If we all stop to think about it, chances are many of our interests in life, both good and bad, are influenced by our family members. Sometimes we have interests that run counter to the rest of our family although many other times the family ties that bind us include similar interests running throughout the generations. From a favorite soda, favorite sports teams and everything in between odds are in some way the choices we make are in some small way influenced by our exposure growing up. I have already mentioned the influence that my mother had on my love of baseball but she was far from the only generation in my family to follow the game and in turn share their love for it with me. Now up to bat, my two grandmothers, Granny and Mom Mom who each in their own way shaped how I picture the game and have their own place in my Hall of Fame.
Let us begin with my grandmother on my mother’s side; Edna Kirby, or Granny as she is known to me. Granny lives in Georgia which as many of you know is home to the Atlanta Braves. Despite living about four hours away from Atlanta, Granny always made it a point to watch her beloved Braves whenever they would come on. There were definitely some lean years to be a Braves fan but still she would soldier on with her devotion to her boys and most of all Chipper Jones. Whenever Chipper Jones would make a great play shouts of “attaboy Chipper” would resonate from my grandmother’s recliner. And, whenever Chipper would strike out or make a bad fielding play the battle cry turned to “oh Chipper.”
A few years back my mother and I traveled from Texas to Georgia to visit my grandmother in the hospital. While it was never spoken out loud in the car we both feared that maybe we were driving to say good bye to her based on the severity of why we thought she had been admitted to the hospital. After driving for 16 hours straight we arrived at the hospital and prepared for the worst as we approached the small rural hospital. Nothing really could have prepared us for what we saw though once we got inside though. Instead of a woman near death we found my grandmother standing in the hall in her hospital gown shouting to us to hurry up since the Braves game was on. She did not wait for us to get down the hall. Instead, she turned and went back in her room. By the time we got to her room she was already back in bed and giving us a recap of the game and asking what took us so long to get there. Near death indeed, she was as full of life as ever and it was yet another time to talk about the Braves. To this day whenever we talk to each other the conversation inevitably turns to the subject of how the Braves are doing.
Granny now lives in a nursing home and as often happens when a loved one makes the move to that stage in their live the larger furnishings and other accumulated belongings are divided up amongst the family since there is no room for them in the nursing home. There were not too many items of my grandmother’s that I wanted but I made sure I got her television. It is far from a new television, in fact it is down right old and heavy by today’s standards. There are no HD channels or flat screen components yet to me it is the most valuable TV in the world. For you see, this television that now sits on a dresser in my bedroom is the very same television that showed all of those Braves games that she and I shared together. Sure there are other channels that the TV gets but for me it is the Braves TV and everytime I see it or power it on I think of her and our shared bond over the game of baseball. And on those rare occasions when a Braves game is being shown in Houston I smile a little wider because I know we are both watching the same game.
My other Grandmother, Pat Hall, or Mom Mom as I call her, also shares a deep love for baseball and for years she lived in the perfect area to take advantage of that. After retiring Mom Mom and my grandfather moved from Maryland to the west coast of Florida near Bradenton. In addition to being located near some really nice beaches which made for great summer days in the surf as well as year round fishing, there was proximity to baseball; lots and lots of baseball.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the layout of baseball in Florida there are several teams that hold their Spring Training games in and around the west coast of the Sunshine State as noted in the photo I took in Sarasota at the Orioles Spring Training facility. Each year when Spring Training rolled around Mom Mom and I would try to plan when I could come down and catch a game with her. Sadly it never worked out that we could see a game in Bradenton but we were able to see several games in Orlando.
Mom Mom also helped add to my autograph collection as she interacted with many ball players through a part time job that she had at a restaurant that was owned by a former player in the Pirates organization. Every so often a new package filled with autographs of people that she had met would arrive in the mail. Many of those autographs are still displayed in my office. One particularly cool item from those years is an autographed team ball for the Bradenton Explorers of the Senior Professional Baseball Association. The league disbanded after a single season so I consider that extra cool to have that memento of a forgotten era. During one visit to her restaurant I was also introduced to college basketball announcer Dick Vitale. I met him before I really knew who he was so there was not a huge wow factor aside from the normal pleasantries of being introduced to someone and being told that they were famous. Once I did learn who he was I must say as he would surely say, “it was awesome baby.”
Like Granny, Mom Mom also has now moved from the home that she knew to enter that next phase of her life which includes assisted living facilities and the knowledge that the years ahead are fewer than the years behind them. Still, both women remain strong influences on me as a person in all aspects of my life but the influence on the aspects that involve baseball are surely hard to miss. Some day I am sure that I will join the line of people to influence the next generation and in turn they will go on to spread the knowledge and love as well. That is part of the great experience of life. Each generation shares what they know to the next and it builds from there. It also shows the generation to generation appeal of the National Pastime. Like us, the game gets bruised and tattered now and then but it gets up, wipes the orange clay and grass off and moves ahead. We should all strive to be as resilient. Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to see how the Braves are doing.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson