In ancient times, some random sect of people might lay claim to the remains of a venerated hero as a part of hero cult. Parts of their weapons or clothes, a lock of hair, earlobes, whatever. This practice developed over the centuries and, like most ancient practices, was adopted and/or co-opted by organized religion, with stuff like Elisha’s bones and Paul’s handkerchief becoming holy relics.
Over time the relic game got pretty sophisticated, to the point where the Catholic Church classified them by orders of degree. Some stuff — actual items associated with Christ or saints themselves — are first class relics. Down the list you go to, I dunno, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
Baseball plays the relics game too, though we don’t call it that. We call it “memorabilia.” The idea is still the same, though: the preservation of an inanimate object that, in and of itself, has no value apart from the veneration of an intangible event or memory in tangible form. Jerseys. Autographs. That kind of thing.
Baseball should have degrees of this too. Do you own the bat that with which Babe Ruth hit home run number 60 in 1927? Heck, that’s like the bones of John the Baptist. The jersey Pete Rose wore when he broke Ty Cobb’s record? That’s totally as good as a spoon once used by St. Whatshisface to eat the mush which have him strength to do whatever miracle it is that is ascribed to him.
Not sure where to put this, however, but I’m guessing it’s farther down the list:
Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit will be a cause for celebration, marketing and — not least of all — digging up dirt.
After the game, a groundskeeper will tote a shovel and bucket onto the field to scoop five gallons of dirt from the batter’s box and shortstop’s patch. In baseball’s version of preserving the chain of evidence, the bucket will be sealed with tape and verified as the dirt beneath Jeter’s feet with tamper-proof holograms …
… The dirt — from Yankee Stadium if all goes perfectly, but from some ballpark, perhaps Citi Field July 1 to 3 — will find its way into a vast and lucrative universe of celebrity memorabilia and collectibles, much of it orchestrated by a company named Steiner Sports. Tablespoonfuls of the dirt will be poured into capsules to dangle on key chains; ladled into disks to be framed with photographs of the hit (in what is called a dirt collage); and glued into the interlocking NY carved into commemorative bats.
People don’t realize this, but I have a time machine, and I was able to transcribe a conversation between some people who bought the Derek Jeter dirt in 2012:
Man #1: He has given us… His shoe!
Man #2: The shoe is the sign. Let us follow His example. Let us, like Him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is His sign, that all who follow Him shall do likewise.
Man #1: No, no, no. The shoe is a sign that we must gather shoes together in abundance!
Woman: No, cast off the shoes! Follow the Gourd! Follow the Gourd! The Holy Gourd of Jerusalem!
Man #2: No, hold up the sandal, as He has commanded us!