Personal Ruthian* Traditions That We Need To Abandon


This year Aaron Judge broke the professional home run record for the American League. He broke the record held by Roger Maris. Perhaps you have never heard of Roger Maris, but any serious fan of professional baseball sure has. He is famously known as the right fielder for the New York Yankees, who in 1961 broke the record for most home runs in a season. On October 1, 1961, he hit his 61st home run breaking the old record of 60 that had been held by the legendary Babe Ruth since 1927. Almost everyone has heard of Babe Ruth and his name is synonymous with “Baseball”. But a funny thing happened to Maris on his way to immortality. It is spelled T-R-A-D-I-T-I-O-N. You see, the commissioner of professional baseball in 1961 was a man named Ford Frick. Mr. Frick was a contemporary of Babe Ruth. Prior to 1961, professional baseball played 154 games, but in 1961 eight games were added to what is now the present-day schedule of 162 games. By mid-season, with Ruth’s record in jeopardy, Frick announced that the single season record for home runs would have to be broken in 154 games, not 162. As fate would have it, Maris ended up with 59 after 154 games but 61 after the newly expanded 162 games. An infamous asterisk (*) was to have been placed beside the new home run record that was achieved by Roger Maris, demeaning his accomplishment. Later in his life, a somewhat bitter Maris said,

“They acted as though I was doing something wrong, poisoning the record books or something. Do you know what I have to show for 61 home runs? Nothing, exactly nothing!”

Mr. Maris died in 1985, never having received the recognition that he so rightly deserved. Somehow, the “traditions of the fathers” got in the way.

The statement “traditions of our fathers” can be a very positive thing, if those traditions are righteous. But tradition for tradition’s sake is not necessarily a good thing. Indeed, when it comes to the religious equivalent, “faith of our fathers”, it can be a double- edged sword. If that faith is right, then wonderful, but following a faith simply because it was the faith of your fathers is similar to baseball failing to accept Maris’ new home run record just because….well…just because! Like Maris, Joseph Smith’s contemporaries had a hard time with his story of the “First Vision” and his subsequent story of the restoration of Christ’s church. It appears to me that many people didn’t want to accept this new religion “because…. well…just because. You know, we have a religion and well, it was my father’s faith and his father’s faith and so on and so on.” For many, their faith had simply become a tradition. In fact, in the days of Jesus Christ, the same problem existed. We have a faith, and we don’t need any other. Many today are of a similar thought process.

We too must be willing to recognize and abandon “traditions” that are no longer valid. Each of us has traditions or habits that we hold onto because we feel comfortable with them. We were taught them as children or we developed them as a youth. Perhaps we were taught things that are not in keeping with the Sabbath. Maybe we were taught that taking advantage of our neighbor just seems like “good sense.” Perhaps we have the habit of cursing or using the name of the Lord in vain. For some of us, it might simply be that we were taught the tradition of putting oneself first above all others.

I am sure that Ford Frick, the baseball commissioner in 1961, felt he was doing a service to baseball by preserving the legacy of Babe Ruth when he announced that his home run record would have to be broken in 154 games. But the real lesson to be learned from his decision is that man is slow to change. We don’t like it! Nevertheless, all of us have “Ruthian traditions” in our lives that need to be abandoned. But first and foremost, we need to recognize them. May we take an inventory of our lives, then have the courage to drop “Ruthian traditions” from them.

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