April 15, 2008
Disappointing news for those who were hoping to see Pope Benedict XVI make a post-Communion procession around the bases at Sunday's mass in Yankee Stadium: The Vatican is under strict orders to keep the Popemobile (or the Pope Mercedes, for that matter) off the grass where Derek Jeter and Co. practice their own brand of pinstriped religion.
"The Yankees had only one request, and that is that we not touch their grass," said Mark Ackermann, who is running the Office of the Papal Visit for the New York archdiocese. "The All-Star game will be there this year and of course we're all confident that the World Series will be there as well. So the Yankees need to keep it in good shape and we've been most respectful of that."
All I can say is the the Bombers better make sure they know who they're dealing with. Yankee Stadium has been the site of two other papal visits and the first — Pope Paul VI in 1965 — coincided with the Yankees' first losing season since 1925.
Fourteen years later, Pope John Paul II said mass and the '79 team went 89-71, but finished fourth in the AL East. Since the team is currently a middling 7-7, I'm thinking that if Pope Benedict wants to drive the Popemobile in from the bullpen for a relief appearance or out to the mound for a chat with Phil Hughes, the team should by all means let him. Hank Steinbrenner might think differently, but only the Big Guy Upstairs (no, not George) tells the pope what to do.
A big BLS head nod to Fanhouse for the tip.