Category Archives: Sports

A funeral home director and a priest walk into a stadium

Trinitarian Father Stan DeBoe (CR photo illustration/Robert Thompson)

Charles Hauboldt, a Texas funeral home owner, wants nothing more than to see his Houston Texans bury the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl drive at this Sunday’s big game at M&T Bank Stadium. He’ll get his chance as the winning bidder for a playoff ticket auctioned by a Texas Catholic priest and rabid Ravens’ fan.

Hauboldt’s high bid of $2,115 won him the ticket, a flight to Baltimore, lodging and ground transportation – not to mention the chance to sit next to Trinitarian Father Stan DeBoe, the man who put the ticket up for grabs. The money will be used to help purchase a bus for Father DeBoe’s parish, Our Lady of Sorrows in Victoria, Texas.

Father DeBoe, whose parishioners often make use of Hauboldt’s funeral home, invited his friend to participate in the auction. The winner had to contend with some last-minute competing bids, but still came out on top.

“Father Stan and I will have a blast,” Hauboldt said.

Will there be any smack talk between them?

“I’m sure there will,” Hauboldt said with a laugh. “People will know who I’m supporting after the first few plays – and I know he will be on the other side.”

As reported yesterday on The Catholic Review’s website, Father DeBoe has been a Ravens season ticket holder since the team began playing in 1996. The Pittsburgh native caught Ravens fever while he was ministering in the Baltimore-Washington area and in residence at St. Lawrence, Jessup.

The auction has been a great morale booster for his Texas parish, Father DeBoe said. He received a total of approximately 15 bids.  

Father DeBoe, who plans to attend Mass at the Catholic Community at Relay on game day, said he also received a call from the Baltimore Ravens.

“They said they were glad to know they had a supporter in Texas,” Father DeBoe said. “It was great that with everything they have to do, they took the time to call. I really appreciated it.”

The priest heard from his bishop, who quipped that Father DeBoe’s departure to Baltimore “was the worst-kept secret getaway” he’d ever seen.

Hauboldt, a Lutheran, said he wanted to help Father DeBoe’s church as a way of giving back to the community. He also supports other Victoria-area churches.

“It’s always good to support local community functions or charities,” he said.


Baltimore sculptor honors Brooksie

A statue of Brooks Robinson is unveiled Oct. 22 outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. (CR/George P. Matysek Jr.)

Before the new statue of Baltimore’s beloved Brooks Robinson was unveiled last weekend beneath a blast of black, orange and white confetti outside Oriole Park, the bronze behemoth rested in a foundry in Pietrasanta, Italy. Standing right next to the likeness of the Hall of Fame third baseman was a replica of Michelangelo’s David.

Joseph Sheppard, the Baltimore sculptor who crafted the Robinson statue, remembered that a friend noticed the neighboring artwork and made a prescient observation:

“Florence has their David,” the friend said. “Now, Baltimore has their Brooks.”

Baltimore does indeed have its Brooks – a 1,500-pound, nine-foot homage to a man many consider to be the greatest third baseman of all time and one of Charm City’s most beloved adopted citizens.

Sheppard, the man who sculpted the statue of Blessed Pope John Paul II in Baltimore and who painted a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI, called it an honor to be chosen to work on the figure. He examined nearly 100 photos of Robinson in action – choosing to depict Number Five standing at third base with ball in hand, ready to gun down a runner at first. The statue is aligned with the actual third base of Oriole Park, with Robinson facing first.

In recognition of Robinson’s 16 Gold Gloves, a glittering glove of that hue is fitted over the figure’s hand.

Sheppard told me that the baseball statue was “much more difficult” than the statue of Blessed John Paul II because it was so much bigger. By contrast, the papal figure is 850 pounds and stands seven feet tall.

On seeing the statue for the first time after its unveiling, an emotional Robinson declared it “beautiful” and called Sheppard “truly a genius.”

A convert to Catholicism who has supported the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Baltimore charities, Robinson thanked a long string of supporters that included civic leaders, his wife and fans he described as “friends.”

“God has blessed me abundantly,” Robinson said.

And God has blessed us with Brooks.

Check out these photos and excerpts from Robinson’s speech:

Baseball cards get nun hooked on national pastime

NPR has a story about nun who’s crazy about Dodger baseball. Sister Vincent Cecire, a 94-year-old Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has been rooting for the Dodgers ever since they won their first World Series in 1955. It seems that third graders with baseball cards are responsible for getting Sister Vincent excited about the national pastime.
Cecire tells her friend Sister Catherine Garry how she became interested in baseball while teaching third-graders in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1950s.
“The boys would come in with their baseball cards and I’d say, ‘It’s not time for baseball. Now put them on my desk.’ And of course, while I gave them work to do, I would look at the baseball cards,” she says.
Read more here

BTW, I wonder if Sister Vincent held onto any of those baseball cards?  Late last year, the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore fetched more than $220,000 for a donated Honus Wagner card. Sister Virginia Muller – who grew up rooting for the Dodgers at Ebbets Field – received the donation and called it a “gift of heaven.”  You can read about that here in The Catholic Review.

Note: Sorry about the weird formatting on this post. WordPress is acting up and I can’t get it to format properly.

Oh, oh, oh — C’mon O-rioles!

After spending more than a decade in the baseball wilderness, long-suffering fans of the Baltimore Orioles have reason for hope on this Opening Day.

When the O’s take on Tampa tonight in Florida, they’ll do it with a solid lineup stocked with sluggers like Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Luke Scott, Brian Roberts and Mark Reynolds. They’ll have promising pitchers, and – perhaps most importantly, a hard-driving leader in Buck Showalter who proved last year how much he can get out of his players.

In this week’s Catholic Review, my good friend Matt Palmer has a cover story about the high hopes of O’s fans this year. You’ll want to check it out here. Also, a day after the O’s legendary Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson was admitted to the hospital, you might also want to look at this story I did last year on the great third baseman’s Catholic faith and how it helps him with his health challenges.

1997 was the last time the O’s had a winning season, when they went wire-to-wire in the American League East. It’s time the Birds got back in the game. I know this season ticket holder is as about excited as you can get. Let’s go O’s!

Shock or awe?

Participants in the Maryland March for Life carried yellow balloons with a positive pro-life message. (CR Staff/Owen Sweeney III)

Kay Cole of Holy Family in Davidsonville distributes signs before the Maryland March for Life March 14. (CR Staff/Owen Sweeney III)

Moments before the Maryland March for Life kicked off March 14, I watched a handful of participants move to the front of the line and unfurl a banner with graphic images of aborted fetuses. It was a sharp contrast to the other images that were in abundance that day – pictures of smiling babies, banners with messages such as “Protect Maryland Women” and bright yellow balloons each stamped with a smiley face surrounded by, “Smile! Your Mom Chose Life.”

Someone discreetly told the holders of the graphic banner to step away from the front of the line. They complied, and I don’t think they carried their banners the rest of the day. At least, I didn’t see them as I marched through the streets of Annapolis.

It’s always a big debate in the pro-life community whether graphic messages are appropriate at pro-life events. Some argue that people must see abortion in all its horror for hearts to be changed. Others point out that gruesome images turn people away, preventing them from hearing a positive pro-life message.

The bishops of Alberta, Canada, have decided not to participate in their local March for Life this May precisely because they couldn’t be guaranteed the absence of graphic signs. According to a March 15 article posted on the BC Catholic website, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said the presence of images of aborted babies at the march is not consistent with the message the bishops wish to share about the dignity of human life.

“We think a far more effective image, that would be consistent with what we are proclaiming, would be the images of unborn living children,” Archbishop Smith said. “That says the same thing and it says it far more beautifully.”

The archbishop was right on track.

Baltimore Raven Matt Birk participates in the Maryland March for Life in Annapolis March 14. (CR Staff/Owen Sweeney III)

This year’s Maryland March for Life was beautiful. Participants were prayerful and enthusiastic. Baltimore Raven Matt Birk gave a compelling personal testimony on why he embraces the sanctity of life. (Check out The Catholic Review story on Birk here). Pro-life leaders laid out ways participants could work to change Maryland’s permissive abortion laws.  A local Christian radio host told the story of how she lived with the pain of having an abortion and how she now works to convince other women to choose life.

Thank God those uplifting messages weren’t marred by graphic signs.  Rather than shocking people, let’s awe them.

Anglican priest studies spirituality of snowboarding

Photo/Shanty Creek Resort

An Anglican priest in British Columbia has just earned a doctorate, looking at the spirituality of snowboarding. Rev. Neil Elliot of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Trail investigated “soulriding” – examining whether there was a spiritual dimension to snowboarding down a mountain. The priest’s findings don’t bode particularly well for organized religion.

What he learned from his research is that context and location largely determine whether an experience is spiritual. For example, he said, many people describe their experiences with nature as spiritual, but few would use the same term in reference to a night of fun at a club downtown. “It may be the same kind of experience, but they don’t frame it as spiritual because of the context.”

His research contains bad news and good news for organized religion. “One thing that was very clear in the research that I did is that people didn’t see any necessity to include God or any kind of structure in their understanding of spirituality. In fact, a number of people said it’s about spirituality; it’s not about God.

“That’s quite challenging, coming from an institutional church which very much sees God as key in spirituality.”

His work also brought him to the conclusion that people want community but they don’t want institutions, rules and regulations. Although he insists churches are communities, they are often viewed as inflexible institutions and that’s what drives people away.

“We need to help people see that we’re a community and not an institution,” Elliot said. “Ironically, the challenges that we’re facing in terms of finances and congregations are actually helping us to do that, because we haven’t got the money to prop up the institutional stuff [any more].”

The Vancouver Sun has more here.

The Orioles’ other Ironman dies at age 86

Baltimore Orioles Photo

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Ernie Tyler, the Orioles’ longtime umpire attendant who worked 3,819 consecutive home games at Memorial Stadium and Oriole Park, has died at age 86.

A graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School in Irvington, Mr. Tyler was a dedicated O’s fan from the first moment the baseball team came to Baltimore in 1954. 

Donna Koros Stramella, a former writer with The Catholic Review, profiled Mr. Tyler for the newspaper in 2000.  That story is reprinted below.

The Orioles have more than one Iron Man in their midst.

While Cal Ripken, Jr. recently passed the 2,500 game mark, another member of the organization just one upped him – making the 3,000 consecutive game mark. Ernie Tyler started his streak in 1960 as an umpire attendant, and has worked every game since.

Mr. Tyler’s career with the ball club actually started in 1954 at Memorial Stadium during the Orioles first season. He worked part-time for several years, moving into a full-time usher slot in 1958.

Even battles with serious health concerns haven’t kept him from his work. Over the last decade, he has endured two surgeries – both during the off season. His 1995 operation for liver cancer was performed by Johns Hopkins’ Dr. Keith Lillemoe. The physician went on to treat two other Orioles – current outfielder Eric Davis and former player Boog Powell.

The years have certainly not tarnished Mr. Tyler’s enthusiasm for the game. His only challenge, he said, “is still being able to move fast enough at the tender age of 74.” With his proximity to the batters box, the possibility of getting struck by a wayward ball is high.

“It’s important to stay alert at all times,” he added.

Although he has been beamed by a ball 4 or 5 times, he has never taken a serious hit.

“I’ve never really gotten a full smack,” he maintains. “I can get my hands up pretty quickly.”

He’s found another protection over the years – both on and off the field. As he prepared to enter the service at age 17, his mother presented him with a Miraculous Medal – which he still wears to this day.

“It’s protected me in everything,” he insisted. “I have a lot of faith in it.”

So much faith, in fact, that he has given all of his 11 children and 22 grandchildren Miraculous Medals.

Mr. Tyler admits a long-time passion for sports. A graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School, he played on the same football backfield with former Oriole and recently retired New York Mets general manager Frank Cashen.

Over the years, he has played baseball, softball, basketball and football. He coached Little League teams for some of his children, and he still finds time to play baseball with his grandchildren.

For many years now, the Tyler family has maintained a real presence within the Orioles organization. Seven of his children, as well as his wife of 52 years, Juliane, have worked for the club at one time or another, in jobs ranging from bat boy to ticket office attendant. His son, Jim, currently serves as Orioles clubhouse manager and another son, Fred, as visiting clubhouse manager. Neither have ever missed a game. Fred has another interesting connection to an Oriole player. As a senior at Bel Air High School, his single drove in the winning run to beat an Aberdeen High School pitcher named Cal Ripken, Jr. Both were named as All-Harford County players: Fred as shortstop and Cal as pitcher.

The family’s interest in professional baseball came naturally as the children enjoyed “hanging out” at the stadium with dad, often getting homework assistance from players.

Currently members of St. Ignatius, Hickory, Mr. and Mrs. Tyler named their twin sons after their former parish – Ss. Philip and James. Retired from the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in 1988, Mr. Tyler currently finds himself in demand as a speaker (on the subject of longetivity) at nursing homes and schools.

The ultimate diplomat, Mr. Tyler declined to play favorites when it comes to umpires, managers or Orioles. “They’re all my favorites.” But when pressed to cite the players he has most enjoyed watching over the years, he produces some familiar names: Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Brady Anderson. And the name of a another well-known member of the organization comes to mind – announcer Rex Barney, who died during last season. “He’d sit with me for two hours before the game,” Mr. Tyler remembered. “We’d talk about his no hitter every day.”

The Orioles recently paid tribute to their long-time employee on the occasion of his 3,000 consecutive game. A pre-game ceremony and post-game party was attended by a total of 47 Tylers. The organization presented him with two tickets to Paris – a trip tentatively scheduled for late October, early November.

“If we get in the play-offs we won’t be able to go until after the World Series,” Mr. Tyler noted.

More than 30 years later, not much has changed from the early days. He still gets to the ball park on time and ready to work.

“If you get there 15 minutes early, you never have to worry about being late,” he quipped.

He takes care of the umpires uniforms, equipment and guest tickets (they each get six per game). He covers the new balls with mud from the Delaware River – a silky, sand-free variety that is shipped in barrels to every Major League ball club.

“The new balls are smooth and shiny,” he explained. ‘They’re too hard to control.”

Five minutes before the game, he takes his position in what has been described as the best seat in the house – a stool located on the field next to the backstop. After the game he spends about 20 minutes with the umpires as they watch controversial plays from the game video. But one constant has changed from his earlier days with the club – the commute. While the Tyler family once lived just two blocks from Memorial Stadium, they later moved to Bel Air, a change that Mr. Tyler describes as a “40 second walk to a 40 minute drive.”

Despite the added drive time, he considers himself a fortunate man.

“There’s nothing I don’t like about my job,” he insisted. “I’ve been in six World Series and nine play-off series. Everytime I walk out onto the field it’s a great memory. I’m just happy being a part of the whole thing.”


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