It all started on our vacation trip to California back in 1961. Just Mom, Dad, and me, then 10 years old. Plus 2 paying passengers joining me in the backseat of our 1958 Canyon Pink, Chevy Biscayne. Sigh. A 2-door without air. Sigh. Our west coast relatives did their best to entertain and introduce us to new things. Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland were fantastic. Swimming in the Pacific was chilly but unforgettable. They took us out for Chinese food. Mom would only eat the fortune cookies and drink the tea. For me, following her lead, it would mean another 2 decades before John literally forced me to try Chinese cuisine again. Guess what? I love it. But when the relatives took us to the newly transplanted L.A. Dodger’s field for a baseball game against the Cubs, Mom discovered a new exciting pastime in her life.
|Mom and Dad in California, 1961…|
My Mom. A sports nut. Who knew? She was the most unlikely candidate, to say the very least. I remember she watched tennis on TV. Loved Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors. Adored Billy Jean King long before she whooped on Bobby Riggs hiney in the Battle of the Sexes. When I was cleaning out their house after she passed away in 2004, I re-discovered how much she really enjoyed spectator sports over the years. And for so many different teams. Seems like she’d become enamored with a “player” then follow his team for awhile. Mom had hundreds of sports articles saved. Neatly clipped from her beloved Des Moines Register. Dusty Baker, decades ago, chewing bubblegum and blowing a bubble the size of his head. George Brett, going ballistic with the umps over the “pine tar” incident.
|Dodgers vs. Cubs in L.A. 1961…|
In 1962 we took a camper-trailer (yes, you read that right, the Gerritson’s in a camper, I kid you not) to the Twin Cities. What was she thinking? Mom was not the camping type at all. She was a neat nick, germaphobe who washed her hands 30 times a day. Minimum. Any kind of camping was WAY TOO primitive for her. Gotta give her credit for trying though. Trying to make our small, downsized family unit closer after Larry died and Mona got married. But my Mom? She always wore a dress back then. I never saw her in a pair of jeans. Slacks, when the popular polyester pant-suit made its way into her fashion world. Anyway, on this trip we spent a day at Como Park Zoo which was great. But the highlight of this trip (and our last with our newly bought used camper-trailer) was a Minnesota Twins game. Mom was captivated by Harmon Killebrew. Until he took off his baseball cap to wave and acknowledge the crowd. He was bald. OK, it was time for Mom to move on.
|Dad and I eating breakfast in the camper during our Minneapolis adventure, 1962..,|
Mom then fell for the Kansas City Royals. Really it was all about that hunka-hunka third baseman named George Brett who played in the major leagues for 20 years. He was really cute, and a superb hitter and fielder. A couple years later, she moved on to the St. Louis Cardinals. She loved their short stop, Ozzie Smith. Watching him snag those thought-to-be-hits from going into the outfield. Mom and I drove to St. Louis to watch a few games. Enjoyed “The Wizard” doing his famous backflips on the field. Although by then I was a die-hard fan of the hopeless, hapless, helpless Cubs. Double sigh. I sure can pick ’em. The Cards were playing the New York Mets during that series. By the time we were done enjoying our 3 game series, Mom was done with the Cardinals. Sorry Ozzie and Whitey Herzog. Mom was moving on again.
|Minnesota Twins stubs, 1962. Yeah, Mom saved everything…|
Now her attention (and span) would focus on the Mets. Long term commitment for her. Really Mom? How could you embrace any New York team? They’re just so unlike-able. Side note, my Dad always loved the Yankees. Even worse. Steinbrenner. Ugh. Until Dad moved to Michigan. He started watching and rooting for the Detroit Tigers. Mom was smitten with the whole stinking Met team. Mookie Wilson, Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Lenny Dykstra. I think she liked Lenny because his name was Dutch. She would have been terribly disappointed in his life choices and business decisions of late. Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling (who was just that). But when you’re a Cubs fan, it’s a given. You gotta hate everything about the Mets and the Cards. Period. Decades old rivalrys.
|Our plain-jane ’58 Chevy Biscayne. Long trip to California hauling 5…|
Mom and I did a lot of arguing over baseball. Players, managers, teams and stats. Hard to win any argument when the team you love happen to be the Cubs. They’ve had a couple of play-off worthy years. Should have been in the 1984 World Series against the Tigers. I don’t think the Cubs would have won, but it would have had a better series than with the Padres. During the ’80’s the Cubs were quite notorious in their trading tactics for famous players. Getting rid of youngsters and rookies who just might have turned that team around and into something special one day. What’s the fun and logic with that? Trading them away for high-priced-has-been-players who were long past their prime. By at least 5 years.
|Ron, The Penguin’s adoptive family…|
Ron Cey was a perfect example. The Penguin (aptly nicknamed cause he looked like one. Unfortunately, ran and fielded like one too. Tough to catch those line drives at third when your arms and legs are so stinking short). Cubs got Cey years after he pip-squeaked. I mean peaked. Ended up lugging around that high salaried tub way too long. It wasn’t like we needed him to draw fans. The Cubs, no matter how many games they finished out of first place (usually last) always had one of baseball’s highest totals in attendance every year. Chicago did have some pretty awesome players during my die-hard years like Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe, reliever Lee (don’t-touch-my-fro) Smith, Steve Trout, Mark Grace, and Andre Dawson. Those perennial losers who could never make it past the playoffs when they finally managed to get there every quarter or half century. My love and devotion towards them has waned over the last decade. Just not very interested in baseball or football anymore. Mom stayed devoted to the Mets for the rest of her life.
|My Harmon Killebrew Louisville Slugger mini…|
But she would also have a crazy long love affair with the Iowa Hawkeye’s too. She really loved college basketball. Remembering Steve Carfino, Bobby Hansen, BJ Armstrong, (half of the twin towers, Michael Payne), Roy Marble, Brad Lohaus and Kenny Arnold back in the day. Mom knew each one of them as well as one could without being related or having ever met them. She was a nervous wreck on game nights against the powerhouse Big Ten teams. Jud Heathcoate at Michigan State (do any of you recall watching Jud years ago when he caught a ball that flew out of bounds at him on the sidelines? He was ticked at the call, and bounced the ball hard on the floor in front of him. Only to have it bounce right back and hit him snack dab in the face. On network TV. Classic). Gene Keady, the great coach at Purdue. Plus the horrible, awful, ruthless, mean, S.O.B. Bobby Knight at Indiana? Iowa’s had a string of coaches since I’ve been watching. Lute Olson, George Raveling, (who managed to lose a game, with under a minute left, and a substantial lead, 6 or 8 points I think. Plus he broke Brad Lohaus’ spirit). Not a good coach. Dr. Tom Davis who ran the team like sprinters. Steve Alford who was just awful (Bobby Knight clone wannabe).
|My favorite pic of Mom flirting with Joshua, 1978…|
Mom and I were in Chicago for a few days during the late ’80’s. Mom wanted to experience riding the “L” to the end of the line. So we did. Ended up on the south-WAY-south side. Only 2 women on the train. Then we had to get off, walk around to the other side to catch the trip back north. Now that was a little bit frightening. Ah, we were fine. This was the last series Mom and I attended together at Wrigley Field. The Cubs vs. Mets. The weather was fantastic. Nice, but not too hot. Beautiful summer days. We were in the shade. This was just before the Cubs got lights to hold night games. (Sorry, I often feel bad about the lights. Necessary evil, but still have issues embracing this change. It’s only been 25 years. Maybe I’ll get used to it). We were having a wonderful day. There were a two guys in their 20’s sitting a couple seats away. Mom and I were arguing about a call when she looked over at me with a frown on her face. This is how the conversation went.
Mom: “Denise do you smell anything strange? I smell something really weird. What is that?”
Me: “Umm Mom, I think that’s pot you’re smelling.”
Mom: “You mean pot like the marijuana drug pot?”
Me: “Yes, I believe so.”
Mom: “Do you think we should call over one of the attendants? Or go find a policeman?”
Me: “No Mom, we’re gonna just let this one slide.” She was furious and astounded that illegal drugs could be seen and smelled during the day at Wrigley Field while we were enjoying America’s pastime. Sometimes she was very innocent. Oh Mom…