By Michael Curet
When Bowie Kuhn completed his 15-year reign as Major League Baseball Commissioner (1969-1984), his impact continued to be made in baseball locally, but also significantly in the Diocese of St. Augustine.
On Wednesday, Sept. 30, at the state’s oldest Catholic High School, St. Joseph Academy in St. Augustine, Kuhn Field, with Bowie Kuhn’s widow Luisa on hand along with Bishop Felipe J. Estévez, St. Joseph Academy officials, students, and special guests, was officially recognized and rededicated.
It was Kuhn that stepped up in 1988 after he retired as Major League Baseball Commissioner to support St. Joseph Academy’s field in memory of his father and brother, but primarily his mother. As his wife Luisa Kuhn notes, it was Bowie’s mother Alice Kuhn that was the true baseball fan in the family and was a great inspiration to her son.
“I look at this sign and it’s so special – with an American flag next to it,” said Mrs. Kuhn, with St. Joseph Academy principal Todd DeClemente and head baseball coach Bryan Hinman looking on.
“Bowie’s mother moved here in St. Augustine in 1956 and she got Bowie interested in baseball when he was seven years old,” said Mrs. Kuhn. “He would listen to the Washington Senators’ baseball games every night. By the time he got to law school at the University of Virginia, he and his roommate would find a hill on campus so they could hear the games by radio and get good reception.”
As a youth, he worked at the Washington Senators games for $1 a day working the scoreboard.
“He would have been so touched by this,” said Mrs. Kuhn, who watched the unveiling of the Kuhn Field sign in centerfield, followed by a ceremony featuring Bowie’s longtime friend and fellow Our Lady Star of the Sea parishioner Tom Sullivan throwing out the first pitch to Bishop Estévez, who played catcher in little league as a young boy in Cuba.
Mrs. Kuhn said that when her husband finally settled in Northeast Florida in Ponte Vedra Beach that he attended Mass daily when he could at Our Lady Star of the Sea.
Bishop Estévez, who blessed Kuhn Field and delivered a prayer prior to the ceremony, said, “With the Kuhn name, our school is blessed, not only at the level of where his name appears on the baseball field, but his life is truly a model for our students, our parents and our faculty. When you have a star in baseball that was also a star in the Catholic faith, this is where he belongs.”
Father Richard Pagano, a former college athlete who was ordained a priest in the Diocese of St. Augustine in May 2013, referred to 1 Corinthians 9:24 when speaking to the gathering:
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”
Kuhn died in 2007 and Wednesday’s rededication marked Mrs. Kuhn’s first visit to the field bearing her husband’s name.