A person for all seasons: Fay Vincent, baseball and America

Readers of The Wall Avenue Journal could have observed a positive tribute in its pages final week to Roger Angell, the longtime baseball author for The New Yorker who died on Could 22 on the age of 101. The writer lauded Angell as a novel expertise who “had an eye fixed for the telling second and the weird participant,” inserting him atop a pedestal with Purple Smith and Shirley Povich as the good sportswriters of his period. However the writer of the tribute wasn’t some run-of-the-mill baseball fan. It was Fay Vincent Jr., former commissioner of baseball.

Vincent was named commissioner in September 1989 after the sudden dying of Bart Giamatti, throughout one in all Main League Baseball’s most troubled eras. Monetary strife between gamers and golf equipment was at an all-time excessive; the house owners instituted a lockout the subsequent yr, and simply 5 years later, the 1994 World Sequence was canceled as a result of the house owners and gamers couldn’t resolve a labor dispute. The participant with essentially the most hits in baseball historical past, Pete Rose, had been banned for all times by Giamatti for playing on video games earlier that summer season. The league continued to face suspicions of widespread drug use. Vincent even needed to ban Yankees proprietor George Steinbrenner for all times for hiring a small-time gambler to spy on one in all his personal gamers.

Fay Vincent formally resigned on Sept. 7, however not earlier than composing a letter to America editor in chief George W. Hunt, S.J., a longtime buddy, on the complete messy affair.

Vincent, who had been the chairman of Columbia Photos and government vice chairman of Coca Cola, had a brief reign as commissioner. On September 3, 1992, the house owners voted 18-9 on a vote of “no confidence” in Vincent, later changing him with one in all their very own, Bud Selig of the Milwaukee Brewers. Vincent formally resigned on Sept. 7, however not earlier than composing a letter to America editor in chief George W. Hunt, S.J., a longtime buddy, on the complete messy affair. His letter, which Father Hunt printed as a part of his “Of Many Issues” column in America on Sept. 19, 1992, was (in Vincent’s phrases) his effort “to attempt to put the entire present mess in perspective. Newspapers need one thing provocative from me right now, however I’m not . The enclosed is extra applicable from me at current.”

The reporter in me is outraged, and the editor in me jealous, that Hunt was given such a scoop; he was clever sufficient to not edit it, however to let Vincent’s eloquence do its work—however not with out Hunt including a little bit of his personal rhetorical deftness in a swipe at baseball’s house owners:

Ever since that chew of the tasty fruit, the way in which of the world has been that third-raters conspire to denigrate or oust first-raters of their midst. ’Twas ever so in playgrounds, factories, boardrooms, even church buildings, because the identical Tree of Information feeds the appetites of ignorance and stupidity as nicely.

Vincent was extra diplomatic, extra philosophical. “On occasion, baseball followers should surprise and fear concerning the sport we love. As soon as once more, a lot is being written—if not shrieked—about issues with the sport and even with its bureaucrats,” he wrote. “However let me remind us all that baseball will survive; our grandchildren could have baseball to like and to introduce to their grandchildren, and this newest turmoil and tumult is not going to destroy the sport that fills our summers with the enjoyment of wondrous play.”

Vincent was extra diplomatic, extra philosophical. “On occasion, baseball followers should surprise and fear concerning the sport we love.”

Regardless of all of the modifications to the game that the a long time had wrought, Vincent wrote,

our sport retains essentially the most chic problem in all of sports activities… that of hitter confronting pitcher. It’s that second when José Canseco faces Roger Clemens that defines baseball and our love for it. It’s that second to which we’re addicted. And it’s that second our grandchildren will even come to like. All else will likely be misplaced to newspaper archives and historians. What’s actual and true and important can’t be diminished.

Like his predecessor Giamatti, Vincent had a method with phrases (and thus might be forgiven for utilizing two cartoonish heels, Canseco and Clemens, as his instance). And he wasn’t carried out writing for America. Throughout his tenure as baseball commissioner, he had penned a number of articles for the journal, together with essays on “Morality v. Moralisms” and “Schooling and Baseball,” in addition to a evaluation of a biography of Samuel T. Coleridge. After the ax fell, throughout a interval Father Hunt known as Vincent’s “post-post-graduate sabbatical” in Oxfordshire, England, he despatched again an essay on St. Edmund Campion.

Extra of his writings appeared in America within the years that adopted, together with a 2001 tribute to Isaac Stern and guide evaluations on every thing from baseball to John Henry Newman to anti-Catholic bias in American public life. In 2013, Vincent was interviewed by America deputy editor in chief Tim Reidy on the morality of baseball. Vincent spoke out strongly in opposition to using steroids in baseball, saying ​​the infusion of efficiency enhancing medication was “a really pernicious and horrifying menace to all of our sports activities, whether or not highschool, faculty or skilled.”

Baseball, he famous, had too lengthy winked at spitballs, corked bats and different small infractions of the principles, main gamers and house owners alike to suppose that dishonest was solely unsuitable for those who acquired caught: “I feel one of many issues with baseball has been that we have been too tolerant of what we name harmless types of dishonest. There is no such thing as a such factor as harmless dishonest.”

When Father Hunt died in 2011, Fay Vincent despatched in an encomium that was reprinted in America. “Within the Thomist sense he gave that means to the distinction between a priestly essence and the unintentional facet of his life as scholar, instructor, editor and author,” Vincent wrote. “To me, nonetheless, he was additionally an exquisite and dependable buddy.” A favourite of Vincent’s have been Father Hunt’s “Of Many Issues” essays:

Every week he wrote a short essay on the entrance of the journal and every of them was a fastidiously crafted beautiful little pensée on some matter that attracted his consideration. The eclectic vary of these essays is one of the best proof of the vary of his pursuits. In his time America was a assured and highly effective voice for Catholic intellectuals to listen to. I listened to it and to George with respect and admiration.

Oh, and yet one more factor: Getting again to a different of Fay Vincent’s favourite writers, Roger Angell, Joe Bonomo wrote a biography of the good scribe in 2019 that was reviewed right here in America by Jill Brennan O’Brien.


Common readers could discover that three weeks in the past we introduced the winner of the 2022 Foley Poetry Contest: Lisa Mullenneaux, for her poem “In Copenhagen.” America’s poetry editor, Joe Hoover, S.J., additionally wrote an essay concerning the contest and a few of the different worthy submissions. Congratulations! Readers can view all of America’s printed poems right here.

On this house each week, America options evaluations of and literary commentary on one explicit author or group of writers (each new and previous; our archives span greater than a century), in addition to poetry and different choices from America Media. We hope this can give us an opportunity to offer you extra in-depth protection of our literary choices. It additionally permits us to alert digital subscribers to a few of our on-line content material that doesn’t make it into our newsletters.

Different Catholic E-book Membership columns:

Theophilus Lewis introduced the Harlem Renaissance to the pages of America

Speaking fact and lies with the Norwegian novelist who gained the Nobel Prize

How Walter Ciszek discovered God within the gulag

Leonard Feeney, America’s solely excommunicated literary editor (up to now)

Joan Didion: A chronicler of contemporary life’s horrors and consolations

Glad studying!

James T. Keane