Did I ever tell you that my eighth-grade nun invented night baseball? Well, not all night baseball, just those nocturnal contests played in the World Series? I think about that nun, S'ster Barbara Therese, every year about this same time, when this nation's obsession with sports focuses in on baseball's fall classic.

For you younger readers there was a time when post-season play in Major League baseball consisted of just one, seven-game shootout which was and remains the World Series. The two clubs -- one the winner of the National League pennant and the other the American -- would square off in seven games and the first one to four victories was crowned as world champion.

None of this three divisional winners and a wild card team in each league playing preliminary series for the right to advance to the Series crap. The clubs in each league played a 162-game schedule and the two teams with the best record in each league at the end of September met in the Series.

Life was much simpler back then. Much simpler and you didn't have to wear ear muffs and winter parkas if the Series ended up going beyond five games either. Just who in the hell came up with the idea that baseball was meant to be played on ice? Well anyway, not until just the last couple of decades were any of the Series games played at night. The seven-game battle for world supremacy was exclusively a daylight affair.

Now you might wonder, especially those of you too young to remember back before prime-time television got on to the idea that sports other than boxing and wrestling could pull in television viewers, just what a seventh-grade teacher at Galesburg, Illinois' St. Joseph's Academy would have to do with all this. But that would be to underestimate the skill and prowess of this particular Sister of Charity. Now S'ster Barbara Therese, or ''Harbor Police'' as we used to refer to her making sure she was not within earshot, was truly a remarkable woman.

Anyway, like I was saying about the night baseball before I went off on another of my tangents, S'ster Barbara Therese is the cause of night games at the World Series. When I was a junior high kid, late 1950s, early '60s, the possibility of a stint in her class was enough to send a young boy to church a couple of extra times a week. Because, as it so happens she was particular hell on all little boys. And what better way to punish said gender than to institute what seems now to have been her most sexist policy: ''NO RADIOS IN THE CLASSROOM DURING THE WORLD SERIES!'' Now, who ever heard of such a thing in the United States of America? I mean we were just certain that there had to be something about the World Series jotted down someplace in the Constitution. Maybe not in the original draft, but surely some place in the various amendments to said document.

Well, boys being boys, we all vowed to get around this little infringement on our rights as red blooded American youth. And we were undoubtedly not the first to make such a solemn vow. However, we may have been the last. I should also point out that at this particular time in technological history the idea of miniature radios was as far-fetched as trips to the moon, video games (post-pinball), personal computers and cell phones, a circumstance many of my younger readers will have a tough time relating to. At any rate, the biggest advance of our day was the ''transistor,'' which, along with the television, another fairly new innovation of that time, were about the only things that gave any of us guys at least a shot in our quest. Next came the problem of getting the damn thing into school without getting caught, that's ''busted'' for the younger crowd. Some of the guys were downright ingenious, like the kid who faked a serious burn from a kitchen accident. He, with the help of some older kids, rigged a bandage that wrapped around the side of his head. He simply taped the transistor radio under his shirt and ran the ear-phone and wire up under the bandage. Of course everything went just fine until the afternoon the wire came out of the radio inside his shirt and the play-by-play went blaring all over the second floor of St. Joe. My knuckles are still a little sore for being a party to that conspiracy. And don't try and tell me it's arthritis.

We tried everything, but nothing really worked, save hiding a transistor set out on the playground and sneaking in a few minutes of the game during recess. S'ster Barbara Therese had us. She was good, I mean real good. The last radio she confiscated, she must have had an electronics store business on the side she had so many loads of contraband, she said in one of those ominous tones nuns used to have, ''I can't in heaven's name understand why they'd play these silly games on school days. ''If I had my way,'' which was one of her most common sayings, ''they wouldn't play baseball while young boys and girls are supposed to be in school, getting an education.'' But you know she didn't really mean the part about the girls, 'cause everybody knows they don't like baseball anyway. Well, the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, scoff if you will. But S'ster Barbara Therese and the advent of night baseball in the World Series is a documented fact among youngsters where I come from. And if you don't believe that, then you'll probably also pass on this next curious historical point. She was the first nun any of us could ever remember who was adept at the art of stealth technology, long before any of us ever knew what that really meant. I doubt if there was even a word ''stealth'' in the dictionary when ole' S'ster Barbara Therese used to quietly pick up the wooden beads attached to the rope belt worn by this particular order of religious and tip-toe down the long hall back to the classroom in hopes of catching us misbehaving. And it worked too, about the first five or six times she pulled the stunt. Why there are those among my classmates who are convinced that the woman later went on to a lucrative second career passing on some of her stealth techniques to the CIA or National Security Agency. Now I'm not saying that I agree with some of these outlandish tales, but, from what I remember of the woman, I'd be the last one to put it past her.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online October 18, 2000

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