Thursday, October 19, 2006

Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Take Me Out With the... Parish?

OK, gang, pre-game time for Cards-Mets Game 7 tonight. For the benefit of those whose favorite sport is liturgy, the baseball season's wrapping up, and the winner of tonight's game at Shea Stadium in New York will face the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, which begins Saturday night in the Motor City.

You might just have to pull for the Detroit team -- and not just because they last showed at the big dance two decades ago. The brother of Tigers' manager Jim Leyland is... Fr Tom Leyland, a priest of the diocese of Toledo and pastor of the hometown church where he and the prolific skip grew up.
At 8:50 a.m. Tuesday, nearly two hours after he celebrated morning mass, Father Thomas Leyland stood on a rain-soaked sidewalk and smiled as dozens of schoolchildren made their way up the steps and through the front doors of St. Rose Parish.

Many wore jackets and sweatshirts over their uniforms to cut the dampness in the air. And that's when Fr. Leyland noticed something.

There, near the front of the line, was a boy in a Bowling Green State football sweatshirt. Close behind was another student. He had "Urlacher" on his back.

One by one they paraded past him: St. Rose football, St. Rose cross-country, then Ohio State football, University of Michigan, Naval Academy, U.S. Marine Corps, Notre Dame.

"Interesting," Fr. Leyland thought.

Not a Tigers sweatshirt in the bunch....

Spend a morning in Leyland's hometown of Perrysburg (pop. 16,000) -- located about an hour's drive south of Detroit -- and you'll learn that the city's sporting loyalties are diverse.

Some cheer for the Tigers, others go for the Cleveland Indians. Among the big universities, Ohio State supporters seem to outnumber U-M diehards. But among the more avid baseball fans, this much is clear:

"A lot of people here in Perrysburg who follow the Tigers, they do so because of Jim Leyland," said Tigers fan Don Sherry, who works in Perrysburg and lives in nearby Sylvania....

Jim Leyland, 61, and his six siblings grew up on Indiana Avenue, a few minutes from St. Rose, where Jim and his brothers served as altar boys. Leyland was a three-sport star at Perrysburg High and went on to play in the Tigers' minor league system for six years before, at age 26, he became manager of the Class A Bristol rookie league team.

He managed the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series and won three straight division titles when he managed the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1986-96.

Though he lives in the off-season in Pittsburgh with his wife and son, Leyland visits Perrysburg when his schedule allows.

Over the years, Jim Leyland has donated an undisclosed sum of money to his former high school and to area charities. But at his request, his contributions have remained private, his family and friends say....

"I remember when the Marlins played Cleveland, a newspaper guy came around asking about Jim," said Bruce Brigode, who owns Mills Hardware on Louisiana Avenue. "I told him it was an all-Ohio World Series. He said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'The Cleveland Indians versus Jim Leyland.'

"I can tell you this, it means a lot for him to get back."
FYI -- because you know you were curious -- the naming of the St Louis Cardinals had nothing to do with Glennon, Ritter or Carberry.