One-word prayers

It was during the 1957 World Series that I first realized the power of prayer. Specifically, the power of my prayers influencing a sports event.
World Series games were played during the day then, and I clearly remember lying on the floor in front of the TV doing my times tables in one of those old tablets and praying for Lew Burdette of the Milwaukee Braves. My prayers in those days, all of 8 and fresh from First Holy Communion, went something like this: “Please, please, please.”
When Lew won three games in that Series, including game seven, I knew it was all because of me.
More than 60 years later, my times tables a well established part of me, I still find myself praying for my favorite players. Not lying on the floor, though, running on an elliptical apparatus at the gym.
I typically run 7 miles three or four times a week, and occasionally 10 if the stars are aligned. Accomplishing this is as much mental as it is physical and, so, to distract myself I play head games with the feedback of time elapsed and distance run. As certain numbers appear, I say the name of people I love. These are prayers, I believe. One-word prayers. If I see a 6 or a 36, I say my daughter Greta’s name. She was born on June 6 (6/6) and is 36 years old. For my son, Michael, it’s 27 and 32 (Sept. 27, 32 years old). The numbers 12 and 2 belong to my grandson, Parker. His birthday is Dec. 2 (12/2) and he is 2. My wife, Mary Kay, is 3 and 1. Her birthday is March 1. I leave her age out of it.
Near the end of my run, the machine goes into a 5-minute cool down and the timer counts backward. When I get to 6 seconds, I say “Greta.” At 3, I say “Mary Kay.” At 2, it’s “Parker.” And at 1, it’s “Mary Kay” again.
So who are 5 and 4?
Well, 5 is Albert Pujols. I am a St. louis Cardinals baseball fan and for 11 years, my team had the greatest player in the game in Albert. Although he left me for the Los Angeles Angels a few years ago, I still love him. So when I see the number 5, I simply say “Albert” (his uniform number) to myself. Does it work? At 39 years old, Albert currently has 23 home runs and 90 runs batted in. You’re welcome, Albert.
Number 4 is Yadier Molina, or as my prayer goes, “Yadi.” At 37, he’s having another solid year, hitting .264 and knocking in 41 runs. More importantly, he has the Cards in first place in their division.
Of course, Albert and Yadi will never know the real source of their success. But I can live with that. Lew Burdette never knew either.

Ed Ackerman