In the days before radio, and television, and those horrible Facebook Live broadcasts, major league baseball was hard to follow from afar.
In 1893, the major league was just a dozen teams huddled together in big East Coast cities and extending only as far west as Chicago and St. Louis.
Minor league baseball filled in everywhere else.
This is important on this Mother’s Day only for this …
In the early 1890s, the California League offered “Ladies Day” free admission to female fans at every baseball game.
Free admission for ladies at every game “is not known in any other baseball city in the country,” The San Francisco Call reported.
(“Not known in any other baseball city” is 19th-century code for “we haven’t invented Google yet, so how are we supposed to know?”)
Then this happened.
The California League was, in 1893, just these four teams: the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland Colonels, the San Francisco Friscos, and the Stockton River Pirates who became the Sacramento Senators before the season was through.Embed from Getty Images
San Francisco vs. Oakland, Haight Street Grounds, 1890
In May 1893, the Friscos and the Colonels squared off for a weekend series at San Francisco’s Haight Street Grounds.
Wait. Only One Game Free? What!?
The league announced that there would be no more free ride for the ladies. “Ladies Day” would be just for one game at each series. Female fans would have to pay regular admission to the rest.
The California League owners decided, The Call reported, that charging female fans admission “will tend to make the games even more popular and better patronized.”
The California League folded two seasons later which may be the answer to your next question, “Well, how did that work out?”
Occasional free admission “Ladies Days” continued on in big league ball here and there, although visiting teams generally hated them because, naturally, their take of the day’s gate was reduced as a result.
Today, baseball honors all the moms in the world by charging them full admission, but adorning its teams in pink baseball caps, pink bats, pink socks and … well, what mom doesn’t love pink?
(My mom. My mom didn’t love pink. She was quite clear on this: purple, and only purple, was her color.)
The only things that should be pink are bubble gum, cotton candy …Embed from Getty Images
… and P!nk.
Cheers for the moms …
Here’s to Mrs. Mary O’Neill, of Minooka, Pennsylvania, one of the very first “Baseball Moms.”
Of the 13 children she bore in the late 19th century, four went on to play major league ball in the early 20th century:
- Mike, a Cardinals pitcher;
- Jack, a Cardinals catcher and his brother’s battery mate;
- Steve, a catcher for 17 seasons, mainly with the Indians, and later 14 seasons as a big league manager, including helming the 1945 World Series Champion Tigers; and
- Jim, a Washington Senators shortstop.
The family built a ball field where their sons learned to play and Mother O’Neill tended to professional players who happened through Scranton, by way of Minooka, on barnstorming tours.
“It was here that John McGraw, Hughey Jennings, Ty Cobb, Johnny Kling, Frank Chance, Roger Bresnahan, Hal Chase, ‘Wee Willie’ Keeler of ‘hit ‘em where they ain’t fame,’ stopped to wash and partake of Mother O’Neill’s supper before returning to Scranton and the trains to the large cities,” The Scranton Republican wrote.
Here’s to Lena Feller, of Van Meter, Iowa, a nurse, a teacher, and mom to Hall of Fame Pitcher Bob Feller.
Feller and his mother in 1951
On May 14, 1939 – Mother’s Day – while watching her son pitch for the Cleveland Indians from the front row in a game against the White Sox, she was clouted by a foul ball pitched by her son.
“The ball struck Mrs. Feller above the left eye and shattered one of the lenses of her glasses,” The Des Moines Register reported. “Blood streamed from her eye lid and forehead.”
And, then she did what any Baseball Mom would do. Knocked silly, with blood pouring down her face from a foul ball pitched by her son, she told him not to worry about her and to keep playing. She then was carried out of the stands and hurried to the hospital by ambulance.
The doctors stitched her up and admitted her for the night, so they could take some x-rays in the morning to make sure there was no fracture. (There wasn’t.)
Feller won the game, defeating the White Sox 9-4.
After the game, Feller raced to the hospital. And, so, apparently, did a sports photographer who took this uncomfortable photo of Bob and his family standing at Lena Feller’s bedside.
(A note to all sons and daughters: If your mom is in the hospital, inviting the local newspaper photographer to join you when you visit her is a bad idea. I shouldn’t even have to tell you this.)
Here’s to the rabbit who, on Saturday morning, spent an hour building a nest in our patch of thyme and oregano.
Now the nest is ready, and soon the rabbit will give birth to five baby bunnies, give or take a few. The babies will live in the little thyme nest their mother built for about a month before they get on with things on their own. In the meantime, the thyme patch is off-limits to the rest of us.
And, here’s to my mom.
She’s been gone for 10 years now. As busy as a “Baseball Mom,” she was a “Ballet Mom,” ferrying me to ballet and gymnastics classes and practices and performances after school and on weekends for many years. This also included sewing and altering countless costumes for countless performances, even though she hated to sew.
It’s me. I’m a bee!
Nearly every day I come upon something she has written to me – a note, a letter, a recipe, a few words on the tab of an old file folder in a drawer. Just to see her handwriting makes me miss her.
I saved her last bottle of perfume, because it smelled deeply of her. But now, the last remaining bit is nearly evaporated and today it smells mostly of air.
I miss not only her, but the scent of her.
Mookie takes a sniff.
She would want me to mention again that her favorite color was purple.
Here’s to all the moms. The ones who love pink and the ones who love purple and the ones who love baseball and the one who loves you.