Updated with more information about the symbols
Members of the Busch Stadium grounds crew have been drawing a No. 6 in the dirt on the back of the pitching mound to honor the St. Louis Cardinals’ late, great Stan Musial.
But the team has drawn the line at another symbol — a cross — that has been appearing in the dirt.
“Once we learned of it,” General Manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I did contact the grounds crew and just asked that they don’t.
“It’s just not club policy to be putting religious symbols on the playing field or throughout the ballpark. I didn’t ask for the reason behind it. I just asked for it to stop.”
The cross, which was, like the No. 6, fairly unobtrusive, has been there for a while. “They’ve been there every time for me,” pitcher Adam Wainwright told the Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold.
But a note in a story in late June raised awareness and prompted a column in which the Post-Dispatch’s Bill McClellan confessed that it made him uneasy. There’s a distinction to be made between players who demonstrate their faith, like Sandy Koufax and many members of the Cardinals today, and a display on the mound. “Does religion,” he asks, “need to be that prominent in a baseball game?”
And a longtime Cardinals fan named Michael Vines questioned the appropriateness of the symbol in an email to the Riverfront Times, arguing against “religious iconography on the infield at Busch Stadium, a place of hallowed ground not just for Christians, but for Cardinal fans of all religions, including none at all.”
As Vines points out, there’s some debate over whether one of the symbols is indeed a “6.” It does resemble a Christian fish symbol or ichthys (see Vines’ photo above). A commenter on the McClellan column noted that the cross is not associated with Musial at all. “The cross on the mound is not there for Stan,” Tim Disher wrote. “It is there for my brother John Zachary Disher. He lost his battle with cancer on March 3rd 2012. That cross has been on the mound since opening day of last year. Look it up. My brother worked the ground crew from 06-12 when he went to be with the former cardinal stars.”
The Cardinals have not clarified exactly what the symbols are; they only want them gone.