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Flying Dutchman, high-flying nuns

October 27, 2010

My favorite baseball story of the day has nothing to do with the World Series (though, for the record, I’m shelving my traditional loyalty to the Senior Circuit and rooting for the Rangers; the stench of Bonds and Kent is too recent for me to send any positive energy in the direction of the Giants). My favorite baseball story of the day is the one about the Sisters of Notre Dame and the Honus Wagner card that just fell into their holy laps.

The Roman Catholic nuns are auctioning off the card, which despite its poor condition is expected to fetch between $150,000 and $200,000. The proceeds will go to their ministries in 35 countries around the world….

The brother of a nun who died in 1999 left all his possessions to the order when he died earlier this year. The man’s lawyer told Muller he had a Honus Wagner card in a safe-deposit box.

When they opened the box, they found the card, with a typewritten note: “Although damaged, the value of this baseball card should increase exponentially throughout the 21st century!”

The card was unknown to the sports-memorabilia marketplace because the nuns’ benefactor had owned it since 1936.

The Sisters of Notre Dame don’t have a history of baseball fandom; Sister Virginia Muller, the lone nun quoted in the article, confesses that she’d never heard of Honus Wagner before. To be fair, even most baseball fans probably know Wagner better as “the guy on that really valuable baseball card” than as one of the greatest shortstops ever to play the game—one who hit .328 lifetime, won eight batting titles, by all accounts fielded his position better than anyone else of his era, and earned as many votes as Babe Ruth when the Hall of Fame inducted its first class of superstars. Now, 55 years after his death, he’ll also be the guy whose short-lived business proposition with the American Tobacco Company helps support ministries for the poor throughout the world.

Like most progressives, feminists, and thinking humans, I’ve got plenty of issues with Catholicism—but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that some of the strongest women, and some of the biggest baseball fans, in my early life were nuns. They weren’t shy about using their divine connections (and their earthly subjects) to pull some strings for their team, either: I have a clear if somewhat disturbing memory of my third-grade class being assigned to write prayers for the 1982 Cardinals when they went to the postseason—oh, the Sisters pretended we were just praying for fair weather and good sportsmanship, but we knew the truth—and years later I was surprised, upon meeting people who hadn’t grown up in St. Louis, to learn that they hadn’t been excused from class to sit cross-legged in rows on the floor and watch the playoffs on TV. Why, we even got to wear Cardinal accessories to school during those heady weeks of postseason glory, and if you’re a fellow Catholic-school survivor, you know that there’s very, very little in the cosmos that justifies adulteration of the sacred uniform. Baseball was a big deal.

For further evidence that there’s a natural affinity between nuns and Cardinals, watch this fabulous two-minute video about the Sisters of St. Mary of the Angels, who have taken a vow of loyalty to the Redbirds for more than a hundred years now.

One Comment leave one →
  1. jrf permalink
    October 27, 2010 8:48 pm

    I saw that story earlier today — it’s great. Also love that Cardinal clip (complete with Shannon/Rooney in the background to make me wistful) so damn much!

    But nuns + Flying Dutchman then of course brought this to mind:

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