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What Would Jesus Do?

July 19, 1999
July 19, 1999

Table of Contents
July 19, 1999

Faces In The Crowd
World Cup Final
Baseball Midseason Report

What Would Jesus Do?

We really didn't believe it was Jesus Christ, not at first.

This is an article from the July 19, 1999 issue Original Layout

True, the Cincinnati Reds said they'd just signed Him to a
one-day contract, but who would believe that? We just figured
Marge Schott had snuck back into the office and was hitting the
vodka a little hard.

But then a rusty 1976 Chrysler pulled into a pay lot a few
blocks from the stadium, and we saw a man giving off a glow as
he walked. He was mobbed, first by tens, then by hundreds,
until, of course, he absentmindedly walked right across the Ohio
River.

He wore blue jeans, a COLUMBINE ATHLETICS T-shirt and a WWGD?
wristband. "What Would God Do?" asked a woman in the mob.

"Nah," Christ said with a laugh. "What Would Griffey Do? My Dad
and I are huge Junior fans."

He was with His "agent," 11-year-old Little Leaguer Yolanda
Johnson of Detroit, who said Christ was in pretty good shape for
1,999 years old and had a "wicked" knuckler. Somebody asked Him
why he picked now to come back. "I wanted to earlier," He said,
"but the Reds had that facial hair thing."

The front office said Christ didn't want much to sign, just the
league minimum, which he took all at once, in cash, and handed
to Hildy Kranmitz, a bag lady outside the stadium. "Oh, and a
bunch of balls, bats and gloves for the kid," a Reds source
said. "Didn't even want 'em signed."

"Why baseball?" we asked Christ.

"I keep hearing people say sports is the new religion," He said.
"Thought I better check out the competition."

With that, He went into the Cincinnati clubhouse to meet His new
teammates, many of whom wept uncontrollably. Teammates raced
madly ahead of Him, throwing away porn magazines and entire
cases of chewing tobacco, and scrambling to get unopened fan
mail out of trash bins.

After that, Christ took his seat in the Reds' bullpen, wearing
32 for Sandy Koufax. He chewed sunflower seeds, told updated
Casey Stengel stories and recounted some of the lost 25 years of
his life. "I kicked around minor league slingshot for a few
years," He said, "but I was no David." At one point, just for
levity, Christ picked up the bullpen phone and said, "Anybody
feel like Chinese?"

In the ninth, with Cincinnati holding a 5-2 lead over the
Cleveland Indians, Reds manager Jack McKeon turned to Christ,
who arrived at the mound to a deafening roar, as the organist
played a jittery Jesus Is Just Alright. The righthander was wild
at first, his third pitch plunking Indians star Roberto Alomar
in the ribs. Christ sprinted to the plate to check on him,
initially alarming Alomar, who admitted afterward that he
thought it was the beginning of a fight.

The Messiah gave up a long home run to the next batter, Manny
Ramirez, and, curiously, was waiting at first base to shake his
hand. "I had to," Christ said. "Manny nearly hit that thing to
Galilee."

After that, He settled down, getting two ground ball outs before
striking out Jim Thome to end the inning. Actually, He struck
out Thome on the pitch before but overruled home plate umpire
Eric Gregg, saying the called strike was "a good inch" off the
white. "It's not Eric's fault," Christ said. "He doesn't know
it, but his right eye is down to 20-100."

After the game there was an enormous press conference, carried
by every major network in the world and broadcast to more than
two billion people. Somebody asked Him why He simply didn't
strike out every batter He faced. "Rust, mostly," He said.

Did He have any advice for today's ballplayer? "Well, yeah,"

Christ said. "If there's anything I hate, it's seeing guys with
solid-gold, diamond-studded crucifixes around their necks. Do
you have any idea how much vaccine that money would buy? And
don't make the sign of the cross at the plate with your right
hand and then charge the mound and throw punches with your left.
I mean, make up your mind. And please stop praying for wins. Put
yourself in my position. If your kids were playing each other,
who would you root for?"

He answered a few more, until young Ms. Johnson said they had to
get to Los Angeles to have a looong talk with NRA president
Charlton Heston. "Let me just say one last thing," He said. "I
know you people are nuts about athletes, but try not to go
overboard. Why worship the gift when you can worship the Giver?"

With that, there was a blinding light and both of them were gone.

The line on Christ: one inning, two runs, both earned, and one
save.

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
"I keep hearing people say sports is the new religion," He said.
"Thought I better check out the competition."