(Photo: Reuters/Dilip Vishwanat)
The grounds crew at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, has been ordered as of last week to stop etching Christian symbols onto the pitching mound after a fan complained that one symbol resembled an ichthus, an image of a fish known to be a biblical reference to Jesus.
Grounds crew officials said the fish was actually a "6," in honor and remembrance of former Cardinal Hall of Fame Outfielder, Stan Musial, who died in January, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. They also carved a cross on the mound in Musial's honor, who was known to be a devout Christian.
The fan, Michael Vines, who objected to the symbols, wrote a letter to a St. Louis-based newspaper, the Riverfront Times, arguing that it was wrong for the team to display "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."
Vines also said the team had a civic responsibility to ban religious symbols on the field.
"The team and stadium may be privately owned, but they are civic institutions," Vines told the Front River Times. "Out of respect to a devoted and diverse fan base who also has some skin in the game, not to mention a diverse group of players, ownership has a responsibility and obligation to prohibit religious symbols of any kind from being placed in the field."
The Cardinal's general manager, John Mozeliak, responded to Vines complaint agreeing that the symbols do not have a place on the turf.
"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," said Mozeliak.
He added that if grounds crew wanted to "stencil 'Stl' or something like that, that's fine," referring to the St. Louis initials, but "that's not something we've asked anyone to do."
Although Vines' request was handled in his favor, the decision to eliminate the Christian imagery came under fire from conservatives, including political talk radio host Laura Ingraham, who emphasized the irony in removing religious symbols from a team that plays in a city named after a saint.
"The #Cardinals Gen Mgr shd start referring to his team as just the 'Louis Cardinals' then," tweeted Ingraham.