Today, of course, is Friday the 13th, which brings out the superstitious among us. In the Spring, my classes will cover the twin stories of the raising of the daughter of Jairus and the healing of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. I tell the students that according to the Law of Moses, the unnamed woman was not supposed to be in a crowd, could not go into the temple, and was denied marital relations with her husband. The story of the lady making contact with the Savior brings up the following story, which I wrote on September 7, 2006.
I've followed sports all my life and thought I'd heard everything but apparently I haven't. Last night, I was listening to one of the Houston sports' talk radio stations. The topic for discussion was the superstitions of major league baseball players. Several Astros were mentioned and then the host brought up a player I had never heard of. Kevin Rhomberg played only forty-one games in his career, all for the Cleveland Indians, from 1982-1984. His batting average, based only only forty-seven plate appearances, was .383, very respectable. While Rhomberg was no more than a run-of-the-mill big leaguer, he was a Hall of Fame character. Rhomberg had a superstition that he had to touch back everyone who touched him, along the lines of children playing TAG. He could not rest without making physical contact with the person who made physical contact with him. This led to hilarious anecdotes about his interaction with both teammates and opposition. All-Star pitcher Rick Sutcliffe reached under a toilet stall and tapped Rhomberg on the toe and fled. Not seeing his toucher, Rhomberg had to tag every other player on the Indians to satisfy his compulsion. In the minors, a teammate tapped him with a baseball and proceeded to throw it out of the ballpark, leading Rhomberg on a two hour search for the offending sphere. Opponents also found great sport in making Rhomberg miserable. The New York Yankees were masters at the distraction, taking it so far that an umpire interrupted a contest and ordered the pinstripers to stop touching Mr. Rhomberg. There are more stories out there. Maybe the best is Rhomberg's wife begging one of his teammates to let her husband touch him back because he wouldn't sleep all that night otherwise.
I was superstitious when I played basketball in high school and college. I would tie and re-tie my shoes constantly. Maybe that was a nervous habit or ritual instead of a superstition. I can't figure out if Kevin Rhomberg was extremely superstitious or had some sort of compulsive disorder. I asked in class how he could live in New York City. How would he react each time a stranger brushed against him on a sidewalk? Re-touching could result in getting punched.....or worse. I wonder if he had the problem in school. Remember the first kindergarten rule: KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF! Kevin would have earned alot of frowny-face stickers in that category! Jesus also had a thing about being touched. In Capernaum, the Messiah was on his way to raise a little girl from the dead. An anonymous woman snuck up through the pressing crowd and made contact with his clothes, believing that slight brush of her hand would heal her of her twelve year hemorrhage. It did....but Jesus knew he had been touched and had power leave him. And like Kevin Rhomberg, he could not let it go unchallenged, asking , "Who touched me?" The subsequent confession of the woman and the praising of her faith by the Lord gives hope to those afraid to extend their hands and arms for help in seemingly impossible circumstances. I don't know if he ever outgrew his condition but Kevin Rhomberg always felt compelled to respond to every touch. You know, it looks like Jesus does as well. We just have to reach out.
Applicable quote of the day:
"In the absence of touching and being touched, people of all ages can sicken and grow touch-starved."
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org