Aside from being the month of my birth, March is also Women’s History Month.
Established in 1987, Women’s History Month highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.
Few can argue that women have played a pivotal role in societies across the globe for centuries. It would be impossible to list all of those accomplishments in a single column.
Instead, I am going to focus on the three women in my life who, among other things, helped shape my love of baseball and sport in general. It is a love that has proven to be quite useful throughout my life and career.
Those three women are, my mother, my maternal grandmother, and my paternal grandmother.
Each of them, in their own unique way set me on the path that I am on today.
Our journey through the inspirational baseball loving women in my life begins with my mother.
My mother grew up as a Washington Senators fan and became a Baltimore Orioles fan after both versions of the Senators fled the Nation’s Capital to become the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers, respectively.
As my mother would often point out, had the Senators stayed around, I likely would have never been a Baltimore Orioles fan.
But the Senators did leave town twice, which meant either by default, or by choice, I became a Baltimore Orioles fan.
In addition to taking me to my first regular season Major League Baseball game in Baltimore, my mother also took me to my first Spring Training game to see the Orioles play in Orlando.
In January 2013, I wrote a column about the series of events that occurred on that fateful trip to Memorial Stadium in 1983 for my first regular season game.
The story behind my first Spring Training game was equally memorable.
After moving from Maryland to Florida in the third grade, I went from living in a state where I had a local Major League ball club to root for from April to October, to a state that only had Major League Baseball during two months of Spring Training.
I did not know it at the time, but the lack of full time Major League Baseball, that existed until the arrival of the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays about a decade after I moved to Florida, would be a great benefit to shaping me.
While I would go on to attend hundreds of Spring Training games in my life, my first encounter with spring training started with a bit of constructive deception.
One March day, which also happened to be my birthday, as I was sitting in my classroom like a good little student, my name was called on the intercom to go to the principal’s office.
To be fair, there were many times when my name was called over the intercom because I had done something to warrant a trip to see the principal.
However, on this particular day I was at a complete loss as to why I was being summoned.
As I exited the classroom, my mom met me outside my classroom door. We walked in virtual silence. The whole time we were walking, a series of thoughts ran through my head. The thoughts ranged from someone must have died, to I must have really done something this time if my mom is the one escorting to the office.
But we did not stop at the office. Instead we kept walking in virtual silence all the way to my mom’s car.
Once we were safely away from listening ears and inside the car, my mom told me of the real reason why I was leaving school. And that reason was, we were going to Tinker Field to see a Spring Training game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Minnesota Twins.
I was excited to learn that my fears of a death in the family were not realized. I was even more excited that I was getting to go see a baseball game Ferris Bueller style while the rest of my classmates were stuck at school.
Two traditions began for me that day. The first being, that one should never be in school ,or at work on their birthday, and second, birthdays are best when they are spent at a ballpark.
In the years since that first Spring Training game, I have often followed my mom’s example to stop and smell the nachos from time to time by skipping school, or work, in order to take in a day at the ballpark, even on days that aren’t my birthday.
My mom did not only take me to see Spring Training though. She would often take me to see the Orlando Sun Rays play Minor League Baseball games. My mom also took me to a Senior Professional Baseball Association game where I was able to meet Earl Weaver.
I have written extensively through the years about how those numerous trips to Tinker Field with my mom shaped me as a fan, as well as a sports writer. Those trips also instilled in me a yet unreached goal of working for a Minor League Baseball team.
As I also recently noted in another column, my mom also often took me to baseball card shops and card shows to ensure that my baseball itch was scratched outside of the ballpark as well.
Yes, my mother was quite influential in ensuring that my love of baseball was fed at every possible opportunity. However, she was not alone in nurturing my love of baseball.
The next women who inspired my love of baseball was Edna Kirby, who I called Granny. Granny lived among the slash pine trees of southern Georgia about four hours away from Atlanta. In addition to going to nearly every baseball game at the local high school, Granny always made a point to watch her beloved Atlanta Braves whenever they were on TV.
Before she got a satellite dish, and long before streaming games on the internet or a phone was a thing, Granny used an over the air antenna strapped to the roof.
On the days when the antenna just couldn’t pick up the station carrying the game, Granny would go old school and listen to the broadcast on the radio.
There were definitely some lean years to be a Braves fan. Still, Granny 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 throughout the house from Granny’s recliner.
And, whenever Chipper would strike out or make a bad fielding play the battle cry from the recliner turned to “oh Chipper.”
About 20 years ago, my mother and I traveled from Texas to Georgia to visit Granny 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.
However, nothing really could have prepared us for what we saw once we got inside. 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. Granny went on to live about another 10-years after her “near death” experience.
When Granny went into a nursing home, many of her things were divided up among family. There were not too many items of my grandmother’s that I wanted, but I made sure I got her television. It was far from a new television. In fact, it was downright old and heavy by today’s standards.
For me, it was the Braves TV. Every time I saw it or powered it on, I thought about Granny and our shared bond over the game of baseball.
Eventually I replaced Granny’s TV with a newer HD model after thinking to myself, there is no way that Granny would still be watching the Braves on this set.
I laughed a little when I thought that if she were here she would say, “Buster Brown, get rid of that old TV and get yourself one where you can see the blades of grass on the field.”
To this day, whenever I watch the Braves play, I smile a little wider because I know we are both watching the same game.
The third woman who shaped my love of baseball is Pat Hall, or Mom Mom as I called her. For years, Mom Mom lived in the perfect area to take advantage of a love of baseball. After retiring, Mom Mom 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.
Each year when Spring Training rolled around, Mom Mom and I would try to plan when I could come down from Orlando and catch a game with her.
Sadly, it never worked out that we could see a Spring Training game in Bradenton. However, we were able to see several Minor League Baseball games together at Tinker Field in Orlando.
In addition to fueling my love for attending baseball games, Mom Mom also helped add to my autograph collection.
Mom Mom 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 SPBA.
The SPBA disbanded after a single season. So, I consider that extra cool to have that memento of a forgotten era.
Encounters with sports figures was not just tied to baseball however. 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.”
One of my remaining bucket list Ballparks is McKechnie Field in Bradenton. It is the Ballpark that Mom Mom and I never made it to. It is important to me that I make it there at least once in her memory.
I had planned to make the trek in 2020, but then the world of sports shut down for COVID-19. Hopefully 2024 will allow me to finally catch a game there 40 years after the invitation was first made.
Although both my maternal and paternal grandmothers have passed away, the lessons they taught me and the love of baseball remains.
My mom and I have attended many baseball games together over the years, and hopefully we will get to attend a few more in the years to come. Inside and outside of ballparks she continues to be an inspiration.
There are countless other personal stories that I am sure people can tell about their own experiences with inspirational women in their lives.
Of course, just like a single column cannot contain all the stories of important women in my life, a single month cannot contain all of the ways that women have contributed to societies throughout history.
Be sure to take time to recognize a few women in your life who have helped shape you into the person you are today, and the person you are yet to be.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some trips to some Ballparks to plan.
Copyright 2023 R. Anderson