The Short Life & Tragic Death of Walter “Mother” Watson

I wish I had a photo of Walter “Mother” Watson of the Cincinnati Red Stockings to show you, it being “Mother’s Day” weekend and all.

I know he was a pitcher. A three-game cup-of-coffee guy. But, righty? Lefty? No clue.

Over two games, just 14 innings, in May of 1887, the Red Stockings put Mother Watson on the mound.

Watson gave up 18 runs in those two games though, to his credit, only 9 of them were earned.

He played just one more game for the Reds, when they stuck him out in left field.

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We Were Perfect That Way

When I was still pretty small, I had irritated my mom for something lousy I had done and, in her frustration, she snapped, “Don’t get me anything for Mother’s Day.”

A smarter kid might have recognized that what a mom sometimes says is not exactly what she means.

A smarter kid.

I was not that smarter kid. I took the money I was saving up for her gift, went to Woolworth’s, and bought myself a record. I can’t remember which one, but it’s entirely possible that it was this …

 

I was cold shouldered for days. I’m sure she was disappointed in me. It wouldn’t be the last time.

But, to my credit, I never missed another Mother’s Day – including this one, the ninth since she passed away.

I wish I could tell you that my mom and I were ever-warm and loving, like sisters really, and gardened together and cooked together and sewed together and did those things that moms and daughters often do.

We weren’t. We didn’t.

Mom and Me

Sure, we got along. Sometimes.

We fought a lot and rolled our eyes at each other and slammed doors in frustration and disagreed on more things than we agreed on.

But, at the end of the day, we were satisfied that she was probably the only mother, and I was probably the only daughter, who could put up with the other.

We were perfect that way.

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“Love You, Too.”

My mom’s last words to me were “Love you.”

That was seven years ago and she died – somewhat expected-unexpectedly – soon after.

I was her only child and we talked by phone every day. Those final words are especially comforting because we didn’t know that call would be our last.

She wasn’t very happy with me that day. But, no matter how angry we were with each other, or frustrated, or resigned to the other’s insolence, stupidity, or stubbornness, we always ended every phone call with “Love you.” “Love you, too.”

No matter what.

Here are four people and things my mom would love today if she were here …

1) Jose Altuve. My mom was nearly 5’11”. She enjoyed being taller than most everyone in her world. (“I don’t know how you ended up so short,” she would say to me since I’m just 5’6”. “Your weak gene pool,” was my answer. This would get me the silent treatment for a few hours.)

But, my mom would have loved Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, because, although just 5’5”, he excels in a sport meant for taller, bigger, beefier players. She loved it when an underdog made good.

She would love to see Altuve do this …

altuve double play

Altuve starts an amazing double play on Thursday.

And, this on May 2 …

altuve dinger2

“How about this for the little guy!”

2) Adam Jones.  Baltimore Orioles All-Star centerfielder Adam Jones doesn’t mince words – winning or losing – and plays hard every day.

When he slammed into an uncushioned wall at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, banging himself up badly, his words to his manager were only, “I should have caught that ball.”

adam jones

My mom had a rare medical condition that kills most people it affects, but she lived with it for nearly 40 years. She lived in a lot of pain, but she rarely let on and never let it limit her. (She’s probably a little pissed that I’m even telling you this. But, now that I have, she would insist I also tell you that it wasn’t what killed her.)

She would love a gamer like Jones who could shake off a collision, not complain, and just keep playing.

3) Girls Playing Baseball. My mom was pretty clear on this – girls should have the same opportunities as boys. Period.  My mom was all for women Presidents, women priests, and women playing sports at the same level as men.

Had she thought much about it, she would have been insulted to learn that girls are encouraged to play softball because it’s believed they aren’t up to the rigors of baseball. She would be all for girls playing baseball just to stick it to the idiots who think they can’t.

(I’m pretty sure she would enjoy the fact that blogging about baseball is mostly a guy thing, but I’m doing it anyway.)

NPR’s Only A Game shared a story this week about “Baseball For All”, a girls baseball academy.

baseball for all

4) This Blog Post. When I was in, I think, seventh grade, my mom was in a snippy mood one day early in May and said to me, “I don’t want anything from you for Mother’s Day.” I made the mistake, born of innocence and youth, to believe her. I took my allowance, went to Woolworth’s, and bought myself a record with the money I had set aside for her gift. This, as I’m sure you have guessed, was a mistake. I eventually realized that “I don’t want anything from you” was mom code for, “Don’t you dare forget this holiday.”

I haven’t missed one since. This is for mom. Love you, too.

mom me

 Me and mom. (I’m the short one.)

 

An Incredibly Perfect Pie

My mom made an incredibly perfect pie.

Nearly every single one ever … perfect.

(If there was an imperfect pie from time to time, my mother was no frugal cook. She had no respect for cooks who would serve something that was a little off. When an imperfection did come up in her kitchen, no matter how small, she would dump the offending item down the garbage disposal with the efficiency of a cold, calculating hit man. Dump. Gone. She was scary that way.)

So, I thought for Mother’s Day, I would celebrate my mom’s pies.

And, as I was writing this, it struck me. My mom didn’t even like pie.

She’s not around to ask, but I’m suddenly very sure of this.

I think she found pies old fashioned and uninteresting.

I, on the other hand, loved pie.

Fruit pies, and especially rhubarb and juneberry pies, were kitschy and old fashioned and I wanted to be the interesting girl who liked the quirky pies.

My dad liked chocolate pie. No fancy chocolate pie, just the pudding-mix sort.

This must have been incredibly insulting to my mom who would have happily melted exotic chocolates in a double boiler to create a delicious pie.

So, she made me quirky pies and she made him chocolate pudding-mix pies.

But, now that I think about it, I never recall her ever eating a piece of pie, unless she was just being sociable, or to take a quick taste of what she had baked (and to ensure that she shouldn’t throw it out and start over). She was a nose-crinkler when something wasn’t quite right. And, I think I saw her take a small bite of pie from time to time and crinkle her nose the same way I do when the milk in the fridge doesn’t smell quite right.

My mom may have disliked pie, but she made some of the best.

(You may say that your mom made the best pie in the world, but this is my post and you are wrong.)

So, in honor of Mother’s Day, here’s a quick celebration of pie, with a little baseball on the side …

1) Pie-ing the hero of a baseball game is classy.

(Gatorade dumping, in contrast, is stupid and rarely hits the intended target.)

The Baltimore Orioles have made the pie game an art.

Last season, the Orioles even gave away tee-shirts honoring their pie-in-the-face fun.

shaving cream pie tee shirt

Traditionally, face-smash pies were made of shaving cream, presumably because ballplayers don’t have time to whip up a light and eggy custard pie. (And, as many players go shave-free during the season, I suppose there is plenty of excess shaving cream just sitting around.)

Eyes were burned with shaving cream pies.

This year, Dangerously Delicious Pies in Baltimore is supplying two real pies for every home game – just for pie-ing the hero of the game. (Spoiler Alert: No pie-ing today, the Orioles lost.)

Here’s what a proper pie-ing looks like …

clevenger pie

“It tastes pretty good.”

Catcher Steve Clevenger’s walk-off RBI double wins the game for the Orioles in the 10th against the Houston Astros on Saturday night.

But, there are some players who, through their tenure and superstar status, are exempt from pie-ing.

Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis is one of them.

Here’s how you appropriately pie a superstar veteran when his hit wins the game …

Markakis 2

April 26 vs the KC Royals.

(Please note at the :50 mark when someone from the bullpen – I don’t know who – leans over and tastes the pie off of the ground. This is why I love bullpen pitchers. Because they are weird.)

When the Orioles win the World Series this year (and they will), we will look back at this magical Markakis (and J.J. Hardy) moment and think, “But, of course.”

2) My mom taught me a lot, including how to make a pie crust.

pie postcard

I’m not a particularly fast learner and it took her a few years before I got it right. My mother was not a patient teacher and I think she was, deep down, embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out.

The trick is cold vegetable shortening and ice cold water.

My mother would tell you this about that …

Yes, vegetable shortening. (Butter has its place in this world, but not in a pie crust. Unless you make your living slinging pies, just swallow your pride and stick to shortening.)

My mother would dismissively nose-crinkle you if you miss the important nuance of the water. Tap water is not “ice cold.” Ice cold tells you right there in its name that you need ice in your water, got it?

Here’s pretty much the pie crust recipe she taught me.

You may now roll out your perfect dough and commence to making the pie of your choice.

3) This is Felix Pie.

Felix Pie

Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

It is correctly pronounced “Pee-AY”, but I always called him Mr. Pie.

Felix Pie played for the Orioles, mainly in a utility role, from 2009 to 2011. He played for the Pirates last year, and seems to be playing for a South Korean team now.

I can’t think of any other reason to mention him here, except that he will always be Mr. Pie to me.

___________________

I can’t believe I just realized that my mom hated pie.

But, she made them anyway because I liked them.

I miss those pies. Thanks, mom.

Mom & me, sometime in the post-Mets years.  She could rock those sunglasses indoors & out!