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Moms and Baseball: One Son's Story

Mom got me started

When I was a boy, I became involved in baseball primarily because of my mother.  My dad took me to the local drugstore in Teaneck, NJ in 1956 and bought me a bat that was so heavy and so long Mickey Mantle couldn't have used it. After that Mom decided that she had better step in!  So she got involved all the way.  We played catch together after school since my brother was too young to catch a ball.  Of course I didn't have patience for either one of them. But through it all she managed to foster in me, a love of the game and a need to succeed. 

Whenever I've had struggles in my life, I, like many other men, returned to my childhood days and to an understanding of how I succeeded in overcoming the challenges inherent in sports.  Above all baseball teaches you persistence, the value to endure. It would give me great pleasure to see young women eventually benefit from the same retrospective experience.

My mom would always put me to bed very early in those days. In the 50's there were only 4 or 5 TV stations, even in the New York metropolitan area. So there was no need to stay up late.

There were certainly no cartoon channels. You had a choice of watching quiz shows or a symphony from Carnegie Hall on a very small black and white TV; neither of which was very appealing to an aspiring athlete.

Watching the Yankees with mom

Some of the best memories of my life were being allowed to stay up to watch the New York Yankee games with Mom.  And if I was extra good, she would make me an ice cream soda in a glass that I still have today.

My biggest sadness in professional sports, particularly baseball today, is that major leaguers are not required to spend at least 4 years in one city. For many years I have thought that would be the greatest asset MLB could possibly create. Because when I was little my mom would walk me up to Charlie's, the corner drugstore, and there they would sell the official Yankee programs sold at the Stadium.  Mom and I would sit and read the bios on all the players. There are many thousands of men my age today who can still name the 1957 NY Yankee lineup. Not many kids can do that today with their local major league team's roster.

In those days, we played baseball from morning ‘til night on the street in front of the house. And if we didn't have a hard ball, we'd use a rubber ball and play stoop ball. If we didn't have a good stoop ball, we'd play on the tennis court using the tennis wall as home run derbies.

Mom, a good athlete in her own right, would always try to sneak in an at-bat. That was way too embarrassing! That was until she knocked the heck out of the ball; leaving all my friends jaws half way to their chests. Then it was "lets chose sides again-we get Johnny's mom!" But duty called: the wash, ironing, vacuuming and such as that.

There were other ball players on my block with equally active moms. Jimmy Comis, our next door neighbor, went on to coach for 10 years in the Milwaukee Brewers minor league organization and still is in the game as a coach at Broughton HS in North Carolina.  Another friend did quite well too. His mom and mine were our Cub Scout Den mothers, and when we weren't in Cub Scouts, we were playing baseball. You may recognize his name - General Peter Pace, the past Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I understand they recently named our old Little League field after him.

All of our moms played a tremendous role in our development through baseball.