By Dan Bernstein

Nothing apparently speaks to Christian values like letting a virulently anti-LGBT speaker use a baseball stadium to spread his message of discrimination to baseball fans. So that’s what the St. Louis Cardinals did last Sunday at Busch Stadium.

What’s more, they found it in their hearts to deny access to Erik Hall of Outsports, hiding behind the absurd justification that the publication’s online-only status made him unworthy. That Hall is a member of the Associated Press Sports Editors and the National Sports Media Association made no difference to them, nor did the fact that Outsports had never before been refused a credential to an event in its 17 years of existence.

So he bought a ticket, and covered it anyway.

Hall watched former MLB star-turned-activist Lance Berkman preach about obedience to the bible, in front of a crowd estimated at 1500 that stayed for the program after most of the 40,827 who attended the game had filed out. Berkman made a name for himself in Texas as a crusader to protect the state’s precious bathrooms from the perceived danger of transgender people, calling them “troubled men who claim to be women” and warning that they had inherently nefarious designs other than just needing to use the facilities.

Berkman was joined onstage by current Cardinals Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Zach Duke and Trevor Rosenthal, broadcaster Ricky Horton and manager Mike Matheny.

Matheny lauded his players for doing something he seems to believe is controversial, casting Christians as what Hall described as “an afflicted minority,” saying “for them to share something that isn’t politically correct anymore, something that isn’t publicly acceptable, for them to stand up here and to share… takes a great amount of courage.”

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The dimwitted Matheny continues at every turn to be the odious heart of the Cardinals’ ongoing culture war, surviving in his job — for the moment — despite manifest incompetence as both a baseball tactician and clubhouse leader. As the team’s underperformance has resulted in front-office reconstruction, the galoot on the bench who is largely responsible has been able to remain.

There is all kinds of creepy discomfort around Matheny, who is noted for his bizarre and rambling Matheny Manifesto, a book spawned from a letter that he once wrote on an airplane, advocating a nebulous amalgam of religion and small-town values as some way of making youth sports great again. He tried to build this into an actual brick-and-mortar project near St. Louis with a massive baseball academy, only to see the effort fail spectacularly for lack of funding.

As painstakingly reported by Chase Woodruff of the Cardinals-focused site, the POWERplex in Chesterfield was hoping to be the crown jewel of the BASE Foundation, a nonprofit group that would use the Manifesto to teach baseball to kids, in a way that would battle what it perceived as a sport in crisis, calling youth baseball “a great game… being disrespected on multiple levels.” Matheny partnered with the unctuous Dan Buck, a former broadcaster who reinvents himself as a businessman or consultant as needed and is known for public expressions of Islamophobia.

The proposal for the 74-acre development was scuttled by wary city officials in June, after Buck and Matheny could not show enough financial backing by an agreed deadline.

The Cardinals have no issue with these kind of associations, it seems, pleased to stand as a beacon of rock-ribbed Midwestern-ness, led by a man who wants to return us all to a more comfortable time, like 1953. The frightened Matheny is trying to save baseball from some multicultural siege that threatens its very essence, while the organization is similarly scared of a reporter covering their courageous and oppressed players.

Dan Bernstein is senior columnist on CBS Chicago and co-host of “Boers & Bernstein” on Chicago’s 670 The Score.


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