For most of my life, I've loved baseball and newspapers.
I trace the roots of both those passions to the mid-1970s, when I was about 10 or 11 years old. At that time, my dad preached for a small Church of Christ in Elkin, N.C., a small town about 45 miles west of Winston-Salem.
The Cincinnati Reds — the Big Red Machine — were my team, and pre-gambling-scandal Pete Rose was my favorite player. One time, I wrote Rose a fan letter; I was overjoyed when I received an autographed picture from him in the mail. (That was several years before my family moved to the Lone Star State, where I the Texas Rangers became my team.)
In those days, a boy wanting to keep up with his favorite team couldn't buy an MLB.com package or Google for the score online. A few major-league games a week were televised — Saturday afternoon on NBC and Monday night on ABC, if I recall correctly — but the Reds were featured only a handful of times a year.
So anytime I got my allowance, I'd buy a few packs of baseball cards and the latest edition of the Winston-Salem Journal. I'd memorize the previous season's stats from the back of the baseball cards and check the Journal's sports section to see how the Reds were doing in the standings. Often, the score from the previous night's game wouldn't make the next day's paper. It would be marked "late game," much to the chagrin of a boy who had just spent a precious quarter (I think that's what the daily edition cost back then) on the paper.
After looking for the baseball scores first, I'd go ahead and read the entire Journal — and thus began my lifelong love of headlines and news on the printed page.
Why do I mention all of the above? Credit (or blame) my friend Lisa Brewer, who lives in Wilkesboro, N.C. She stirred my boyhood memories when she shared the following item with me from the Journal — and yes, there's an actual GetReligion point to be made:
Lisa's question to me:
Is this what you call one of those Holy Ghosts? Seems to me that this athlete is doing more than merely "looking to the sky."
You are exactly right!
Now, does a photographer writing a quick caption from a still-in-progress baseball game know enough to state as a fact that the player is praying or otherwise talking to God? Probably not, unless the player always prays after doing something positive in the game.
But it's certainly a valid question to ask before going to press with the dead-tree edition (this image ran both online and in print). Of if that timing won't work, it'd be an excellent question to ask for future reference.
Kudos to Lisa for spotting the ghost — and for allowing me to conjure a few precious memories from my childhood.