Baumann: Killing God and Willard Hershberger

From SABR member Michael Baumann at Baseball Prospectus on March 4, 2016:

Willard Hershberger was a backup catcher for the Cincinnati Reds from 1938 to 1940. He played 160 games, mostly as a defensive caddy for Ernie Lombardi, but he also hit well—.312/.351/.381 for his brief career. Hershberger is a historical footnote; from an on-field perspective he’s no more notable than, say, Mitch Meluskey, and nobody expects casual baseball fans 75 years from now to remember Mitch Meluskey.

Nevertheless, Hershberger is unique in baseball history. That’s why, if the name is familiar to you at all, you almost certainly know why.


Human beings are the most intelligent living thing that we currently know to exist. Of all the billions and billions of organisms that have lived on this planet before, from plankton to fungi to amoebae to flatworms to trees to fish to dogs, none carries the intellectual capacity of the modern human being. It is what sets us apart.

And probably because our intelligence sets us apart, we, as a species, find that living in a state of ignorance to be deeply unsettling. That is the shared origin of both religion and science at their purest—attempts to explain the unknown or unknowable in terms that can be understood by human beings. Until the past few hundred years, religious explanations for the unknowable were valued above all others, but in a post-Enlightenment, post-Scientific Revolution world, we can now explain and understand much of what was previously unknown without looking to a divine source for any of it.

The emergence of a new alternative was necessarily threatening to people who either profited by a monopoly on understanding of the so-called mystery of faith, and discomfiting to people who had no desire to understand their universe in terms other than it being the creation of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: March 4, 2016. Last Updated: March 4, 2016.