The Deacon's Bench

57346099.jpgThe baseball world is mourning the passing of legendary manager Sparky Anderson, who died today at age 76.

But as much as his heart belonged to baseball, it also belonged to his Catholic faith, which he embraced as an adult:

“He was a remarkable person,” said Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit, archbishop emeritus. He was “a great human being and a man of faith. The baseball world and our community have lost a great ambassador.”

Shortly after he arrived in Detroit in 1990, Maida was invited by the baseball team to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Tiger Stadium.

The archdiocese, which oversees 1.3 million Catholics, said in a statement released today:

“The story is told that Sparky Anderson became interested in Catholicism when playing on a farm team for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He started going to Sunday Mass in Texas with some of his teammates. Later, when Sparky played for the Philadelphia Phillies, he befriended a priest in Pennsylvania who worked with him to become a baptized Catholic.”

The Rev. Don Worthy, a retired priest of the Detroit archdiocese, said that Anderson “led by the power of good example.”

Maida and Worthy noted that Anderson helped children, in particular “through his pediatric charity know as CATCH (Caring Athletes Team for Children’s and Henry Ford Hospital).”

“His world was more than baseball,” Cardinal Maida said. “I pray that he is now at peace with the Lord.”

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

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