Life According to Vin Scully

My early days of baseball depended upon a transistor radio. During the memorable 1960 World Series, for example, I tucked the radio inside my shirt, ran the earpiece up my sleeve and sat listening, convinced I was fooling the nun but, more importantly, tracking the Pirates as they went back and forth against the hated Yankees in Game 7.

Those early days with my radio introduced me to many great announcers. Television introduced me to more great announcers such as Curt Gowdy of my beloved Redsox. But. like 98% of baseball fans, the one I especially enjoyed was Vin Scully, voice of the Dodgers until 2016. He was a wealth of stories and, in the presence of a dramatic moment, had the good sense to stay quiet. Over the years, Vin said some pretty profound things. Here are a few:

“That is the way the game is. You win, you lose, you celebrate and you suffer.” If we can accept the realities of all four and that all four are transitory, it at least makes it possible to get through life without being bitter.

“It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between an All-star game and an old-timers game.” To pause and wonder at the rapid passing of time is a necessary step toward appreciating the time we are given.

“Don’t let the winds blow your dreams away…or steal your faith in God.” Vin is actually a man of deep faith but recognizes here how our faith is challenged by suffering and hardship. Having dreams and having faith are great resources for negotiating life’s gales.

And finally “Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. Aren’t we all?” In the business of psychology, mindfulness and the challenge to “live in the moment” are very popular concepts these days. It is important that we recognize that that can all change in an instant, be it a stroke, an IED, or a simple fall. I have seen people’s lives turn in a completely different direction without warning. We must learn not to live in fear of that reality while at the same time live in gratitude.

Here then are some of Vin Scully’s best calls:

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The Myth of Closure

Here is the link for my most recent article in St Anthony Messenger, titled “The Death Penalty and the Myth of Closure”.

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On Christmas Memories

Blessings to one and all and hopefully some good Christmas memories

Psyche and Spirit/Richard B. Patterson PhD

This is a difficult time of year for many folks. For some, it is a time of traumatic memories being stirred up. For others, it is a time when already intense grief deepens.

In my work, I bear witness to such pain. Thus, just this past week I sat with a young man who was injured in an IED blast during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I sat with a woman who witnessed her son’s suicide. I sat with the adult child of an alcoholic who regularly was drunk by noontime on Christmas Day.

I find myself resonating to the words of the Jackson Brown song The Rebel Jesus when he cautions that those who question why there are poor will “get the same as the Rebel Jesus.” As I ponder His birth, I fear we all have missed His message.

In the midst of such heaviness, though…

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War and Peace and Christmas

Plato once said “Only the dead have seen the end of war”. A dismal observation yet a cursory study of human history reveals that somewhere in our world someone is at war. The Christmas wish of “peace on earth” seems to be only wishful thinking.

In my years working with veterans, I have seen that those veterans have particular difficulty if in some way they came to see “the enemy” as simply another human being. Yet making those connections is where we find hope. Hope that the human spirit is big enough to be able to rise above differences, big enough to resist the pettiness of leaders, big enough to consider that the man or woman bearing a weapon on “the other side” is also a child of God.

There are a few historical events that give me hope. After the fall of Richmond, President Lincoln was touring a hospital when he came to the cot of a wounded Confederate officer. Lincoln offered his hand and the officer asked “Do you realize whose hand you want to shake?” Lincoln smiled and said “I do and I hope he will accept my hand.” The officer indeed shook Lincoln’s hand in a moment that left an impression on those around him.

There is the Christmas truce of 1914. Soldiers on opposite trenches agreed to suspend hostilities. Slowly, they emerged from the trenches, meeting halfway. As portrayed in the great film “Joyeaux Noel”, they conversed, sang, and the next day played soccer.

Sadly the holiday passed and soldiers returned to their trenches to once again be enemies.

Then there is the story of  Desmond Doss. Doss was a conscientious objector who nonetheless wanted to serve in the military as a medic. His story is told in the film “Hacksaw Ridge”. A man of deep faith, he rescued 75 wounded soldiers, including several wounded Japanese soldiers. A man of non-violence, he received the Medal of Honor.

These images of people of war reaching across enemy lines to console or rescue or simply to play together gives me hope.

I’ll close with a beautiful hymn from “Joyeux Noel”. I dedicate it to all those men and women in strange countries at this time of year in the hopes that eventually we will find a way to put an end to the war that separates us from one another

Here also are the lyrics to the song. Quite poetic.






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“Walk With The Pain”

Recently I was asked to write an article on whether the death penalty provided “closure” for families of victims. Closure, I believe, is a concept that in part evolved from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ famous five steps, the fifth step being acceptance.

Over the years I have sat with people who suffered unimaginable losses and judged themselves because they had not “accepted” the loss. I have also sat with parents who suffered the most unimaginable loss of all — the death of a child.

I grew up in a family in which children died. Did my parents ever “accept” those losses? I don’t think so. I don’t think the pain of those losses ever left my parents. Similarly, in trying to counsel with people who have lost children, I don’t think the goal has ever been “acceptance” or “closure”.

Recently I was told that a referral was made to me of a woman who had lost a child. I asked another friend who had lost a son “What can I tell her?” He paraphrased something he’d heard in a movie titled Wind River. He said “Tell her the pain never goes away. But tell her also that, if she can learn to walk with the pain, she gets to keep the good memories.”

To walk with the pain. This to me is a far better idea than either “closure” or “acceptance”. How can the pain of losing a child ever go away? It can’t. Granted I have known some parents who tried to avoid that pain but those same parents would also complain that they were having trouble remembering the good times. I have also known parents who learned to walk with the pain. In the midst of their tears, they are also able to smile over a good memory.

My own parents didn’t have memories to cherish since my sisters died as infants. But, as they learned to walk with the pain, they were able to envision a joyous reunion. Given that they are both gone, I like to think that the reunion happened for them.

What can I say to someone who has lost a child? Nothing that eases their pain. But perhaps there is some value in having a companion to walk with them as they learn to walk with the pain.

Further Viewing: Wind River is a very good but very violent film. This excerpt is the one referred to above by my friend.




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Further Thoughts on Being a Veteran

At Mass this morning, the priest (an Army chaplain himself) asked all veterans to stand and be blessed. I looked around and saw young and old, male and female. I wondered what their stories are. Who served in combat? What stories do they have to tell?

I have spoken with veterans of every war from World War II to the present conflicts. Here are a few things they have taught me:

  1. A World War II veteran gave me the best definition I know of for PTSD. When I asked him about the daily nightmares he suffered, he said simply “I assumed it was the price men pay for going to war.”
  2. Another World War II taught me how important it is to talk about trauma. He had carried within him for 60 years the belief he was a coward for being afraid. When I managed to help him see the inaccuracy of that belief, he said simply “It never occurred to me that other men might be afraid.”
  3. A female Command Sergeant Major taught me the realities of sexual discrimination in the military as she shared without self-pity a long story of harassment she faced as she rose to the highest enlisted rank.
  4. I think of a Viet Nam veteran who told me horrific stories of being in combat but only started weeping when he spoke of being spit on by protestors upon his return home.
  5. I think of a man of faith who spoke sadly of finding the body of an Iraqi boy he’d befriended, murdered because the friendship made others suspect the boy was supplying information. I think of a Catholic man who believed his sins were beyond forgiving and that, because he had killed, he could not attend Mass.                                                                                                                                                                                        These and many other brother and sister veterans have taught me that, while some may need professional care, many simply want to tell their story without judgment. They have also helped me see that war is truly wrong, that war destroys in body, mind, and spirit.                                                                                                                                  So if you want to thank a veteran for his or her service, take the time to listen if they choose to honor you with their stories. Those stories will enrich you.                           As you watch the attached, please pray with me: “For God’s sake, bring them all home!”
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On Baseball

Last year is here!!

Psyche and Spirit/Richard B. Patterson PhD

For me, baseball is a spiritual matter. It encompasses most of the themes I’ve discussed so far.

I first came to baseball as a spiritual matter back in 1984. I had been sober for a little over a year. While that was a great blessing, I felt my life was tepid ( a not uncommon challenge for people newly sober). I decided I needed to be enthused.

I do not have the gift of enthusiasm. I have known a few who do — some family members, an actor-friend. I have also been privileged to see some people discover that gift once they got out from under oppressive circumstances. But in my case I had to practice. But what could I be enthused about?

After some discernment, I settled on baseball. I would be one of those men who opened the newspaper and cheered or cursed depending upon the latest scores…

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“Why are you still a Catholic?”

The question was posed to me some time ago by a thoughtful spiritual person who had read most of my blogs and books. The question is again in front of me in the face of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. Indeed why do I hang onto membership in such a dysfunctional organization?

I am still Catholic because I still believe in Jesus’ basic message although I agree with Wendell Berry who observed that current Christianity, although fashionable, has little resemblance to what Jesus had in mind. There are many things that Jesus said — his embracing of the poor and the migrant, his plea for non-violence, his special blessing for children — that are largely ignored by my Church. So I am still Catholic as a statement that I do believe his message can still transform the world and, if embraced, can transform my Church..

I am still Catholic because I believe that the redemption of my Church can only come from within and that the powers that be have lost their ability and their credibility in making that happen. We laity need to demand the reshaping of our church. Perhaps it is time to allow married clergy. Perhaps it is time to allow the ordination of women. Something about the way the Church is structured and governed is not working. Attention gets paid to minimizing damage and not to restoring trust. Yes, many diocese reach out to victims of clergy abuse. Yet the system of governance that gave rise to those abuses remains largely unchanged.

I am still Catholic because I believe that, although the dark side of power has almost destroyed my Church, there is still a potential for healthy power. I have met too many priests and sisters who are aware of the potential dark side of their power and work hard to use it in an affirming way.

I am still Catholic because I believe in the power of redemption. Any of us who are recovering addicts have received that blessing. Redemption can happen within organizations as well. Our Church desperately needs a redemptive experience.

I am still Catholic because of the examples of a few who got it right — Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, Teilherd de Chardin, St. John XXIII. These and others spoke up and suffered for a message much closer to what Jesus had to say. Some of them suffered persecution. They all suffered criticism.

The worst thing that can happen at this point is that the powers that be will “wait out” the current crisis. Indeed I have heard the comment “The Church has survived other such minor crises. The Church will survive”. As one insensitive Catholic said in the presence of a victim “This crisis is just a burp in the Church’s history”. That attitude will merely feed the disease.

The Church as it is may indeed survive. That’s what I am afraid of.

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On Sports

As with religion, sports has of late become politicized as the issue of kneeling for the Star Spangled banner has become a matter discussed and debated by politicians. This, I suppose, is really nothing new. Sports has always had the potential for political statement in part because sports has been a venue in which otherwise suppressed minorities have been able to succeed. From Jesse Owens to Billy Mills to Henry Aaron to Billie Jean King, sports has been a venue in which success sometimes carried with it a political message.

That’s as it should be. But it is important that we not lose the poetry as we ponder the political impact of sports. Beyond that, some sporting events become moments of wonder whereby I have sensed the presence of a God rejoicing not so much in the victory but in the joyful sensual moment. Here are some personal favorites, all of which I witnessed on television. To me, some of these moments had political significance. All were beautiful.

  1. Secretariat at Belmont Stakes 1973.  I am not a big horse racing fan; however, the manner in which the great horse Secretariat ran this race is truly wondrous. To see that animal run with what I can only call joyful abandon was and is quite moving.
  2.  Bill Mazeroski and the 1960 World Series. Baseball has always been my favorite sport. It has even played a role in my recovery, providing me with some which needed enthusiasm in the early days of sobriety. In 1960 the Pittsburgh Pirates were huge underdogs to the much-hated Yankees. Yet the Pirates forced a seventh game, the ending of which was a glorious moment for a 12 year old boy. 
  3. Henry Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s record. I liked Babe Ruth when I was growing up. Yet starting in the late 50s I began to pay attention to Henry Aaron, a gifted member of my favorite team at that time, the Milwaukee Braves. And so I found myself in 1974 hoping to see Henry break babe Ruth’s record and put an end to the racist threats he had endured. The great announcer Vin Scully correctly noted the political impact of that moment. And, yes, in my opinion he is the true homerun champion

4. Mohammed Ali vs. George Foreman. Yes I know. Boxing is violent. Many sports are. I had watched Ali for years, amazed by his lighting fist and his Ali shuffle. In this championship fight against George Foreman, Ali introduced a new technique — the rope-a-dope in which he lay on the ropes until Foreman punched himself out then came of the ropes in the 8th round and knocked Foreman out. Ali as much as any athlete was political but was also a victim of politics, losing some of his prime years because of being banned from boxing for his stance against the Viet Nam War

5.  Finally, as everyone knows, I am a committed Redsox fan and was one years before they became successful. Thus 2004 was and is in many ways the most wondrous of my wonderful memories. After years of frustration they won the Series. But the key moment occurred in the AL playoff against the hated Yankees. Down 3 games to 0, the Redsox were close to elimination when Kevin Millar drew a walk. What followed was the turning point from which the Redsox won 4 in a row against the Yankees then made short order of the Cardinals. Here is Dave Roberts and The Steal!

Reflections: Any sports memories that are precious to you?



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On Famous People whose Deaths Touched Me Deeply

The other night my wife and I watched a documentary titled “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” It tells the story of Fred Rogers in a very touching way. As we talked about the film, I realized that I had been effected by his passing in a way deeper than the sadness I might feel when someone dies whom I admire.

Here then are 5 people whose lives touched me at a deep level.

Fred Rogers

When Mister Rogers died, I felt that a great light had gone out in an otherwise very dark world. I wonder what he would have to say about this very dark time in our land?

Mickey Mantle

Image result for mickey mantle

Yes, I know. A Yankee? Indeed I am an avid Boston Redsox fan. But as a boy growing up in northeast Pennsylvania, I especially loved great ballplayers. Mickey was one of the best. I think as with many men my age, his passing represented the loss of our boyhoods. The loss of dreams. The progression of life. I was sad over the passing of other great ballplayers. Ted Williams, Yogi Berra. Red Schoendienst. But Mickey’s passing touched a deeper spot.

John Denver

Other musicians’ passing also saddened me. Mary Travers. Don Williams. Yes, even Elvis. But the Music of John Denver spoke to me deeply and so his unexpected death struck deeply. In the summer of my own 27th year, I felt born. I was coming into my own as a therapist. I had my first personal therapy experience and began to face some of my own pain. Thus “Rocky Mountain High” had major significance. Other of his songs spoke to me, especially “Looking for Space”, which helped me grieve the loss of a loved one and also articulated much of my own spirituality. There is an enduring image of him from the concert my wife and I saw here in El Paso — the image of him standing alone on the stage at the end of his concert singing “This Old Guitar.”

Robert Kennedy

Image result for robert kennedy

One evening in June 1968 I had stayed up quite late watching the returns of the Democratic primary in California. I was excited that Robert Kennedy had one and, right after he said “So it’s on to Chicago and let’s win there”, I turned off the TV and went to bed. When I came downstairs the next morning, my mother said “Robert Kennedy was hot last night. He’s dying.” When he died, much of my political idealism died with him. I had read his book “To Seek a Newer World” and was greatly affected by his idealistic approach to such key issues as race, poverty, and the war in Viet Nam. The 1960s was the era of assassinations and the losses of JFK and Martin Luther King had greatly affected me. But when Bobby Kennedy died, I felt something deeper die with him.

Gregory Peck and Atticus Finch

Gregory Peck was a great actor who gave us many wonderful performances. But for me he was and always will be Atticus Finch. The novel To Kill a Mockingbird is about the only novel which, when I finished reading it, I turned back to the first page and read it again. Similarly, after I first saw the movie, the next night I went back and saw it again. Beyond its important lessons on bigotry, the movie and Atticus Finch gave me a role model that helped me shape my own fatherhood. And so when Gregory Peck and with him Atticus Finch died, I felt I had lost a mentor.

As I said above, deaths of famous people have touched me in many ways. I grieve the four I mention here and am grateful that, from a distance and unknown to them, they touched my life.

Reflection: Who is on your list and how did they touch your life?









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