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A Bolt From The Blue Post by :mtndoc37 Category :Essays Author :Heywood Broun Date :November 2011 Read :3092

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A Bolt From The Blue

JOHN ROACH STRATON died and went to his appointed kingdom where he immediately sought an audience with the ruler of the realm.

"Let New York be destroyed," shouted Dr. Straton as he pushed his way into the inner room. The king was engaged at the moment in watching a sparrow fall to earth and motioned the visitor to compose himself in silence, but there was an urgency in the voice and manner of the man from earth which would not be denied. "Smite them hip and thigh," said Dr. Straton and the king looked down at him and asked, "Is the necessity immediate?"

"Delay not thy wrath," said Dr. Straton, "for to-day on thy Sabbath sixty thousand men, women, and children of New York have gathered together to watch a baseball game."

The ruler of the realm looked and saw that 11,967 persons were watching the Yankees and the White Sox at the Polo Grounds.

"A good husky tidal wave would confound them," urged Straton, but the king shook his head.

"Remember the judgment you heaped upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah," suggested Straton.

The ruler of the realm nodded without enthusiasm. "I remember," he said, "but as I recollect it didn't do much good."

Dr. Straton's bright hopefulness faded and the king hastened to reassure him. "We can think up something better than that," he said, and had the visitor been an observant man he might have noticed that the streets of the kingdom were paved with tact. "Now there was the Tower of Babel," said the ruler of the realm reflectively, "that was a creative idea. That was a doom which persisted because it had ingenuity as well as power. That's what we need now."

Suddenly there dawned in the face of the king an idea, and it seemed to Dr. Straton as if he were standing face to face with a sunrise. The doctor lowered his eyes and he saw that the men and the women Sabbath breakers of New York were all upon their feet and shouting, though to his newly immortal senses the din came feebly. "Now," he said, with an exultation which caused him to slip into his old pulpit manner, "let 'em have it."

But the king with keener vision than Dr. Straton, saw that it was the ninth inning, the score tied, runners on first and second, and Babe Ruth coming to bat. "The time has not come," said the king, and he pushed the doctor gently and made him give ground a little. And they waited until two strikes had been pitched and three balls. The next one would have cut the heart of the plate, but Babe Ruth swung and the ball rose straight in the air. Up and up it came until it disappeared from the view of all the players and spectators and even of the umpires. Soon a mighty wrangle began. Miller Huggins claimed a home run and Kid Gleason argued that the ball was foul. The umpires waited for an hour and then, as the ball had not yet come down, Dineen was forced to make a decision and shouted "Foul!" while the crowd booed. One of the pop bottles injured him rather badly and there was a riot for which it was necessary to call out the reserves. Everybody went home disgruntled and a month later the Lusk bill abolishing Sunday baseball was passed.

And all the time the ball continued to rise until suddenly the king, thrusting out his left hand, caught it neatly and slipped it into his pocket. It was not a conventional pocket, for there were planets in it and ever-lasting mercy and other things. For a long time Dr. Straton had been awed into silence by the mighty miracle, but now he spoke, reverently but firmly.

"I beg your pardon," he said, "but you will observe that there is a sign in the baseball park which says 'All balls batted out of the diamond remain the property of the New York Baseball Club and should be thrown back!'"

The ruler of the realm smiled. "You forget," he answered, "that if I threw the ball back from this great height it might strike a man and kill him, it might crash through a huge office building, it might even destroy the Calvary Baptist Church."

Then for the first time a touch of sharpness came into the voice of Dr. Straton. "All that is immaterial," he said. "I think I know my theology well enough to understand that law is law and right is right, come what may."

"Oh, but it's not nearly as simple as all that," remonstrated the king. "There are right things which are so harsh and unpleasant that they become wrong; and wrong things which are, after all, so jolly that it's hard not to call them right. Why, sometimes I have to stop a fraction of a century myself to reach a decision. It's terribly complicated. The problem is infinite. No mere man, quick or dead, has any right to be dogmatic about it."

"Come, come," said Dr. Straton, and now there was nothing but anger in his voice, "I've heard all those devilish arguments before. When I came here I thought you were God and that this was Heaven. I know now that there's been a mistake. God is no mollycoddle."

He turned on his heel and started to walk away before he remembered that he was a Southern gentleman as well as a clergyman and bowed stiffly, once. Then he went to the edge of the kingdom and jumped. Where he landed it would be hard to say. Only a carefully trained theologian could tell.

(The end)
Heywood Broun's essay: Bolt From The Blue

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