RtO: Thirteen Virtues: The Last Six

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Each week, author and poet Y.S. Fing looks at the state of baseball, the movements of the game, the ebb and flow and soul of America’s pastime in Roaming the Outfield. This week: “Thirteen Virtues: The First Seven”

The last six of Ben Franklin’s virtues are: Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility.

One thing I’d like to note is that Ben chose the thirteen virtues himself. They weren’t handed down to him engraven in granite through almighty religious tradition. But he didn’t just make things up either. Each virtue was well known in his society. They were the topic of many a preacher’s sermon. So, if you’re inclined to adopt Ben’s system, feel free to improvise.

Everybody knows that baseball players have ways of attending to Justice, both on the field and in the clubhouse. But if all the players, in Ben’s words, “wrong none,” then justice would be more readily served. And because baseball is such a long season, Moderation is always important, as is the Tranquility and Humility that come with Moderation. When you are in control of yourself, you are a better player and a better person.

I’m looking at the last two of Ben Franklin’s virtues and I’m wondering, “How does baseball fit into Chastity or Cleanliness?” Is baseball just a maguffin? Am I here to wrench righteousness into what is really just a game? Am I suggesting that people ought to emulate Jesus, as Ben does when he glosses on Humility? Certainly not! I’m no self-sacrificer, well not to that extent. I’m just looking for the best way to get through life. And baseball is the microcosmic example that leads me to a full picture of life.Ben Franklin

Ask any young man who has spent his 20’s with plenty of money, travel, and access to adoring fans, whether Chastity was a challenge. Ask Wade Boggs if his compulsive sexual behavior made him a better player or person. Ben noted Temperance early in his list, and that includes over sexual desire. It’s difficult to find a balance between want and need in sexual matters. But the difference is crucial.

And I guess there’s more than one kind of Cleanliness, because a ball-player with a clean uniform is not really in the game. But if you aren’t Chaste in your sexual habits, then how Clean are you really going to be? I’m sure Ben was thinking along the lines of Order, when he added Cleanliness to the list, and of course there is a long-term health concern too, with habitual uncleanliness.

So while it is debatable how much Ben’s virtues apply to baseball, they do apply to people, and if you can become good at any one thing, then you can become good at anything at all. Self-discipline is the key to success in an atheistic, secular world. There’s hardly more that needs to be said.

Of course, baseball has been the last refuge to which many a scoundrel has clung. (Oh, the list! Ty Cobb, Billy Martin, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds!) I’m not saying that MLB players are virtuous, but that if they abided by Ben’s tenets, they certainly would be best prepared to achieve success when the opportunity arose.

Drew Storen
Nationals reliever Drew Storen has struggled mightily this season.

That’s one reason I want to stand behind Nationals pitcher Drew Storen these days. I believe that Drew is likely to be on the mound when the Nationals win the World Series in the next five years. Given that he’s now in the minor leagues, I don’t say destined, but, despite the upheaval in his professional life since last October, he’s got his head on straight. He knows it’s about the team and he knows that time and adversity bring the experience to grow and to handle heavier responsibilities.

A career in baseball is a process, like any process that people go through. There are ups and downs, and giving up on yourself never helps. The Nationals are a young team. They have good leadership in place, but the younger ones are going through a tempering process that no one else can go through for them. And they’ll need to consider the kind of manager they want when Davey Johnson retires at the end of the season.

So, I add, along with Ben’s list of virtues, a plea for patience. No team ever won a championship with hysterical criticism from their fans, who are, in Ben’s words, “disturbed at trifles.” Patience is the fundamental virtue in self-discipline. Patience acknowledges that processes require time. Baseball has plenty of time, so its fans must be patient, if they want to truly enjoy the pleasures yet to come. So says I.


Y.S Fing loves baseball the way that his parents wish he loved Catholicism.