When I picked it up, I saw that it was “For the Love of the Game.” The movie stars Kevin Costner and is one of my top five favorite movies of all time. It's a movie about baseball, and it made me think of my mom because she loved baseball too.
We both fell in love with the game when I played Little League. There's something about a baseball diamond in spring. It's as flat as a mirror, with chalk lines that make the infield look like a dusty piece of pie.
Even now when I close my eyes, I can conjure up the scent of my old leather glove and hear the bark of a bat against a fastball. Closely knit in my memory is the aroma of popcorn and parched peanuts wafting from the concession stand. I can feel the warm summer sun on my face and hear the scratching click of my cleats on concrete.
Our uniforms were made of creme-colored flannel and had red ribbon-looking stripes about as wide as my little finger down the front and around the sleeves. Our socks were red with white stripes.
Every baseball field we ever played on was scratched out of red clay. And since baseball players spend a lot of time diving and sliding on the ground, we all looked at the end of each game as if we'd been mining iron ore.
But every time I set foot on the diamond, my uniform was as clean as new. It did take a while to convince my mom that a baseball uniform didn't really have to be starched.
Mama never missed a home game, and she was very vocal in her support. One time when I was batting, a pitcher for the opposing team threw a curveball that whacked me on the ear.
When Mama heard the whack of that ball on my helmet, she came off the bleachers and was ready to whip the opposing coach, the kid, the kid's parents and the folks at Rawlings who'd made the baseball. Fortunately I have a hard head, and I was wearing a batter's helmet.
If our coach hadn't realized that I was OK and headed mama off at home plate, it could have gotten nasty out there on the diamond.
A few years ago while visiting, I reminded her of that story and we both had a good laugh.
During the later years of her life, she looked forward to spring and baseball season. The Atlanta Braves gave her some of her happiest moments. She especially liked it when they hammered the Mets or the Red Sox.
When they won, she was happy, and when they lost she was mad as a hornet. If I happened to miss the game and asked her for the score, “Aw, I don't want to talk about it.”
Back when I worked for a living, my company had a skybox at Turner Field. I had the opportunity to see them play a number of times. On one trip, I bought her a Braves baseball hat.
Now that she's gone, the one regret that I have is that I never took her to Atlanta to see the Braves.