Out of the Box: Happy Birthday, Mom.

If you have had the chance to get to know me over the past several years, you probably know how I was raised by a single mother, who was probably a bigger Giants and Yankees fan than most men.  Sadly, I lost her nearly 18 years ago to cancer, and this week, I’m thinking about her more than usual.

Today would have been her birthday.  And over the weekend, during my trip to Yankee Stadium in which the 1998 team was honored, a few memories hit me during my train ride to the Bronx.

Everyone has their memories of the 1998 Yankees, arguably the greatest baseball team ever.  (Don’t even think about it, haters.)  For me, and it dawned on me Saturday, this was the last season my mom was able to travel to New York City to see her beloved Yankees play.

It was late June, when the Yankees visited the Mets at Shea Stadium for a weekend series.  Mom had bought a ticket package through Amtrak for the two of us…tickets and a round trip train ride from the Rensselaer train station (the closest to where we lived at the time) to Flushing.  Literally, the train dropped us off near Flushing Meadows.  This marked my one and only trip to Shea, I might add.

I remember wearing my Tino T-shirt (Mom absolutely LOVED Tino) that day, and I think we had seats in the upper deck, between home plate and first base.  And guess who came through with a home run that day?  Yes, it was Tino.  The two fans behind us got so excited I ended up having beer spilt on me…and Mom and I both thought it was funny.

Weird how I remember a few of these things from so long ago.

Later that season, the annual family trip to the Bronx–which would be my mom, uncle, cousin, and myself–would take place in late August, just before I started my third year of college.  It was a Sunday afternoon game against Seattle that didn’t go very well.  Sadly, although none of us knew it at the time, that would be Mom’s last trip to Yankee Stadium.

She would be diagnosed with colon cancer in late July the following year, just before we had two Yankee trips planned–two free box seats as a retirement present for a game against the Indians, then a bus trip to Fenway Park for a Sunday night game against the Red Sox, my first time visiting the Green Monster.  While she recuperated from surgery, my cousin would take her place for both games.

When Mom first gave me the news, I tried to be positive about it.  Hey, if Darryl Strawberry can have the same illness and come back, she can too.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case.

Our last happy memory together?  Watching the Yankees finish off the Mets in the 2000 World Series.  She took a turn for the worse the morning after that game, and passed away about three weeks later.  At least she got to see her team win it all one more time.

So today, I’m thinking of Mom and what she would think of this year’s team.  I’d say she would be a Judge fan for sure.  And probably yelling at Sonny Gray or Giancarlo for something.

Tonight, while the Yankees take on Miami (I’m sure it would pain her to root against Don Mattingly–she was a huge fan of him too), I may leave the TV on in the other room, waiting for loud clapping or yelling.  Because Mom wouldn’t have it any other way.

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