Hey readers, thanks for checking in with the “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog today! We have a three-for-one entry focusing on baseball players this time around. You may remember that this is actually our second post on baseball, although it’s been a while since the first one was uploaded. More recently, we’ve been to space and to the pet store, and next time, we’ll be going behind bars–a tantalizing teaser if there ever was one.
One other note on our next entry before we get into today’s, however. While I’ve really enjoyed bringing the blog back out of semi-retirement to celebrate the publication of my book, and while I’m glad to have dived back into material that I’m passionate about, I think it’s time to shut it down again at the end of 2019. With other academic and ministerial commitments, and a rapidly shortening list of potential topics, I’m finding it harder to justify spending the time required to write these entries. Too, as I near the end of the dissertation writing process, I want to be able to focus more of my energies there. I won’t say with 100% certainty that entry no. 47 will be the last, but it’s at least going to be the last for a while.
At any rate, let’s talk baseball!
All of today’s ballplayers were suggested to me by readers of the blog, and none was featured in the earlier baseball entry, meaning that we’re covering quite a bit of new ground today. First up is Lindy McDaniel (1935-), whose lengthy pitching career took him across multiple decades (1955-1975) and teams (five MLB franchises in total). McDaniel holds the unusual distinction of having faced more eighth-inning batters than anyone else in MLB history (1) and led the National League in saves three times.
Evidence of McDaniel’s connections to Churches of Christ is plentiful. The SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) entry on the pitcher tells us not only that he played at Abilene Christian College (now Abilene Christian University) and Florida Christian College (now Florida College), both of which have ties to Churches of Christ, but also that he was “a minister of the Church of Christ.” Also according to SABR, McDaniel “preached for congregations in his hometown of Hollis, churches in Missouri during his years with the Cardinals, and in Baytown, Texas.” (2) Even more directly, McDaniel’s blog, “Pitching for the Master,” states that “Presently, Lindy serves as one of the elders at the Lavon church of Christ and does about 50% of the preaching.” (3)
Also in the lineup for today’s entry is Johnnie LeMaster (1954-), who played 12 years in the majors, spending most of that time with the San Francisco Giants. Aside from hitting an inside-the-park home run in his first at-bat, the most memorable moment of LeMaster’s career was likely his response to his own team’s fans booing him mercilessly. (LeMaster, despite the longevity of his career, was–to put it politely–not a Hall of Fame candidate.) For one 1979 game, rather than wearing his name on the back of his jersey, LeMaster instead wore a jersey that said, simply, “Boo.” (4)
While LeMaster’s playing career may have been somewhat of a mixed bag, like McDaniel, his ties to Churches of Christ are strong. An article on This Great Game asserts that LeMaster “currently resides in Paintsville, Kentucky, where he serves as an elder for the Paintsville Church of Christ.” (5) Likewise, a 2016 newspaper article confirms LeMaster’s status as an elder and adds that “he also spent six years conducting a weekly Bible study at a prison in Martin County, Ky.” (6)
Last on the list is Fred McGriff (1963-), a five-time All-Star who was part of the 1995 Atlanta Braves World Series-winning team. Today, McGriff works in a front office role for the Braves, and his well-known nickname, the “Crime Dog,” is a reference to the McGruff character used in crime prevention-related public service announcements.
Although McGriff is on nearly every online list of celebrities with supposed ties to Churches of Christ, I have been unable to substantiate that claim in any way. I’m not the first person to come up short in this task, either; a reader of the blog (in fact, the same person who suggested the other two players in today’s entry!) reached the same dead end earlier this year. (7) The closest I have come is finding that McGriff spoke at a benefit dinner for the Lipscomb Bisons baseball team–but nothing more than that at this point. (8)
With two of our three subjects CONFIRMED, I think it’s time to bring this entry to a close. Thanks as always for reading, and be sure to check back in a few weeks for the next scheduled post here at “Church of Christ Celebrities”!
(1) Tom Verducci, “Hall of Fame: How will Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and other newcomers fare?” Sports Illustrated, November 29, 2016, accessed September 3, 2019, https://www.si.com/mlb/2016/11/29/hall-fame-2017-first-year-candidates.
(2) David E. Skelton, “Lindy McDaniel,” Society for American Baseball Research, accessed September 3, 2019, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/f050da28.
(3) “Lindy McDaniel — Some background information,” Pitching for the Master, accessed September 3, 2019, http://www.lindymcdaniel.com/blogabout.html?fbclid=IwAR3AjDoUcO1ixnNgC8U4EPTb55a5VwNfzqhH5CkOJZDwI8HACExsKPeWoSM.
(4) Lincoln Mitchell, “The Worst Player Ever – The Case for Johnnie LeMaster,” accessed September 3, 2019, http://lincolnmitchell.com/blog/2013/10/12/the-worst-player-ever-the-case-for-johnnie-lemaster.
(5) “They Were There: Johnnie LeMaster,” This Great Game, accessed September 3, 2019, http://www.thisgreatgame.com/johnnie-lemaster.html.
(6) James Juett, “LeMaster brings major league experience to Ashland,” Herald-Dispatch, May 9, 2016, accessed September 3, 2019, https://www.herald-dispatch.com/sports/lemaster-brings-major-league-experience-to-ashland/article_640d5190-6915-55e5-bdc8-f7d6a7d1c49e.html.
(7) Jason T. Carter, “A common faith,” The Writer’s Journey, February 24, 2019, accessed September 27, 2019, https://thewritersjourney.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/a-common-faith/.
(8) Kirk Downs, “Fred McGriff To Headline Baseball’s 5th-Annual First Pitch Dinner,” Lipscomb Sports, December 23, 2018, accessed September 27, 2019, http://www.lipscombsports.com/baseball/news/2018-19/15611/fred-mcgriff-to-headline-baseballs-5th-annual-first-pitch-dinner/.