' ' Cinema Romantico: George Will Opines on Pedro Cerrano

Monday, November 04, 2019

George Will Opines on Pedro Cerrano

This faux George Will column originally appeared in the Washington Post edition of Tuesday October 3, 1989. It has been reprinted here with faux permission.

When the surging Cleveland Indians visited the slumping Baltimore Orioles earlier this summer, I attended the game and was invited into both locker rooms, happening upon the Indians’ young Cuban slugger Pedro Cerrano perched before some bizarre shrine. I asked questions and he graciously, if intensely, accommodated, explaining he was praying to the deity of Jobu, belonging to some mixture of Caribbean Vodou and Lowcountry Voodoo that the player picked up on his long journey to the Rust Belt. If it gave me pause, it also piqued my curiosity. After all, I believe religious freedom is an American inalienable right and so why should that not extend to Cerrano’s own unique religious customs?

Of course, baseball is a religion too, with its stately cathedrals and space for those who have athletically sinned to repent by coming through in the clutch. And this religion adheres to its own customs, a guiding set of principles generally referred to as an unwritten code, its vast and vital rules passed down from generation to generation, the meaning of those values transmitted from the old guard to the new. Upon taking the field at one of these houses of worship, you are agreeing to abide by the word of baseball.

If the one-game playoff on Monday night in Cleveland to determine whether the hometown Indians or their sudden rival, the New York Yankees, would represent the American League East in this years League Championship Series was filled to the brim with impeccable drama, so too did it stand out for one unfortunate transgression. It happened with the Indians down 1-0 and Cerrano at the plate. If he had been struggling simply to make contact, here he came through, belting a towering home run to deadlock the game. It was heroic, but his ensuing trot around the bases with his bat firmly in tow, was the opposite. He was not celebrating; he was preening.

“In baseball,” Yankee first baseman Clu Haywood said afterward, “you don’t show up your opponent. You put your damn bat down and jog around the bases.” True, Haywood has been admonished in some quarters for his derriere shimmies at the plate. But these are “all in good fun,” Haywood explained while spitting chaw onto the shoes of a female reporter whose name I forget questioning the shimmies in the first place. There is a thin line between good fun and showing off and Cerrano, despite the protestations of his manager Lou Brown, crossed it.

Some argued Indian catcher Jake Taylor crossed the same line in the bottom of the ninth when he “called his shot”, a la Babe Ruth in the 1932 World Series. But Ruth was nothing less than the game’s Saint Paul, spreading its gospel to all those who followed, like Taylor, who explained afterwards his intention was not to put on airs but get in the opposing pitcher’s head, a bout of good old fashioned gamesmanship. Cerrano, while manifestly talented, might do well to learn from his elder and seek absolution.

I wonder, what’s Jobu’s policy on forgiveness?

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