|Mom and my stepdad Lawrence, at my brother 's house, the year before she passed away.|
|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|