06/02/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT
THERE IS A COMMOTION IN THE lower concourse of Cleveland's Jacobs Field as fans mob a figure in an Indians jacket, some seeking an autograph, others happy just to shake hands. Slugger David Justice? All-star Matt Williams? No, it's Sister Mary Assumpta, baseball analyst for Cleveland's WEWS-TV 5 and a natural when it comes to working a crowd. "There is," she admits, "a ham in me."
There is also a dedicated woman of the cloth. Sister Assumpta, 52, is mother superior of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit, an order of 10 nuns who run a local nursing home. Not above mixing pleasure with business, she often corrals players for charity events. "Obviously the habit has something to do with it," says Indians manager Mike Hargrove. "But the players also recognize her utter selflessness. They have a special feeling for her." So do knowledgeable baseball fans. "She's a walking encyclopedia of Indians facts," says Jim LeMay, a news director at WEWS who in 1995 took note of Sister Assumpta—long a fixture at games—and asked her to tape a series of fan-oriented reports. Her first segment, which she nailed in three takes, impressed station brass. "They said I had a natural instinct for talking in sound bites," she says.
She filed several more features, including a few locker-room chats with players. "I learned to look at the ceiling," she says, "and concentrate on faces." Sister Assumpta now averages two or three assignments a week and tapes occasional spots for the CBS show This Morning. It's a heavenly gig for the Portage, Pa., native, who grew up listening to baseball on the radio and has been an Indians fan for nearly 40 years. She receives no salary for her TV work but happily accepts station donations for the nursing home.
She also knows how to handle smart alecks who ask if she thinks God is a fan of the Indians—perennial losers until becoming American League champions in 1995. If he were, she replies tartly, "it wouldn't have taken us this long to win the pennant."