I’m not a baseball fan. It’s too slow a game, causing my mind to wander, more so than at Sunday Mass, I might add. But after reading about 2 devout fans in a Wall Street Journal article, I’m rooting for the Texas Rangers, sight unseen. Let’s say I have a soft spot in my heart for the 2 women who’ve been rooting their team on since 1972, when they played their first game in Arlington.
Season ticket holders since forever, Maggie Hession, an 82-year-old Catholic nun, and her companion “in crime,” Frances Evans, 84 years-old, would make anyone proud to call them fans. These two have dedicated themselves to supporting their favorite baseball players just as, it seems, they have dedicated themselves to serving God.
The nuns have faithfully attended Rangers games for 39 years, “listening to the play-by-play on their transistor radios and beating a drum they inherited from another fan.” They accompanied the team to New York for the playoff series in ’96, ’98 and ’99. Staying at the same hotel, the nuns rode the team’s bus to Yankee Stadium, sitting in the dugout during one game. Every day the devoted fans visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan to pray; unfortunately, the team still lost.
Occupying an area of their shared duplex, is a shrine erected by Hession and Evans, “decorated with religious figurines, crosses, refrigerator magnets of past players and three dozen signed baseballs, each enclosed in plexiglass. …There is also a framed portrait of the sisters in Rangers uniforms, taken when they attended Texas Rangers Baseball Fantasy Camp in the early ’90s.” During camp, Sister Frances, a self-described “ornery renegade,” broke her thumb when she was hit by a ball. Nonetheless, both she and Sister Maggie were thrilled when they hit the ball, and ran to first base.
Aside from the special attention bestowed on them by the Rangers, the nuns also received other perks. “The first season, they saved their money for tickets, but, after that, benefactors, including past Rangers owners and local businessmen, picked up the tab. ‘We like to say, “God provides,” ‘ Sister Maggie says.” At the stadium, they have parking space No. 1. And for many years, they flew to spring training in Florida, gratis the generosity of friends they’d made.
Having been schooled by Catholic nuns for 12 years, I know for a fact that they’re not the least bit shy about offering advice, requested or not. Hession and Evans were no different. They told Tom Schieffer, president of the Rangers, from 1991 to 1999, how to run the team, including “which player ‘needed to pay attention to his personal life.’ ” Sister Frances was displeased with former owner Tom Hicks, who signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million dollar contract, which forced Hicks to sell the team in bankruptcy court this past summer. Hicks agrees with her about Rodriguez saying, ” ‘I do hope Sister Frances understands that I know I made errors, but they were all done because I was trying to deliver a winning team to Rangers fans,…Prayerfully, I hope Sister Frances can forgive and forget my past errors, especially as she is watching the Rangers in the 2010 World Series.’ ”
The nuns are delighted with the new president and part-owner, former, Ranger, star pitcher Nolan Ryan. When he saw a specialist for a hand problem, they were in the waiting room praying for him. Sister Frances had been encouraging Ryan to buy the team for years. She leaves him messages with coaching tips, like ” ‘If those guys would stay loose and have fun playing the game, they will play well.’ ”
The Rangers’ most religious fans, Sisters Frances and Maggie, will be at every home game against the San Francisco Giants, sitting in their 14th-row seats behind home plate. As for the away games, they’ll watch them on TV with the sound off, and the radio on, listening to the play-by-play calls. ” ‘You hear a lot of tidbits you don’t get from those TV announcers,’ Sister Frances says.” Despite losing the first two games of the Series, the nuns still feel the Rangers can win it. According to Sister Frances, ” ‘God’s time frame and mine are never the same,…but I really believe this is the year, this is the team.’ ”