My mother, who turns 89 later this month, is currently going through withdrawal symptoms. You see, she's a Washington Nationals fan -- never misses a telecast -- and their season ended on Sunday.
It's not easy being a Nats fan; for the second consecutive season, the team lost more than 100 games and finished with the worst record in the majors. But she's an avid fan, knows all the players, follows the team's moves in the papers. And while there wasn't much to cheer about, the Nats had their moments. Like the home finale, where Justin Maxwell's grand slam with two out in the ninth inning lifted Washington to a 7-4 victory over the Mets a week ago Wednesday to cap a three-game sweep of New York. The Nats then went to Atlanta and took four in a row from the Braves, ending the season with seven straight wins -- a contrast to the 0-7 start to the season. (It marked the first time a major-league team had lost its first seven games and won its last seven.) And the season finale in Atlanta went 15 innings before the Nats won 2-1, giving mom a little extra baseball to take into the off-season. (She peripherally follows the postseason, but since the Nationals aren't in it, it's not that important to her.)
Keeping up with baseball is nothing new to my mother; she began following one of the most fabled teams in history some 60 years ago, the Brooklyn Dodgers of Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and Roy Campanella. As she tells it, my father, a Brooklynite like my mother, was an avid Dodger fan, but was attending law school at New York University and couldn't follow the team as closely as he'd like due to studies, so he had my mother watch the games on their new television set, explaining the intricacies of the game to her, so that when he came home she could tell him what happened beyond the final score. Wouldn't you know it, she got hooked and watched Brooklyn games faithfully (both on TV and at Ebbets Field) until the family moved upstate a few years later.
Baseball sort of fell by the wayside for my mother over the years, though she attended a handful of games; I took her to see the Dodgers and Phillies at Veterans Stadium in 1994. But when Washington returned to the majors in 2005, her interest in baseball was rekindled, and though the Nats are currently as lackluster as those Dodger teams were star-studded, she loves them anyway.
Carole Lombard, as we've previously noted, loved baseball (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/148835.html). She played the game with neighborhood boys in her childhood, and retained interest into her adult life. The first photo, one we've run a few times before, shows Carole at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles in either 1932 or '33, when the New York Giants held spring training in L.A. The second photo is one we're running for the first time; it's again at Wrigley, showing her throwing out the first ball of a game in 1938. I'm not sure whether it's a Los Angeles Angels or Hollywood Stars game, as both called the park home that year. (The Stars moved into Gilmore Field in 1939, and Carole and Clark Gable attended their share of games.) This photo ran as part of the Oct. 17, 1938 Life magazine cover feature on Lombard, but for some reason it hasn't been included in the magazine's online archives. My thanks to Carole Sampeck -- an avid follower of the Texas Rangers -- of The Lombard Archive for providing this photo.
Lombard's not the only actress to follow baseball over the years. Marilyn Monroe liked baseball, not just by briefly marrying Joe DiMaggio but attending games. A few months before her death, she saw Bo Belinsky of the American League Angels no-hit Baltimore at Dodger Stadium (which the Angels called home for a few seasons before getting their own ballpark in Anaheim). Washington native Goldie Hawn (she'll turn 64 next month, and has never seen a D.C. baseball team in a genuine pennant race in her lifetime), whose main squeeze is former minor-leaguer Kurt Russell, periodically goes to games -- in 1990, she and Kurt caught the final game at old Comiskey Park in Chicago. And now another actress famed for her baseball fanaticism has written a book about it:
It's "Safe At Home: Confessions Of A Baseball Fanatic," by Alyssa Milano of "Who's The Boss?" and "Charmed." Oddly, Melissa Joan Hart, whom we discussed in a recent entry (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/243239.html) and who also played a witch on TV, is an avid baseball fan as well; someone check to see if Elizabeth Montgomery regularly went to the ballpark.
Milano -- who like my mother was born in Brooklyn (obviously long after the Dodgers left) but grew up on Staten Island -- isn't just an avid fan but a knowledgeable one. (As I write this, she's probably leaving Dodger Stadium, delighted to see her team defeat St. Louis 5-3 in the opener of their National League Division Series.) If Lombard were around today, I could see her engaging in some protracted baseball discussions with Alyssa while sitting in the box seats.
Milano not only describes her passion for the game, but gives you some tips on how to take it a game, what to watch out for and so on. She's even designed a line of sports related clothing (http://www.alyssa.com/category/touch-clothing/) for female baseball fans (and now football, too), eschewing the pink seen in much of the outfits major league baseball has licensed for women.
You don't have to be a woman to enjoy this book, but I think it's the audience who will most appreciate it. In fact, I think I may purchase a copy for my mother as a birthday present, as she waits for the Nationals to report for spring training in a few months.
(P.S. I bought mom the book, she just got it, and loves it!)