In his book titled, Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game, John Sexton makes his case that both faith and doubt are at the core of religion and baseball.
Among his many stories that reveal the connections between the joys of loving baseball and joyful spiritual life, Prof. Sexton, who served as the fifteenth President of New York University, from 2002 to 2015, and is a Boston Red Sox fan, tells of the years of struggle and doubt between team championships and the toll it took on the Red Sox fans.
Founded in 1901, the Red Sox were among the American League’s eight charter franchises. Between 1903 and 1913, they won five World Series championships. Then they suffered through one of the longest championship droughts in baseball history, waiting 86 years — a long time in the wilderness — before winning the team’s sixth World Championship in 2004.
Prof. Sexton writes that for years, Red Sox fans were consumed with doubt and darkness. Grasping for understanding, some fans even believed they were cursed because they sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920! Even the players shared “the institutional memory” of losing seasons. Doubt, confusion, disbelief were rampant.
Then, in 2004, a miraculous comeback against the Yankees changed everything. Down three games to one in the best of seven series, the Red Sox players decided to believe in themselves. Casting out their demons, the team played like high-spirited, fun-loving, confident boys, enjoying every minute of the game. They even converted their fans into believers, which redoubled their own strength. Against all odds, they beat the Yankees.
The Red Sox went on to win the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals that year. Logic suggests that Boston won the World Series because it had better pitching than St. Louis. However, Prof. Sexton maintains that casting off doubt and embracing faith is a far more interesting explanation.
Since their “conversion,” the Red Sox have won two more World Series.