Happy Mother’s Day, Athletics Nation!
I’m fortunate to have a mom who is not only awesome but also an A’s fan. Jean Hall didn’t really get into the sport until her sons started collecting baseball cards and playing Little League, but she’s earned her green-and-gold stripes since then.
Mom grew up in Oakland, went to school at Cal, and now lives in Danville, so she’s an East Bay lifer. In 1973, one of her neighbors had a spare ticket to a World Series game and offered to bring her along. At the time she didn’t know any of the players nor much about the game at all, though now she’s familiar with all the star names from those Swingin’ A’s championship teams. She came across the ticket stub several years ago and we looked up the box score to find out what she witnessed, and it turned out it was Game 6 — Catfish Hunter beating Tom Seaver, with Rollie Fingers getting the save, and Reggie Jackson having a big day at the plate.
We talked this morning and she told me a story that I’ve either never heard or have fully repressed from memory. Apparently the first A’s game I attended at the Coliseum came in April of 1990, as part of a school fundraiser — my older brother Evan was finishing 3rd grade and had already fallen in love with baseball, but I was only 5 and didn’t really know what was going on yet. The opponent was the Mariners, and Seattle starter Dave Holman took a no-hitter into the 9th inning (at which point it was broken up by a Ken Phelps homer). As the evening dragged on, I grew tired of the adventure at the cold and crowded stadium, and began repeatedly asking her, “Can we go home?” My interest in the sport seems to have risen slightly since then.
Mom always did whatever she could to support her sons’ obsession with baseball. Whether that meant scorekeeping for our Little League teams for seven years, or ferrying us to card stores and autograph sessions, or buying me a throwing net so I could play my own imaginary games in the backyard with a tennis ball, or just sitting with us and watching countless A’s games on TV or at the stadium, she was (and still is) always there for us. She still graciously lets me store all sorts of memorabilia that I’d never have space for otherwise, from stacks of old newspapers with major headlines, to boxes of shirseys (many from second-hand stores) and hats (many 25+ years old), to VHS tapes of 1990s All-Star Games and key moments from the ‘98 Mark McGwire homer chase (since mercifully converted to much more compact DVDs by my Dad).
Along the way, she’s fallen in love with her hometown team as well. When
asked put on the spot today to name some favorite players, she listed Rickey Henderson, the local Oakland hero, whose neon batting gloves my brother and I copied in Little League; Dave Stewart, whose stare she remembers me trying to emulate when I was pitching; Dennis Eckersley, whose newspaper clipping lived on the fridge for years after we met him at an autograph event; Barry Zito and Josh Reddick, two all-time fun characters; and, from the current team, her Cal guys, Marcus Semien and Mark Canha.
One particular favorite memory came in 2005, though it didn’t involve the A’s. I was midway through college at UC Davis and was wrapping up the end of my summer break, and she and I took a trip to the East Coast to visit some family. One stop was in Annapolis to see her sister, and from there we took the train to D.C. to catch a Nationals game in their debut season. The Giants just happened to be in town, and Barry Bonds was gracious enough to hit a homer for us. It wasn’t the A’s, but it was still a fun baseball experience. (On a previous family trip to visit the same aunt in 1991, we’d seen an Orioles/Twins game in the final season of Memorial Stadium. On another visit to Maryland in 2000, we took a road trip to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame.)
So thank you, Mom! Among all the many things you’ve done for me, you’ve been an integral part of my baseball journey, one that has led not only to lifelong fandom but now a career in sports media. You’re the best and I love you.
Here are a few Mother’s Day links: