The St. Louis Cardinals have decided to remove Christian symbols etched into the dirt on the home pitcher's mound after a disgruntled fan complained about the inclusion of such imagery in a national sport.
Michael Vines is a lifelong Cardinals fan, but only a few weeks ago did he notice something he had never seen before: a cross and an apparent Ichthys or "Jesus fish" drawn in the dirt on the pitcher's mound at Busch Stadium. He then contacted multiple newspapers to complain about the images.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold spoke with starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, who claimed the fish symbol was actually a number "6" in honor of the late Stan Musial, a longtime Cardinals player, who died in January. Wainwright also said the symbols have "been there every time for me." A member of the grounds crew etches them on the mound before most home games.
Still, Vines wasn't satisfied with the response that the Christian symbols (he still thinks the 6 is really an Ichthys) are just tributes.
"Goold lead his piece with the headline 'Mound Tribute,' as if there were nothing inappropriate about displaying religious iconography on the infield at Busch Stadium, a place of hallowed ground not just for Christians, but for Cardinal fans of all religions, including none at all," he wrote in a letter to the River Front Times.
He argued that since the owners of sports teams receive certain tax abatements, thus making teams "civic institutions" despite being privately owned, "ownership has a responsibility and obligation to prohibit religious symbols of any kind from being placed in the field."
By Friday, the symbols had been removed.
“Once we learned of it,” Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch, “I did contact the grounds crew and just asked that they don’t. It’s just not club policy to be putting religious symbols on the playing field or throughout the ballpark. I didn’t ask for the reason behind it. I just asked for it to stop.”
Mediate notes some conservatives questioned why such Christian emblems were deemed inappropriate, considering the team's religious roots. The city of St. Louis was named after Louis IX, the former King of France who was canonized and added to the roll of saints by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297.
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