With all eyes on the World Series this year between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals, what better time to reflect on some of the heroes of the faith and the field who made it to the iconic Fall Classic?
Here are some World Seriers contenders from today and yesteryear who are as admired for being Christian role models as they are for their heroics on the diamond.
Mike Matheny (St. Louis Cardinals)
The manager if the St. Louis Cardinals, representing the National League in the World Series this year, Mike Matheny, is a great Christian role model for parents and kids alike. He was the starting catcher for the Cards back in 2004 when they were swept by the team they are now playing (the Boston Red Sox) in the Fall Classic. The four-time Gold Glover who played 13 years in the Majors hopes to get rid of the bad memories and turn things around nearly a decade later as the Red Birds’ skipper.
The 43-year-old manager — who also played for the Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays and ended his catching career with the San Francisco Giants in 2006) — is well known for “The Matheny Manifesto,” where he exhorts parents to be the role model in sports that God intends them to be. In it, he speaks on his faith:
My Christian faith is the guide for my life and I have never been one for forcing my faith down someone’s throat, but I also believe it to be cowardly, and hypocritical to shy away from what I believe. You as parents need to know for yourselves and for your boys, that when the opportunity presents itself, I will be honest with what I believe. That may make some people uncomfortable, but I did that as a player, and I hope to continue it in any endeavor that I get into. —Mike Matheny
Orel Hershiser (Los Angeles Dodgers)
In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened! —Vin Scully
Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully was able to capture the Los Angeles Dodgers’ magical 1988 season masterfully in one sentence. And while Kirk Gibson will always be the iconic image from the World Series that year, it was the hard-nosed pitching of Orel Hershiser that was the cornerstone of the team.
In the ’88 regular season, Hershiser led the league in wins (23), innings (267), shutouts (eight) and complete games (15), not to mention a stellar 2.26 ERA. While these stats are amazing, he finshed the regular season with an unbelievable 59 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, a record that still stands today. He is also the only player to win the Cy Young Award, the Championship Series MVP Award and the World Series MVP Award in the same season (1988).
My faith helped me become a successful player because it kept calling me to a higher standard than what the world called me to. I’m very dedicated to the standards that God has called me to. And I know I (make mistakes) and I’m glad for His forgiveness. But that’s not to say that because there is that much mercy and grace I can be lackadaisical and not strive for Him the next time. —Orel Hershiser
Hershiser, nicknamed “Bulldog,” is a devout Christian and co-wrote an autobiography with Believe.com contributor, Jerry B. Jenkins titled Out of the Blue.
Bernie Carbo (Boston Red Sox)
Carbo was a first round draft choice in 1965, drafted ahead of future Hall of Famer Johnny Bench. He won a Rookie of the Year Award and helped lead the Reds to a World Series appearance. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and then the Boston Red Sox in 1974. He had a memorable impact during the 1975 World Series, when he hit two pinch-hit homers in Game 7. But despite all of his accomplishments, he also battled an alcohol and drug addiction his entire playing career.
He now runs sports clinics, where he warns players about the dangers of addiction and counsels them to find peace in their faith and belief in the power of God.
Mark Teixeira (NY Yankees)
The Yankees didn’t make it to the World Series in 2013, possibly because it didn’t have the help of their veteran first baseman, who was injured much of the year. Mark Teixeira already has one World Series ring from the Yankees’ 2009 championship. He has also won five Golden Glove awards and three hitting titles.
But he has frequently said in interviews that the most important aspect of his life is his faith. ”I would not be where I am today,” he said in 2009, “without my relationship with Christ. His love gives me the right attitude to enjoy baseball every day that I step onto the field.”
Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels)
The story of pitcher Josh Hamilton is one of severe ups and downs. He has accomplished some amazing feats as a player, including leading the Texas Rangers into the 2011 World Series. But he has also battled drinking and drug addiction, so much so that when the Rangers won the ACLS Championship in 2011, the team celebrated with ginger ale instead of champagne. Hamilton credits his faith with getting him through his life’s rough patches and in 2008, he appeared in a testimonial video entitled “I Am Second,” in which he recounted the impact his faith has had in his personal life.
Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Some baseball players never seem to reach the level of success that you would expect from them, given their natural abilities. Clint Hurdle was one of those players. Though he was described on the cover of a 1978 Sports Illustrated magazine as a “phenom,” he never managed anything more magical than simply being a workman player during his decade-long playing career. But he has blossomed as a coach, leading the Colorado Rockies to the World Series in 2007.
This season, he managed the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that broke a 20-year slump and broke .500 … not to mention, made the playoffs for the first time in two decades. Hurdle is a prominent Christian athlete and coach, and in a recent interview said, “God has a great race for you to run. Under His care you will go where you’ve never been and serve in ways you’ve never dreamed.”
Adrian Gonzalez (Los Angeles Dodgers)
The Dodgers had a chance of winning the World Series this year until they ran into the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the NLCS,, and it was due in part to their new first baseman. Adrian Gonzalez began his career with the Florida Marlins in 2000 and later played for the Rangers and the Padres.
Traded to the Dodgers this season, he has been an offensive machine for the team, including hitting a three-run homer at his first time at bat for the team, not to mention a .293 average, 22 home runs and 100 RBIs. Gonzalez is a born-again Christian and engraved on his bats is “PS 27:1” for verse 1 from Psalms 27, which says:
The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whomo shall I be afraid? —Psalm 27:1
Mike Easler (Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox)
Nicknamed the “Hit Man,” Easler batted over .300 in four different seasons and played on the World Series-winning 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates team. He credits his faith with keeping him centered and giving him inspiration during his career. He was traded a number of times during his major league career and spent a number of years in the minor leagues before getting his shot at the big time.
“It is certainly easy to give up hope if you’re living only for yourself,” he said in a 1980 interview. “But knowing the Lord, turning my life over to him has given me the strength and the peace to accomplish many great things.”