Friday, May 6, 2011

Mom, baseball, and apple pie

Mom and my stepdad Lawrence,  at my brother 's house,  the year before she passed away.
My mom Edith loved the Cincinnati Reds. She watched them play every chance she got on our little 19-inch color television. Cable television had yet to be invented and all of the games weren't broadcast on our local channels 3, 8 and 13. So, she would plug in the radio and tune into the AM station as clearly as she could. It usually sat on the back of the sofa, because that is where it got the best reception. She and my stepfather would sit in their not-too-big upholstered rockers and listen intently to the play-by-play given by Joe Nuxhall, a former Reds pitcher, and the "voice of the Cincinnati Reds", Marty Brennaman.

image by lethal_lane at photobucket

The most excited I think I ever saw my mother was during the 1975 and 1976 World Series games, when "The Big Red Machine" won both championships back-to-back. Beginning in 1970, rookie manager Sparky Anderson led "The Great Eight" to five NL Western Division titles, four National League pennants and the two World Series championships. They racked up records by the fistfuls. And in the 1977 and 1978 seasons, they finished in second place in the World Series. No wonder she loved them.

The roster was a dream team:  Johnny Bench, who is heralded as the greatest catcher of all time, and at one time held the record for most home runs by a catcher, never played for any other ML team but his hometown Reds; Pete Rose, also a Cincinnati native, nicknamed Charlie Hustle, played third base and was a switch hitter and a hitting machine (thankfully, Mom never had to find out about his gambling disgrace); Tony Perez was on first base, Joe Morgan on second, and Dave Concepcion as shortstop. In the outfield were George Foster, left field;  Cesar Geronimo, center; and Ken Griffey (Sr.) in right field. My mom loved every one of them and talked about them as if she knew each one personally, but she really had a crush on Johnny Bench.

Johnny was always a gentleman, on the field and off. He looked like the all-American boy-next-door. And he had a local connection. One of our neighbors had a daughter who happened to be roommates with Johnny's sister, whose name I can't remember. Mom loved to hear Diane's stories about the parties that she and the sister attended with Johnny and the other guys. I think Diane secretly hoped Johnny would ask her to marry him, but I think Johnny thought of her as his other little sister. Mom would have been so proud of Johnny when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 in his first year of eligibility, but sadly, in 1987, she died of a heart attack and didn't get to see him achieve this goal.

One of my biggest regrets is that Mom never got to attend a Reds game in person. She would have been a little scared to be out of her element, but a lot more excited to be near her beloved team. If I had only known how short our time with her would be, I would have made sure she got to see them play at least once. This Mother's Day will mark the 24th anniversary of her passing. I still miss her sweet voice and her pretty smile every day. To celebrate, I think I will tune in and see if the Reds are playing. With 23 channels showing nothing but sports, surely I will be able to find one with the Cincinnati Redlegs. Mom would have been in seventh heaven.

image taken from Food Network site, but it looks a lot like Mom's

Mom's Apple Pie

8 cups Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
1 10-inch double pie crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In large bowl, toss together the apples and the next 7 ingredients, granulated sugar through lemon juice. 

Line deep-dish 10-inch pie plate or pan with bottom crust. Place the apple mixture in the crust and dot with the cut-up butter. Cover with second crust and crimp edges.  Cut an A for apple in the center.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. If the edges of the crust are getting too brown, cover with aluminum foil strips.

Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream while it's still warm and watch your favorite baseball team while you scrape your plate and lick your lips.