89: Play Ball

89: Play Ball

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

Play Ball

A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz.

~Humphrey Bogart

“Mom . . .” I tried not to sound too condescending, but my displeasure was evident. “You can’t wear that to the ball game.”

Mom stood up straight, looked me square in the eye, and said, “Give me one good reason why I can’t wear this shirt to Safeco Field.” She puffed out her chest. “It’s my eightieth birthday, and I can wear anything I want!”

I sighed. “The Mariners are playing Boston, Mom. Boston Red Sox fans will be wearing red.”

“Your point?”

“I’m not sitting next to a woman who dresses like a Red Sox fan.”

“But I look good in red.”

I sighed a second time, picked up a wrapped present I’d earlier set on her kitchen counter, and handed it to her. “Open this.”

“I thought we were going to wait to open presents until later — when we have the birthday cake.”

“Just open it, Mom.”

She tore into the wrapping like a little kid on Christmas and held up a blue and white baseball jersey with a large 51 printed on it. “Oh! Fifty-one! That’s Ichiro’s number! He’s my favorite right fielder of all time!”

I smiled. “So why don’t you wear that today?”

Mom was already folding the shirt and attempting to reinsert it into the torn wrapping paper. “I don’t want to get mustard all over it, and you know I’ll have to have a Major League Mariner Hot Dog with the works while we’re at the ball park.”

“But you don’t have to spill mustard on your shirt. That’s optional.”

She stuck her tongue out at me.

“Just try it on, Mom.”

She headed down the hallway to her bathroom. “At least you didn’t get me a hat. I won’t wear hats. Hats really mess up my hair.”

I smiled. For the past decade, Mom and I had gone to Mariner games twice a year — on Mother’s Day in May and on her birthday in August. It was a tradition I loved, and I eagerly looked forward to each game. She loved “her boys,” and I loved spending quality time at the ballpark with the woman who had instilled a love of the sport of baseball in me at an early age.

“How’s this?” said Mom, returning to the kitchen. She had on the shirt, along with a light summer windbreaker. A red windbreaker.

“Mother! You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Now you look here, young lady . . .” She squinted her eyes, put her hands on her hips and dramatically stomped her foot.

“The shirt is blue and white, the jacket is red. Red, white, and blue are America’s colors. Baseball is the all-American sport. You’ve always known how patriotic I am, so quit complaining, and get in the car. I want to get there in time to watch batting practice!”

There was no arguing with logic like that, so I picked up my car keys and we headed out the door.

God bless my mother; God bless the USA.

~Jan Bono

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