Exercises in Blasphemy: Feast Days for Ballplayers

Theodore (left) had way less syphilis than former major leaguer Bug Holliday.

Though I’m not part of it, an aspect of the Eastern Orthodox Church that I admire particularly is their tradition of feast days for saints. Nor is this a pastime reserved merely for the big-time stars of the Bible, but one designed to preserve and observe the lives of minor church figures, as well.

For example, locating the appropriate page at the website for the Orthodox Church of America, we find that, today, Orthodox followers remember, among others, the Great martyr Theodore Stratelates (a.k.a. “The General”).

The briefest research reveals that Theodore was not only “endowed with many talents, and was handsome in appearance” but that he was also

arrested and subjected to fierce and refined torture. He was dragged on the ground, beaten with iron rods, had his body pierced with sharp spikes, was burned with fire, and his eyes were plucked out. Finally, he was crucified.

Whatever the reader’s thoughts on the Church, one is mostly forced to admire the conviction with which Theodore stood by his faith.

Furthermore, a hymn is provided in Theodore’s honor:

Truly enlisted with the King of Heaven,
you became an outstanding general for Him, passion-bearer Theodore;
you armed yourself wisely with the weapons of faith
and conquered hordes of demons, revealing yourself as a victorious athlete.
Therefore, in faith we always call you blessed.

We observe two, if not more, things here: first, that “passion-bearer” is an epithet that is woefully under-utilized in the modern vernacular and, second, that this practice of feasting is wholly applicable to our honored pastime. Though lacking in the “thousands of years of history” department, there are certainly enough ballplayers whose lives need remembering — and the “feast day” is a useful pretense for doing so.

Today, for example, is the birthday of Bug Holliday. Born in 1867, Holliday is notable in the sport’s history for being the first player to make his debut in the post-season when he was called up by the Chicago White Stockings for Game Four of the 1885 World Series. Later, he became one of the game’s first legitimate power-speed threats, twice leading the league in home runs (1889, 1892) while also averaging 39 stolen bases from 1889 to 1894.

Though not to the extent of Theodore, Holliday was also subject to some grievous ills, first suffering through an appendectomy (in 1895) that seemed to seriously degrade his playing skills and then eventually, at age 43, dying of syphilis.

Let us now praise Bug Holliday in verse:

Oh Bug!
Unfortunately, you existed before medicine was really a thing.
But you very clearly had a great nickname
and I would’ve totally drafted you for my fantasy team!

Bug-related information courtesy of the Wikipedias.

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Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Dayn Perry

St. Bug the Afflicted, pray for us!