Houston Astros

Holy ghosts haunt Houston Chronicle's front-page profile of former Astros pitching great J.R. Richard

Holy ghosts haunt Houston Chronicle's front-page profile of former Astros pitching great J.R. Richard

Far too many journalists are "tone deaf to the music of religion," as commentator Bill Moyers once told GetReligion's own Terry Mattingly.

I get that sense about an in-depth Houston Chronicle profile of former Astros pitching great J.R. Richard that appeared on Sunday's front page.

At repeated junctures in this otherwise excellent and nuanced piece, facts and details appear that seem to scream, "There's a religion angle here! Please ask Richard about his faith journey and what he believes about God!"

Instead, it's as if the Chronicle can't hear that voice and instead moves forward with unrelated material, leaving obvious questions unanswered.

The first clue of a religion angle comes right up top.

See where Richard is speaking:

The most terrifying pitcher ever to have called the Astrodome home slowly pushes himself up from a couch and lumbers, at 68 years old, into a small room overcrowded with 100 of Houston’s homeless and neediest people.

They have come off the searing hot pavement to Lord of the Streets, an Episcopal Church and clinic on Fannin Street, for the free lunch, but first they must fill rows of foldout chairs and listen to uplifting testimonials from others like them.

Many in the audience do not know there is a guest speaker until the 6-foot-8 J.R. Richard wades through the aisle toward the pulpit.

“I don’t have no psychology degree,” he says during a private aside, “but sometimes it don’t take that.”

A church? A pulpit? Might there be a specific reason for Richard speaking at this location?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Hey reporters: Seeking poignant Astros follow-up stories? Hang around for Sunday in Houston

Hey reporters: Seeking poignant Astros follow-up stories? Hang around for Sunday in Houston

Game seven of the World Series was played in Los Angeles.

But the real story was in Houston.

After a flood of biblical proportions, people in Houston finally got to celebrate -- as in big time, Texas-sized. This emotional explosion was, of course, linked to suffering and pain as much as it was to joy about a historic win.

Thus, I would like to make a suggestion to reporters who are looking for follow-up story angles with these Houston Astros.

The national media will cover the giant civic celebration and parade on Friday, in downtown. I expect spectacular images contrasting what the parade route looked like during the Hurricane Harvey flood with the same streets during the celebration. Look for the Astros to organize some kind of charity effort that takes the celebration into Houston's worst-hit neighborhoods. Cover all of that, please.

But then it would be wise to hang around for Sunday in the city that Christianity Today has called the "megachurch capital of America." Trust me, stuff will be happening.

Yes, few of these church celebrations will feature splashes of beer and champagne, but there will be lots of hooks linked to efforts by real Houstonians trying to get on with their lives.

In particular, according to a Christianity Today feature, reporters might want to seek out the Rev. Juan Jesus Alaniz, the Astros chaplain who works with the team's many Spanish-speaking players. He is the pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church’s Spanish campus.

CT noted that his ministry, with the team, includes "Venezuelans José Altuve and Marwin González; Puerto Ricans Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltrán, and Juan Centeno; Cuban Yuli Gurriel; and Dominican Francisco Liriano." Also note that Alaniz’s wife, Josie Ban-Alaniz, leads a ministry focusing on the players’ wives and girlfriends. The team's English-speaking chaplain is Kevin Edelbrock, of the parachurch group called Young Life. I'll add this question: Is there no local priest whose job includes ministry to Catholics on the team?

Will the players show up for church festivities? Who knows, but some of the most outspoken BELIEVERS on the team are also LEADERS on the team. Like who?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Grab a tissue before reading this: A young Astros fan got a home run ball, and this is why it's so special

Grab a tissue before reading this: A young Astros fan got a home run ball, and this is why it's so special

I love baseball, even though my beloved Texas Rangers didn't make the playoffs this season.

As a Texas fan, I'm finding it especially difficult to root for either team in the American League Championship Series. That best-of-seven series, tied 2-2 heading into today's Game 5, pits the Evil Empire (the New York Yankees) vs. the Rangers' in-state rival (the Houston Astros). I don't suppose there's any way that both teams could lose, is there?

But seriously, folks ...

My friend David, a minister in Houston, alerted me to a tear-jerking feature story about a young Astros fan who ended up with a home run ball. This story almost makes me want to root for Houston. Almost.

The piece ran at the top of the Houston Chronicle's front page today. And yes, there's a religion angle. More on that in a moment.

"I don't know if you saw this, but it brought me to tears in public when I read it," David said. "Great writing."

Although I subscribe to the Chronicle, I hadn't read it yet today, so I appreciated my friend calling my attention to this story.

The lede:

When Amanda Riley arrived at Minute Maid Park for Game 1 of the Astros-Yankees American League Championship Series, she couldn't contain her tears.
"We walk in, and all I'm seeing are families and dads holding their sons up," Riley said. "The whole time all I could think about was that we're there as a family, too, but we're missing one."
Four weeks earlier, 15-year-old Cade Riley — Amanda and Mike Riley's oldest son — died in an all-terrain vehicle accident on a trail near the family's home in Liberty Hill.
Since then, Amanda, Mike and their son Carson had trouble finding the motivation to leave the house as a family.
Mike knew it was time, and he made a decision that put his family directly in the path of a crucial Carlos Correa home run and made their youngest son the center of media attention and the object of Astros players' affection. 

Keep reading, and the Chronicle offers relevant details on how the family ended up at two ALCS games in Houston last week — and on the providential circumstances that seemed to surround their time at Minute Maid Park. No, the newspaper never uses the phrase "providential circumstances," but the family's quotes make no doubt that they see them as such.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Nolan Ryan's son and the F-word

In his 27-year major-league career, Nolan Ryan regularly fired 100-mph fastballs. He pitched seven no-hitters and struck out 5,714 batters — both records.

Please respect our Commenting Policy