Friday, May 13, 2005


Why I'm a "Big Hall" guy

I heard on CNN this morning that Pope John Paul II was on the "fast track" to sainthood. I guess this is becoming common practice as they also fast tracked Mother Teresa, waiving the mandatory 5 year waiting period.


Did everyone here that? A 5 year waiting period. What does that make me think of? What should that make everyone think of? All together now...that's right, the baseball Hall of Fame. So naturally the first thought that came to mind, upon hearing that the former Pope was gonna be saintitized was, how hard is it to be sainted as compared to getting into the Hall? Should I be more impressed with JP2 or another Cardinal, like Ozzie Smith (or maybe Enos Slaughter)?

Like I do with everything, let's break it down. The Grace and Wayne way.

A little googling revealed what my quasi-Catholic education left out, and that was the rules for sainthood. And let me tell you, it is tough stuff. At least on the surface, I can see why people want to be saints. Here are a few of the rules (there are more):
  1. The afforementioned 5 year waiting period after "retirement", after which one can be considered for sainting
  2. The candidate must live a life of heroic virtue and asceticism and be a model of Catholic virtue (I know I said virute twice, but it is a good word)
  3. Must perform not one, but two posthumous miracles (i.e. the miracle must occur after the candidate died as a result of praying to the would-be saint) and these miracles must be scientifically verified.
  4. Or one can scratch all that if the person is a martyr.
Now don't even get me started on the whole "scientifically verified" miracle thing. And it has to be posthumous. That seems about as iron-clad as the "character clause" in the baseball Hall of Fame requirements. Speaking of baseball requirements, what does one generally need to be elected to the Hall?
  1. 300 wins or
  2. 500 homers or
  3. 3000 hits or
  4. glaucoma
Now, call me crazy, but I don't see any sort of requirements for miracles or death there. And so it follows to reason that there would be more people in the baseball Hall of Fame than the Christian Hall of Fame, right? Oh, but that is not so.

Including baseball pioneers (like Daniel Boone) and umpires and all that, there are 260 people in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Now, just looking at the "A"'s in the Saints index, I get almost 1400 saints. If we assume 1400 candidates for all 26 letters, that is roughly 36000 saints! Even if we acknowledge that letters like "X" probably don't have an many saints listed (after Xavier and Xylophone I got nothing) there are still probably 30,000. That is 100 times more saints than baseball HOFers!

But wait, you say, baseball has only been around for 140 years and sainthood includes all of Christian history. Well, Christians have been around for about 2000 years, and so that only explains a factor of 10, and so there is still the one order of magnitude left unaccounted for. Hell, even if we go back to the beginning of time, that is only about 5000 years, and so that definitely doesn't make up for it either. I think we are all going to have to face the fact that there are many more saints than HOFers, and that might just be a sign that they need to loosen up the voting a bit (*cough* Santo *cough*).

So, come on voters, let's do like the Catholics do. Beautify those players that deserve it, like Santo and Blyleven, Sutter and Goosage, and of course, the Hawk. I mean, seriously, those men may not have all been saints, but they sure were great ballplayers.

--------Update (2:30 PM)---------------

As Publius was kind enough to point out in the comments section, the actual numbers are as follows:

6.33 Saints per year
1.93 HOFers per year

so you are over three times as likely to become a Saint than a Hall of Famer. This is why steriods are such a popular option (for the ballplayers, not the martyrs).

There are approximately 12,481 patron saints. If you date Christianity to the crucifixion, that's 1,972 years and an average of 6.33 saints per year. That's a lot of posthumous miracles.

With 249 Hall of Famers since the formation of the National League in 1876, you only get an average of 1.93 Hall of Famers per year.

By this rationale, you're 3 times more likely to become a saint than a Hall of Fame baseball player. There's something to tell Billy when he doesn't want to do his homework because he thinks he's going to be a big leaguer.

Great post. Very thought provoking.
Thought provoking? That's a first.

Thanks for cranking the numbers. I was a bit too rushed to get the total saint count. That really rounds out the post to have actual nice numbers to read.

Now what do I tell my theoretical kid if he doesn't want to do his homework because he thinks he's going to be a patron saint?
thought provoking and funny!

tell your theoretical kid that if he doesn't do his homework you'll fast track him to sainthood by way of martyrdom ...
oo, burn. That's awesome. I'll have to use that should I ever have a kid would wants to be a saint rather than a baseball player (after which I'll have to hang myself).
Hey, doesn't "Santo" mean saint?
Weird . . .
You know, I meant to work that into the post, but it just didn't seem to fit. But don't think that little fact excaped me.
Ronnie is neither a saint or a Hall of Famer.
I'll meet you halfway there. Regarding the other half of that, I'm going to have to disagree with you, because you are wrong. Very wrong. Here is my argument for Santo, in case you missed it the first time around:
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