Do You Do Voodoo?
June 28, 2007, 11:33 PM
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Confirming that the 1989 comedy "Major League," with Dennis Haysbert as Pedro Cerrano, the slugger who keeps a Santeria shrine in his locker, was ahead of its time, the LA Times reports:

Religion under wraps Santeria finds a following among baseball's Latin American players, who'd rather not discuss it for fear of misperceptions. By Kevin Baxter Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO – On a shelf in the office of Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen, mixed in among the family photos, the Roberto Clemente bobblehead and the Napoleon Dynamite figurine, are four small but intimidating religious icons.

"If you see my saints, you'll be like 'Golly, they're ugly,' " Guillen had said before inviting a visitor to come in. "They've got blood. They've got feathers. You go to the Catholic church, the [saints] have got real nice clothes.

"My religion, you see a lot of different things you never see."

Guillen's religion is Santeria, a largely misunderstood Afro-Cuba spiritual tradition that incorporates the worship of orisha – multidimensional beings who represent the forces of nature – with beliefs of the Yoruba and Bantu people of Africa and elements of Roman Catholicism. And Guillen, born in Venezuela, is one of a growing number of Latin American players, managers and coaches who are followers of the faith.

How many major leaguers have converted to Santeria is impossible to say because most, aware of the stigma the religion has in the United States, refuse to talk about their faith.

"It's like the forbidden fruit," said one player. "It's something personal. It's something you don't talk about."

But among those who have acknowledged their devotion are Angels pitcher Francisco Rodriguez and Florida Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera – both Venezuelan – and the White Sox's Cuban-born pitcher Jose Contreras, all of whom have been All-Stars and won World Series rings. Others, such as Cincinnati Reds shortstop Alex Gonzalez and Chicago Cubs infielder Ronny Cedeno, have experimented with it.

With all that spiritual power on his side, you'd think Ozzie Guillen could have gotten a few more walks during his playing career. (Guillen's name has become a by-word for a player who will not take a base-on-balls no matter how much the team needs it.)

Anyway, it's all just part of the vibrant future we Americans have to look forward to.

[Crossposted at Isteve.com]