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WHERE TRUE BELIEVERS GATHER Proof of prayer gets family in for $5


Does God hear the prayers of baseball fans?

"God is a baseball fan," said auto parts salesman Mark B. Thompson as he watched the first inning of Bowie Baysox baseball at Memorial Stadium yesterday afternoon. "It says so right in the Bible."

Even the Baysox, rained out in the fourth inning of a game against the New Britain Red Sox, are praying -- for fans to fill the stands, if not for wins.

The team has offered all sorts of deals and gimmicks to get bodies through the turnstiles. The appearance of the San Diego Chicken mascot at Saturday night's game brought out more than 8,000 people, the minor league team's biggest draw of the young season.

But there's one standing offer -- the venerable God and baseball connection -- that no one in Baltimore has yet taken advantage of.

It works like this: The next time you're at Sunday worship services -- praying your heart out that the Orioles' Glenn Davis remembers how to hit a baseball or sending up a supplication for Mike Devereaux's injured neck -- be sure to grab a church bulletin.

Bring the bulletin and three members of your family to a Sunday afternoon Baysox game on 33rd Street, and all four of you will get in to see the Double A ballclub for $5.

Yesterday, some of the ticket takers didn't even know about the bargain.

"It's nothing new in the minor leagues," said Keith Lupton, the general manager of the Baysox, whose chaplain held morning services for the players in the stadium training room yesterday. "I heard about it more than 10 years ago."

Mr. Lupton said he prayed for the New York Yankees while growing up in Yellow Springs, W.Va., and then, as the owner of a team in the Cape Cod league in the early 1980s, he prayed for his players.

"I did a lot of praying when my teams were playing for championships," he said.

"Not selfish prayers, just: 'Let us play good enough to win.' "

John T. Henneman, a 46-year-old Veterans Affairs employee attending yesterday's rainout, said he prayed for the Orioles as a kid and still prays for the struggling Birds today.

The most peculiar day of baseball spiritualism Mr. Henneman experienced occurred May 17, 1988 -- the day he buried his fiance, Octavia Davis.

"We came back from the funeral, turned on the TV and there were the Cardinals, [Octavia's] father's favorite team, tied with the Cubs," he said.

"The TV wasn't on for more than 30 seconds when somebody hit a Baltimore chop over the second baseman's head and the Cardinals won.

"Later on that day, we went to see Octavia's godson who was playing ball for a Kansas City farm team, and he hits a triple. I could imagine her up in heaven saying: 'Lord, just one more wish today, let the Orioles win.' But '88 was a bad year for the Orioles, and the best God could do was rain the game out."

The Birds were doing better in 1983, when Brian M. Williams, then 14, showed up for Methodist services to give the Orioles an ecclesiastical edge in the World Series against Philadelphia.

"It was before the fifth game of the Series, and the Orioles were up three games to one," said Mr. Williams, a computer analyst. "That was all I prayed for that Sunday. That they'd win the World Series."

Not only did God seem to be a baseball fan in 1983, but apparently a Baltimore Orioles fan as the Birds took the series that day.

Mary Jo McPeck, 67, of the Lakeland neighborhood, grew up in New Jersey praying for the Philadelphia Athletics and the Philadelphia Phillies.

She was on her own at Memorial Stadium yesterday, keeping score, wearing a homemade Orioles hat, sipping on a beer and remembering a 1930s childhood of going to see baseball with her father.

"I still hope and pray the home team wins, but not like you do when you're a kid," she said.

"These days I'm just happy to come out to the ballpark and get out of some housecleaning."

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