Allegany Communications Sports
Sunday, of course, is Mother’s Day, and I shall raise my glass and count my blessings for the joy of having lived my life in what my mother called her “Sphere of Influence.” Which is to say I live on planet Earth.
My mother was Colleen, but once you had the chance to know her it was easy to understand why her father called her Pistol and Stormy Weather. I called her Scout, because like Atticus, I didn’t want her fighting (or climbing fences in her 80s). Usually, though, I called her Mom.
My mother believed, she knew, she swore on (and often times to) many, many things.
She believed in God, country, family, friends and loyalty. She believed in her native South End, Fort Hill, the written word — newspapers, classic literature, murder mysteries, her students’ term papers — writing thank you notes and the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.
She believed in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New York City, the ballet, dance of any form (but particularly Gene Kelly’s), hardware stores, baseball, and that Paul Blair was the most beautiful ballplayer to ever play the game. But then, Steve Trimble played football and ran track.
My mother knew the only true way has been to seek, to learn, to teach and, more than anything, put your trust and belief in your students.
She pretended to never forgive, but she did. She just never forgot.
She also pretended to hold a grudge. And she did.
She believed in Earl Weaver, Brooks, Frank, Palmer, Boog, Luis Aparicio, Ed-die, Markakis, Earl Monroe, Celtic Pride, Mike Curtis, Ali and Lombardi. She knew John Unitas to be the greatest quarterback who ever lived, and John Mackey the greatest tight end of all time.
She believed the Colts and the Bullets should still be in Baltimore. And she never rooted for the Dodgers or the Giants once they left New York.
She believed in Al McGuire and a fair fight, even though she did fight dirty.
My mother had no use for most pee wee leagues — unless Coach Cavanaugh was running them. She believed kids should play ball with each other on the sandlots, to find out about themselves and each other, and to understand how truly beautiful the game of their choice is. She believed good, hard competition makes better people of us all.
She believed Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. She was cool with the designated hitter, but I never asked her about the novels of Susan Sontag.
My mother loved proper grammar, any form of communication, seafood and an ice cold beer.
She believed in Chrissie, Venus, Serena and Rafa. McEnroe tickled her, and Jimmy Connors fighting to the very end hit closest to home. Regrettably, however, she did root for Andre Agassi.
My mother never missed a Dapper Dan dinner (thank you, Dapper Dans). The best 440 she ever saw was Mark Manges vs. Pat Harper. She never came across anybody who loves to diagram sentences more than Greg Hare does to this day (it’s a quarterback thing), and she always laughed about that poor pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds somehow finding Dave McNally’s bat on the most awful swing you’ve ever seen produce the only grand slam hit by a pitcher in World Series history.
She loved Arthur Ashe, Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell, Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, the Babe, Mickey Mantle and particularly Stan Musial. She loved her students and her dogs Luke and Chance. She loved my brother. And me.
Her best friend in the world was her sister Suey.
She liked to hit the people she loved, which means she hit just about all of us – except Aunt Sue.
She ached to the end for Roger Maris. She didn’t like umpires, other than Terry Lippold and Steve Northcraft, but she adored Roberto Clemente. She liked Camden Yards very much and absolutely loved PNC Park; but she missed Forbes Field, Memorial Stadium and the splendid neighborhoods of Oakland and Waverly.
She read her baseball from Thomas Boswell. She heard it from Chuck Thompson, Bill O’Donnell, Jon Miller, Gary Thorne and, of course, Jim Palmer. And if Sally Jenkins wrote it or if Bob Costas said it, it was reasonable, well thought out, thought provoking and true.
My mother knew nothing beats good defense, but that nothing is better than a mother’s love.
All of which I know, too. And all of which I likely wouldn’t understand and appreciate as fully as I do, had Branch Rickey not traded Mom’s favorite player, Ralph Kiner, in 1953.
Thank you, Mr. Rickey.
Thank you, Mom. We love you. We miss you.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT