a list of theses on the door of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s Ridgewood, New Jersey home. Number one was “Pitchers are poor hitters, and fans do not like to watch them flail at pitches as if they are trying to swat a butterfly with a banjo.” Number two was “There are only so many aging overweight players who can play first base. We must do something to let them end their careers with dignity.”
Vatican observers believe the Pope’s change of heart is designed to give a boost to Edgar Martinez, the former Seattle Mariner who first became eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, but who has failed to attract the necessary support because of the widely-held view that, despite impressive batting numbers, he was a one-dimensional player because he spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter. “I do not know why we should discriminate against people because they are one-dimensional,” the Pope said to the throngs assembled beneath his balcony in St. Peter’s Square. “We’ve got three, maybe four dimensions, everybody’s got to live in one of them.”
The Pope’s address will be circulated in written form to Catholic churches around the world in the form of an encyclical, De Moris Ecfatus Hitter Imperium.