The general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals ordered groundskeepers to remove a small cross that had been etched into the pitcher’s mound at Busch Stadium after a fan objected to the religious symbol.
In addition to the cross, crews reportedly carved another image into the mound.
Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the image is the number ‘6’ in honor of Cardinals great Stan Musial who died in January. However, a longtime Cardinals fan suggested the image looked like the “Ichthys” also known as a “Jesus Fish.”
General Manager John Mozeliak said he was unaware of the mound decorations until he was alerted by a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Once we learned of it, I did contact the grounds crew and just asked that they don’t,” he told the newspaper. “It’s just not club policy to be putting religious symbols on the playing field or throughout the ballpark.”
Mozeliak said he did not ask the reason behind the etchings – which have apparently been on put on the mound for most home games.
“I just asked for it to stop,” he said.
Baseball fan Michael Vines told the Riverfront Times that he was responsible for complaining about the symbols. He noticed the images during a television broadcast of a game.
“Out of respect to a devoted and diverse fan base who also has some skin in the game, not to mention a diverse group of players, ownership has a responsibility and obligation to prohibit religious symbols of any kind from being placed in the field,” Vines wrote.
He called Busch Stadium a “place of hallowed ground not just for Christians, but for Cardinal fans of all religious, including none at all.”
Yahoo sports columnist David Brown was among those offended by the religious symbols.
“Wear a cross around your neck,” he wrote. “Hang one in the dugout – maybe – if nobody on the team objects. But the mound is neutral turf and should remain as such.”
StLToday.com sports writer Bill McClellan also raised concerns.
“Does religion need to be that prominent in a baseball game,” he wrote. “I’m not pretending it’s a big deal. But still, I have an uneasy feeling about a cross etched on the mound.”
A number of Cardinals players are outspoken evangelical Christians.
The Post-Dispatch reported manager Mike Matheny brought up the subject of faith in one of his first team meetings.
“This is who I am, and Jesus Christ is at the center of my life,” he said in comments reported by the paper. “It’s all that I am, every day, every decision that I make. I’m going to stand up and tell you what I believe is true.”
Hemant Mehta, who writes a column titled, Friendly Atheist, praised the baseball team for removing the offending symbols.
“This isn’t an attack on Christianity, as I’m sure some right-wing websites will make it out to be,” he wrote in his Patheos column. “This is just one of those practices that can so easily get out of hand — hello Wiccan and atheist and Muslim symbols! — that it’s just better to put a stop to it now.”