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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Tribute ... by Shelby and T

About a year ago, I tapped in a column from Shelby Strother's great book, Saddlebags. I had done the same one Christmas eve when I thought about all of the great Christmas mornings I enjoyed as a kid and teen. Then, that May day, I thought about the perfect tribute for my Mom and all of the wonderful Mother's Days we spent on Long Island. I thought about some other days too, some days gone by, when the NBA Lottery required me to work on Mother's Day or when the National Street Hockey tournaments fell on that spring day when we trekked up to Leominster, Mass to play games with our friends and have fun. My Mom always seemed happiest when we were busy living our lives and experiencing the world or when she knew we were working hard at our jobs. Quite frankly, I think she worried a bit if we were sitting around and doing 'nothing' around the house on a nice spring Sunday.  

Of course, I can remember some Mother's Day brunches when we would be leaving church and heading to a nice restaurant to pay tribute to my Mom, but my mind was elsewhere, at MSG, thinking about the first quarter score of the NY Knicks game that had just started at 12:30pm or 1pm.

Anyway, I tapped into Shelby's vast archives of columns and found this gem. I plan to make it a Mother's Day tradition at The Blog @ Terry Lyons dot com and to share it with you each and every Mother's Day from here on out.

I am also thinking about Terry Daly today and Chuck's daughter Cydney, who will have a tough Mother's Day and will be facing an even tougher Father's Day in a month or so. My heart goes out to them, but I have to state... Chuck had a great, great life and we have to stop and thank our lucky stars on the fact that he made such a great living around the great game we all love. It was a hell of a ride..


It was a sound that shall never go away. The sloshing noise of the washing machine was like a siren going off to my 11-year old ears. Disaster was imminent.

My jeans were in the washer, dirt caked on each knee, as usual. And precious -- no priceless baseball cards were in the right rear pocket. One of the more monumental trades in the history of the neighborhood was about to become a soggy wad of sloop.

Mickey Mantle, Warren Spahn, Ernie Banks. Soon to become indistinguishable, illegible, worthless. All because of a frivolous error of omission.

The panic was so real, the disappointment so looming. A month of negotiation, 20 cards of lesser significance and several days of lunch money were undoubtedly being washed away.

I ran full speed through the house. screaming, demanding the cursed Maytag be stopped. I slid on my knees, pulled open the washer door, dumped both hands into the hot, soapy water and began groping for my jeans.

"Are you looking for these?" asked my mother, reaching into the sanitary pocket of her sterilized housecoat, and pulling out the baseball cards.

It was the first time I kissed her without being asked.

Good ol' Mom. Steady, dependable, covered a lot of ground. Batted clean-up. Sacrificed a lot. Great team player. She'd have made one hell of a shortstop.

Which, of course, she was. It was during the time I was infatuated with the notion of becoming another Nellie Fox. I always wanted to be a second baseman. But before I got the courage to ask Dad to work with me on the double play, I asked Mom. She became Luis Aparicio.

The routine was simple. My brother would tap a ground ball to my mother. She'd scoop it up and flip it kind of lady-like to the vicinity of the dish towel we used for second base. I would try to catch the ball, drag my foot across the rag bag and throw it to my brother, in Nellie's image. By then, he had discarded the bat, picked up his glove and transformed from hitter to first baseman with only a twinkling of imagination. It was 6-4-3, if anyone was keeping score.

My throws were awful, my form ridiculous. More often that not, the dish towel would get tangled in my rubber cleats and I'd trip. My throw, already off balance, would go straight down and bounce inches from where I soon collapsed.

Whenever that happened, the shortstop would become the mother again. First aid, sympathy, whatever was needed. She wasn't a good athlete, only a good sport. But Dad liked sports and Mom was Dad's wife. This was back in the days when ERA meant earned run average and Title IX didn't mean anything. What it really meant was the TV game of the week took precedence over the romantic movie she loved as a kid. It meant sitting with the family, folding socks or underwear, reading a magazine and occasionally asking who was winning and what was the score.

Mom managed the clubhouse. The team came first. She wanted it that way.

There was the time I decided to chew tobacco in Little League. Nellie Fox chews it, I argued. No deal. I knew it was futile. I'd secretly experimented with the chew once. It was awful. So I found a substitute.

Turtle food.

It looked like tobacco, smelled bad enough to be tobacco, and, if you mixed it with gum, formed a nice semi-lump that made my cheek stick out. Just like Nellie's.

An hour before game time, Mom discovered my intentions. She laughed at the thought of turtle food being in my mouth. Then she fretted. Then she suggested the magical qualities of Tootsie Roll as an alternative. Wad up one of those babies, slip it in and...perfect.

I jumped on my bike, making allowance for the extra ballast crammed into my disjointed jaw. I almost didn't hear the stern warning, "I'd better not hear of you doing any spitting."

Then, as always, she added, "And, have a good time, honey."

There was always a special meal that had to be cooked because someone had an early game and someone else had a later one. There was only one way to put an ouchless bandage on a skinned knee. And, only Mom knew how to do it.

There was only one Mom.

I don't remember if I always told her thanks for playing hurt so often, for supplying emergency sew jobs and last second pep talks. Or, if I always told her I appreciated the uniforms which were always clean, the bleacher support which was always positive and the coaching, which was always by the rules.

I think I forgot to do all these things because I thought Mom was like Lou Gehrig and would always be in the lineup. But it's been 15 years now since I realized nothing is forever.

It's a fine day to brag about mothers. I just did.

Now, it's your turn.

Story above by the great Shelby Strother.


I think I'll stop typing - and call my Mom.

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