For The Love Of The Game Between A Daughter and Her Mom

Sara GalopeContributor IOctober 11, 2009

It was my idea to go to Chicago in the summer of ’04.  When I was a little girl, it was impressed upon me that it was my "patriotic duty" to make a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field and witness a Cubs game.

Not just any game, but a day game.  And I had to sit in the bleachers.  With a beer.

After 19 years of dreaming about it, I decided it was time to live out the experience. As much as my mom and I were often at odds with each other, there was no one I would rather make the trip with that summer.

Why my mom?  Is it possible that a mother sharing her love for the game of baseball with her daughter might be as poetic as a father sharing it with his son?  I believe so, even though it may not be talked about as often.

My mother’s father, who we affectionately called Opa, was a German immigrant who lived in New York City prior to moving to Los Angeles.  The romantic in me would like to believe that he learned to love the Dodgers while they were still in Brooklyn and that when he moved to LA, his heart remained in Brooklyn until the Dodgers followed.

My mother was a second-generation Dodger fan. Opa even brought home a baseball autographed by Sandy Koufax for her one day. She still has the ball in her china cabinet still. The “To Kristina” is faded, but still visible.

At some point after my sister and I were born, my dad realized I was as close to a son as he was going to get. I was a tomboy to the core. My parents took me to my first Dodger game when I was six.  It was against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Dodgers won.  I’ve been hooked on baseball ever since.

Not to minimize my father’s influence on me, nor to downplay the times he took me to Dodger games or watched me play softball, but the impact baseball had on my relationship with my mom was special. I fully recognized it after our trip to Wrigley.

How could I have missed it all those years?  My mom tried to play catch with me, but her failing eyesight limited her ability to catch and we would end up angry at each other.  She would tell me not to throw so hard and I wondered why she couldn’t catch a baseball streaking straight towards her.

In time, I resorted to playing alone. The garage door simultaneously became the batter, as well as, my first baseman; first hitting grounders to me, and then snagging my throws to first after I stepped on an imaginary second base while turning a double-play.

The roof of the house was used to generate fly balls for me to shag.  I’d hurl a tennis ball up on it, watch it bounce down the shingles, over the edge, and into my glove for the out.

I’m not sure if it was the tennis ball marks on the side of the garage door, the rhythmic bouncing of a ball on the roof over our TV room, or the sight of me hauling the extension ladder from the shed to retrieve the balls that got stuck in the rain gutter—but I have a feeling the elastic Pitch Back net I got for Christmas was my mom’s doing.

Though I usually went to Dodger games alone with my dad unless the whole family was going,  I vaguely remember a time when my mom took us.  We got all the way to the parking lot on top of Chavez Ravine before someone realized we left the tickets at home.  I’m not sure how we pulled it off, but we went back for the tickets and still saw most of the game.

My dad went to many of my softball games, but it was my mom who took me to the practices.  I can’t fathom the boredom she must have endured, but she knew the game was my life.  She was there when my first coach told me my glove was too small for softball and she bought a new one for me.  I use it to this day.

The highlight of my childhood came the day my mom took me to have the Dodgers’ second baseman and the love of my life, Steve Sax, sign a copy of his autobiography.  She took me to the bookstore very early on the morning of the autograph session to secure a place near the front of the line.  When Steve finally signed my book, he put Xs and Os next to his name. My mom and I went ballistic. If that wasn’t enough, there was an article in the next morning’s newspaper about the book signing, and it included a paragraph about my reaction to meeting Steve.

In 1988, mom was with me to witness Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in Game One of the World Series. She was also with me when the Dodgers won the Series four games later.  In fact, she was the only one in the room with me.  I’ll never forget the way she screamed and jumped up and down by the couch.

My dad was always good at the organizational aspect of taking trips to Dodger Stadium.  He was good with the logistics of buying the tickets in advance, strategically parking near the exit to minimize traffic on the way home, and how to find our seats first and then go back for the hot dogs.

But my mom was the more romantic one. She appreciated every detail. She loved Helen Dell playing the organ and the sound of Vin Scully’s voice on the radio.  She reminisced about "Dem ol' Bums:  Koufax, Drysdale, Pee-Wee, Wally Moon and his Moon Shot and all the rest.

When I didn’t get to wear my traditional No. 16 one season and was handed the No. 4 jersey instead, my mom consoled me by reminding me it was The Duke’s number.

She loved Walter Alston. She swore you could potentially see Koufax throw a no-hitter any day he pitched.  For her birthday once, I got Maury Wills to personalize a baseball for her, and she was ecstatic.

So in July of 2004, it was no contest and I asked her to go to Chicago with me.

We had, of course, seen the new, flashy stadiums in Milwaukee, Detroit, and on Chicago’s south side, but the north edge of the Windy City was where our trip both climaxed and concluded.

It was a day game. We sat in the bleachers, and I had a beer.  It was exactly as I had always pictured it except that I left my ID in the hotel and my mom had to buy my beer for me.

We saw Sammy Sosa hit a home run and Greg Maddux pitch a masterpiece.  After the game, I asked a guy on Waveland Avenue where the famous flagpole is where they hang the legendary “W” flag. The man proceeded to unzip his fly, not realizing my mom was watching just two paces away.  It’s been a running joke between us ever since.

As much as my mother and I have argued, fought, made up, and argued again, during my adult life, my memories of baseball almost always lead back to warm memories of her.  Her love of the game was passed on to me like a thread that ties us together forever.  It is our common denominator.

Any woman who has shared a catch with her daughter, or a daughter who has listened to a game with their mom, represent that silent majority who understands the magic that a father and son feels.

Poems may not be written, movies not made and songs not sung about us, but our quiet love for baseball exists like a secret that men don’t think we are in on.

Memories are made and relationships are enhanced because of it. I hope the women who have experienced this know how very lucky they are.

Sara Matson Galope is a freelance writer for the Bleacher Report and a freelance Pizza Maker for the Portland Sea Dogs. She is also a supporter of the award winning children's book, A Glove of Their Own. She urges you to visit the site and purchase the book using donor code, GPB 423 Girls Play Baseball.

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