Moms Can Make Baseball Memories Too

There is an old school thought in some major league front offices, that teams would just as soon be on the road for Easter and Mother's Day. Attendance is sometimes down for those "family" days when taking the group to a ballgame isn't always the first priority. In some families though, Mom is a part of the baseball tradition and in some cases, the loudest of the fans in the family.

April 9, 1999. That was the last time that I sat and watched a Phillies game with my Mom. She had just come home from the hospital, knowing that she didn't have long to live. She was dying of kidney failure brought on by diabetes. "Two weeks, tops," I remember the doctor saying.

With her prognosis, worrying about what she ate or what she did wasn't even a thought. When I asked her what she wanted for dinner, the years of denial because of diabetes caught up with her and she answered "cupcakes". Being a single guy, eating cupcakes for dinner while watching a Phillies game was a pretty good plan. Throughout the game, I thought about the fact that it may very well be the last time that Mom and I would spend time watching a game. My Dad had passed away eight months earlier and ironically, he and I had watched the Phillies lose to the Giants just hours before he passed away. Now, Mom and I would make the last of our baseball memories.

Mom had one of those voices that boomed. No matter where in the neighborhood you were, you could always hear her calling you home for dinner. She would also use that voice to embarrass us. Greg Luzinski was her all-time favorite. We would be at a game and as Luzinski's name came over the PA, Mom's voice would nearly drown out Dan Baker's as she yelled "come on, Bull, let's go!" I swore that people on the other side of The Vet would stop to look who was yelling. I'll admit to a run to the concession stand if I knew Luzinski was coming to the plate. Of course, her yelling at a packed stadium wasn't as bad as her yelling for me at a small little league field. That was embarrassing!

The great Mom/Son debates didn't pale in comparison to any great debate, political or otherwise. It was the merits of Mike Schmidt versus the merits of Greg Luzinski. Mom didn't always care for Schmidt's ego, which could get a little large at times. To her, Luzinski's homeruns were always longer and his hits were more clutch than Michael Jack could ever muster.

Baseball logic never met my Mother. She never understood why a pitcher would be lifted for a reliever. One time in particular, I remember Steve Carlton being lifted after giving up a leadoff double in the ninth and Mom going balistic. As I tried to explain the theory, Mom's only rationale was "oh, baloney. He was pitching great." How do you argue with that? Back then, it seemed to matter, though and I would try my best.

Pitching changes were a little easier to take if Tug McGraw was coming in. He was another of Mom's favorites. In fact, when she bought a dog a number of years ago, she named him "Tugger". That may explain why I have a cat named "Ashburn".

While Mom loved Luzinski, you didn't want to bring up the name Randy Lerch or Von Hayes. Lerch was known as "lump-lump" and Mom refused to watch a game if he was pitching. My best friend got to go to a game with us once because Mom refused to go since "lump-lump" was pitching. For Hayes, I guess that's partly my fault. Mom and Dad went to spring training one season and Mom wanted to get me autographs since I couldn't go along. Hayes made the mistake of walking right past my Mom after she politely asked him to stop for an autograph. To hear my Dad tell it, Mom chased Hayes across a parking lot until he finally gave in. I have that program framed and on my wall, with Von Hayes' signature prominently showing.

When Mom heard the news that Richie Ashburn passed away, she cried. "Phillies games will never be the same," she said. She was amazed that Harry Kalas held it together as well as he did and we spent hours talking about the times that Whitey made us laugh.

Mother's Day doesn't mean as much anymore. The flowers that I always give her don't look as impressive on the newly mowed grass of a cemetary as they did on Mom's dining room table, but I put them there just the same. Sunday is my day to kick back and watch a ballgame and I'll stick to that plan today. Somehow, I know Mom will be watching too, wondering why a pitching change needs to be made. If one is made, maybe I'll yell at the television just like Mom did as Larry Bowa comes out of the dugout and as Harry mentions the pitching change, I'll give a hearty "oh, baloney!" and take another bite of my cupcake.

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