A Tribute To My Mom
Tuesday, August 28, 1928. Lefty Grove threw a shutout, defeating the Chicago White Sox, 1-0, at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Grove was in the midst of a great season in which he led the American League in wins (24) and strikeouts (183) while finishing third in ERA (2.58).
But the most important development that day--at least from my perspective--was the birth of another lefty. Patricia Ann Donovan.
While Grove went on to become the best southpaw in baseball history, Patricia Ann Donovan went on to become the best Mom a guy could have.
My Mom was born in Grand Island, Nebraska and grew up in Des Moines, Iowa during the depression years. After graduating from high school, she delayed college for a year to work and save a little money. In August 1947, my mother moved to Long Beach, California (which was affectionately known as Iowa by the Sea in the post-War years). She applied to UCLA but the out-of-state tuition was prohibitively expensive, prompting her to attend the more affordable Long Beach City College instead.
Going to LBCC turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My Mom met the love of her life while working at the college newspaper, The Viking. My Mom and Dad were engaged in February 1949 and married six months later on her 21st birthday. George and Patricia Lederer. They began married life with my Dad working nights in the sports department of The Independent (one of the two Long Beach newspapers at the time) and my Mom working days for the Yellow Pages. They managed without owning a car--unheard of today, especially in California.
My Mom and Dad had four children. My older brother Tom was born in 1951, my sister Janet in 1954, and my younger brother Gary in 1962. I was born in 1955--the middle child, if there can be such a thing among four.
The love affair between my family and baseball began in 1958 when my Dad was assigned the job of covering the Dodgers in the team's inaugural season in Los Angeles. March Madness around our house was the month my Mom also played Mr. Dad while our father was in Vero Beach each spring with the Dodgers.
My brothers and I played organized baseball all through our youths. It seemed as if we lived at the ball fields. If we weren't at the Coliseum or Dodger Stadium, we were at Heartwell Park (home of our local Little League, Pony League, and Colt League), Lakewood High School, or Blair Field. On many a day, we ran (well, I should say drove now that we had a car) from one game to the next. In any event, these ballparks were our home away from home.
When my Mom wasn't cooking us a homemade meal, we were grabbing a Poor Boy at the snack shack. And perhaps a Big Hunk or Look candy bar for dessert with a few Pixy Stix in between. All the while, my Mom was not only our chauffeur and number one fan but team mother, league secretary, and/or in charge of the Ladies' Auxiliary.
Although my Dad attended as many of our games as he could, his job covering the Dodgers prevented him from being there as often as he would have liked. Nonetheless, it was always reassuring to at least see my Mom in the stands. And in the stands she was--every game.
Like a lot of women from that era, my Mom chose to shelve her personal ambitions in devotion to the most difficult, important, and exhausting job in the world--being a loving mother to her four children. Yet, as I approached college, my Mom went back to work--putting in half days at the Child Study Center at the local community college in order to help pay my tuition to USC.
At about the time my Dad died from melanoma at the age of 50 in 1978, my Mom went back to college and earned the Bachelor's degree that brought her out to California in the first place nearly 30 years earlier. My brothers, sister, and I were all very proud of her. In 1980, she accepted an invitation to teach pre-school and kindergarten in Japan for a year. When my Mom returned home, she resumed her career here and taught for about ten years before retiring.
My Mom. Three quarters of a century old and still going strong. Nearly half of that century as my Mom. Lucky me. My Mom--parent, teacher, confidant, ardent supporter, and friend all wrapped up in one package. Thank you for being there for me, Mom. You're the best.
Happy Mother's Day!