My very first major league baseball game was at Dodger Stadium. I was only a year old, and I loved to sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” 39 years later, not much has changed, and I owe that all to my mother.
My mom was born in 1940 on a farm in a tiny town in Pennsylvania, and poor. She actually did walk uphill both ways to school, as there was a little valley between the farm and the one room schoolhouse she attended. She had family in Brooklyn, and when they’d visit, sometimes she’d get to go to Ebbets Field. That’s where her love for the Dodgers was born.
When she was 15, she was involved in a terrible car accident. She was thrown through the windshield, breaking an arm and both legs. But it changed her life in more ways than one. Thanks to her good grades and a settlement from the accident, she was the first in her family to go to college. She went to Mansfield University where she met my father, a young man four years her senior, attending college through the US Army. They married in 1961 and embarked on a life filled with travel, both through my dad’s assignments and on their own.
I didn’t come along until 18 years later, the fourth daughter and 11 years after my next oldest sister. I was born in Ft Huachuca, Arizona, the summer after my family returned from four years stationed in Germany. Being in Arizona allowed my mother to be able to watch the Dodgers again on television. Not long after, we took a trip to Southern California, and one of my mom’s requests was that we visit Dodger Stadium.
We moved back to Northeast PA in 1979. We almost moved to Atlanta — to think, I could’ve grown up a Braves fan. I don’t think my mom would’ve allowed that, though. There was never any urge to be a Phillies, Yankees or Mets fan — it was always the Dodgers from the start. Every summer we traveled to either Veteran’s Stadium or Shea Stadium to see the Dodgers when they were in town. Mornings were spent pouring over the paper to see what had happened when we were asleep. A lot of times, I just had to wait for the scroll on the bottom of ESPN to come around and tell me the score, because it was too late for our local paper.
In 1996, my mom put her name in the lottery for All-Star Game tickets, and we were lucky enough to be chosen. We went down to Veteran’s Stadium and sat way up in the center field stands. I could touch the side of the Jumbotron with my hand. We got to watch Pedro Martinez pitch, and Mike Piazza homer and win MVP.
In 2007, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and dementia had started to creep in. For her 70th birthday, I bought my mom tickets to what ended up being her last baseball game. We went to see to Dodgers play in Philly. My mom stood and cheered when the Phillies hit a homer. That was a punch to the heart, because I knew my mom would never cheer for the other team.
After my dad died, she went to live with my sister in Virginia for a few years. Now she’s in a nursing home not far from my house, and I visit when I can. I miss being able to discuss games with her. I know she would adore Clayton Kershaw, and marvel at Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger. When the Dodgers win the World Series, it’ll be hard not to be able to call her and celebrate. I regret not having asked her who her favorite player was growing up, and about the time she got to go see a World Series game in Brooklyn.
But I’m so grateful for the things she did give me, directly or indirectly. The confidence to be a fan of the Dodgers in my world where everyone else was a Yankees, Mets or Phillies fan. All of the wonderful people I have met through Twitter, many who I have come to call friends, just because I am a Dodgers fan. The pure sweetness of sitting in a rocking chair late at night, nursing my son, and listening to Vin Scully call the last few innings of a game. For all of these things, for passing along the long of the game of baseball, I am forever in her debt. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Even though you will never read this, I love you, and thank you.
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