It was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream – a trip to baseball’s hallowed grounds. The city is Cooperstown and the place is the Baseball Hall of Fame. “The world’s closest fraternity” numbers 310 with the latest enshrinements of Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. There is no place on earth I would have rather been. As a lifelong Houston Astros fan, I have waited since the Kennedy Administration for one of my guys to be enshrined.
With every step through the museum’s halls, I could sense the ghost of Babe Ruth, smell the glove of Ty Cobb, feel the pain of Jackie Robinson, celebrate the records of Hank Aaron, and hear the voice of Russ Hodges as he screamed, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” But what struck me the most wasn’t the 38,000 artifacts spread overe 50,000 square feet. It wasn’t the plaques that honor Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, or Willie Mays. It was the 40,000 fans from all over the world who came to celebrate their guy.
Sitting outside in 90-degree heat for five hours, you could see the Braves fans doing the “chop” at every mention of John’s Smoltz’s name. Randy Johnson’s followers came all the way from Arizona. Pedro Martinez had legions of supporters from Canada, the United States, and his homeland of the Dominican Republic. And my man, Craig Biggio, was joined by 20,000 of his closest friends, most of whom made the 1,720-mile trek from Houston.
What I experienced with my fellow Biggio celebrants was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We recognized each other by our Astros shirts, Southern accents, and constant, deafening chants of “B-G-O, B-G-O, B-G-O!” For three days total strangers became best friends. Ethnicity, age, socio-economic levels, education, political affiliation, and style of Cowboy boots did not matter. We were there to celebrate, adore, even worship one man. That man brought us together. We would have sat in our uncomfortable lawn chairs, baking in the heat, no matter how long the Sunday ceremony lasted.
The same day, all across the land, millions gathered for one reason – to worship the Man. And they do this every week. They come from all walks of life, standards of living, and colors of skin. Some call themselves Baptists, others Methodists, and some Catholics. Some prefer to take no label other than the name of the one whom they worship. For them he is as simple as the ABCs – their Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, Christ and Creator. Though his voice has not been heard for 2,000 years, neither has it been silenced, as it still echoes through the corridors of time.
As I walked the halls in Cooperstown and took in the majesty of the induction ceremony with people with whom I shared nothing else in common, I felt the presence of the baseball gods. But this coming Sunday I will be a part of a bigger celebration, joined by millions I have yet to meet. And somewhere in the recesses of my spirit and soul I will hear “something like the voice of a great multitude saying, ‘Hallejujah! For the Lord our God, the Almight, reigns.’ Let us rejoice and give him glory” (Revelation 19:6-7). Nothing in this world has the power to unite the masses quite like one man – especially when his name is Jesus.