They called Sister Frances Evans and her close friend, Sister Maggie Hession, Ranger Nuns.
They never missed a game, knew the players, the coaches, the fans, the ushers, the reporters and were a big hit everywhere they went to see the baseball team play.
Sister Frances, 90, died in Fort Worth on Friday. She would have been 91 on July 31, a statement from the Texas Rangers said.
Frances grew up loving baseball in Temple, and taught the game to Sister Maggie, who was born in Ireland.
Frances said one of their biggest thrills was attending a Rangers fantasy camp in the early 1990s and going to bat off Nolan Ryan, the former Texas Rangers president and pitcher, who was their idol and friend.
Ryan, who was still playing at the time, said he was “extremely nervous” about facing the nuns.
“I didn’t want to hit them, “ he said. “It was quite a challenge. But they each hit a ball, and they ran to first base, and they were extremely happy about that.”
Ryan said that in his last year as a player, he developed tendinitis in a finger of his pitching hand. The Rangers sent him to a hand specialist in Fort Worth.
“I came out of my appointment and sitting in the waiting room was Sister Maggie and Sister Frances, “ Ryan said. “They were concerned. We had to hold hands and say a prayer. That’s just the way they were.”
Sister Frances and Sister Maggie just had a tremendous impact on everyone they were around, said Tom Schieffer, who preceded Ryan as the Rangers’ president.
“They were just good,” Schieffer said.
They first met when Schieffer became Rangers president, but he had heard about them. They developed a terrific friendship, he said.
“When we finally won (the AL West division) in 1996 it was so much fun to take them to New York,” Schieffer said of the playoff series against the Yankees. “They were just the hit of the New York media. The reporters started following them around and interviewing them.”
Sister Frances took some time off from the national spotlight to visit St. Francis Church in New York to pray and take a break for “station identification,” Schieffer said.
“ I never asked her what she prayed for but I have a good idea,” Schieffer said. “They were students of the game, particularly Frances. Frances would give you reviews of what you were doing and what you should be doing. We traded Steve Buechele to Pittsburgh and it was not a popular move. The next day Sister Maggie had on a Pittsburgh uniform. You could not find two women more interested in the welfare of the team. Like every good fan they had strong opinions and I always found them helpful.”
The Rangers statement read: “There was no more loyal and passionate Rangers’ fan than Sister Frances, who began attending games when the franchise moved to Arlington in 1972 and were still coming to Globe Life Park over the last several years.
She was joined by her dear friend, Sister Maggie Hession, who died in November 2013, for most of that span and the two became close acquaintances to club executives, managers, coaches, players, and everyone connected with the Rangers.
When the Rangers opened the gates to the then Ballpark in Arlington in April 1994, Sisters Frances and Maggie were the first ones to enter the new stadium. When the Rangers played their first-ever postseason game, at Yankee Stadium in October 1996, the Sisters were in attendance cheering on the team and bringing them good luck in a 6-2 win.
Over the last few seasons, when Sister Frances attended fewer games due to health issues, her appearances at the park were greatly anticipated and welcome. She threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Rangers’ 2012 AL wild-card game.
A funeral mass for Sister Frances Evans will be held at 11 a.m. July 28 at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Fort Worth.
This story contains information from Star-Telegram archives.