Moms got us to school every day, made sure we had our lunch or money for lunch, fixed our hair and made sure our socks matched. They always had a shoulder we could cry on and could fix even the most serious injury with a kiss and a “you’ll be alright”. They straightened us out when needed and looked the other way and pretended they didn’t see something we did that wasn’t allowed. They pretended to believe our stories and pleas of innocence no matter how farfetched and unlikely they might have sounded even managing to look sympathetic to our “plight”.
In my house, Mom had another job as well and that was the keeping together of her baseball player. Pre Little league was the easiest for her as we were not old enough to wear uniforms, (that was Little League baseball when we got to the mature old age of nine). We were given t shirts with our team name and logo on the front and our sponsors name on back. I say given but I think I dragged my father down, (or perhaps Mom insisted so I would stop bothering her about it), to the local registration centre where he handed over some money to a scary looking man sitting behind a table who scribbled my name down and told me which team I was going to play for and who my coach was.
There were no numbers on the “uniform” backs and spikes, sliding and leading off the base were not allowed. Chewing massive amounts of gum, cleaning the dirt from the bottom of our spotless and shiny new running shoes and getting ourselves as dirty as possible diving into bases and for groundballs was allowed.
We rode our bicycles to the game always with the sound of our mother’s advice of being careful when riding, look both ways when crossing the street and lock your bike ringing in our ear. An embarrassing kiss good luck and have fun, (ballplayers don’t want kisses from girls, and baseball isn’t for fun), and it’s off I went. I managed to lock my bike most times but I usually forgot the other words of motherly concern.
After the battle was over, Mom would ask me how the game was all the while checking me out for blood and dirt and gum in my hair. This was all before multi tasking became a buzz word. Then it was off to the bath while mom tried to clean my t shirt and wash my jeans. After my bath any necessary repairs were done to my scrapped skin or bruised facial features and it was off to bed.
Mom also had one more baseball job. There were three ways to get baseball cards in those days. Bubblegum cards, friends and on the back of cereal boxes. As I had no allowance to speak of and even though packs of bubble gum baseball cards were about five cents a pack for ten cards and that wonderful soapy tasting gum, my main method of collecting was post cereal. On the back of each box of cereal were six baseball cards. Among my first cards were Vada Pinson of the Cincinnati Reds and Lee Maye of the Atlanta Braves, the 1962 Post cereal baseball card set. Although I had no idea who these players were or knew anything about the teams they played for, they instantly became my two favorite players.
The type of cereal purchased had nothing to do with what I wanted or what was good for me. Only players I was missing from my probably 40 or 50 card collection mattered. Mom would patiently wait for me to go through every cereal box in the store until I found a box with six cards on the back I didn’t have. But instead of showing her deserved impatience with me or her insistence that I at least pick a type of cereal that I at least liked, she waited and purchased my final choice. She always agreed and I brought the box home, found the scissors and quickly emptied the box into a bowl so I could cut out my beloved new cards right away. I kept them all in an old shoe box she had given me.
There was no one else who would clean my dirty uniform or lengthen my stirrups just right and tell me an oh-fer with four strikeouts was okay. There was no one else who would understand my love of the game.
I lost my mom to an aneurism in 1973. I still miss her terribly. Thanks Mom.