- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN Insider
CHICAGO -- My mom was an incredible cook, making an onion-covered pot roast that all of her children remember vividly (including the daughter who became a vegetarian). I will search in vain the rest of my life for any blueberry pie that might be considered comparable to hers.
She could play a mean game of badminton, drawing on her years of tennis. She was a heck of a writer, with her work appearing in everything from The New York Times to Hoard’s Dairyman to Reader’s Digest. Her penmanship was absurdly perfect. She had a great sense of humor, which came through in the ad copy she wrote. She had a gift for working with the calves on our farm, especially those who had been born sick or vulnerable in the Vermont winters. Mary Ann Lincoln was a diligent gardener, before she passed away unexpectedly seven years, one month and 46 days ago.
But what she was best at was being a mom, which meant raising four kids who had completely different interests and working to help them along on their respective paths. She had only cursory knowledge of baseball -- she could recount the rise of the ’69 Mets, her favorite team, and she knew who the third baseman was in the Tinker-Evers-Chance infield, as a matter of necessary trivia.
Mostly, however, she didn’t like professional sports, and didn’t really understand my growing obsession with them as I got older, which is why she held firm to her rule of no television in the house until shortly before I enrolled at college.
But when I was 8 years old, she bought me my first baseball book, “The Baseball Life of Sandy Koufax.” The following summer, she bought me two packs of baseball cards at the Barnard General Store -- the first card was that of Gary Sutherland, I believe, the second of Lee May -- and this really cemented my interest in sports. It was an event which mostly brought chaos to her life, because I tended to leave my growing collection of thousands of cards all over the house, at a time when she was raising my infant brother and sister, Sam and Amelia.
None of my siblings liked sports, and my mom couldn’t imagine why in the world I would want to spend all of the money I got for my daily chores -- $20 a month -- on baseball cards every spring. But she’d always honor the requests, picking up the boxes of Topps cards at Floyd’s General Store every Sunday morning, and adding The Boston Globe to our pile of Sunday papers because I wanted to read Peter Gammons’ notes column.
On the morning of April 9, 1974, I came down before dawn to do my morning chores and found a handwritten note from her on the kitchen table, describing in detail the scene that had occurred in Atlanta the night before. Hank Aaron had broken Babe Ruth’s career record for home runs, she wrote, noting how loudly the crowd had cheered. She had listened to the news on the radio the night before and knew that I would want to know.
When I started writing for newspapers, she was a precise editor, nudging me to get better -- and was a perfect audience for a young writer, because I knew that if I could write a story that caught her attention, as a very casual fan, then I had something. Writing for baseball nerds like myself would never be a problem, but to write something that my mom liked, well, that meant the piece could have a broader appeal.
For Christmas in 2005, she gave me a box of baseball-themed New Yorker cartoon cards. I sent her a thank you note using one of them.
But I have kept the rest, on my desk, the last of many gifts my mom bestowed.
Happy Mother’s Day, everybody.
News and notes
1. Wainwright’s no-hit bid of 7 1/3 innings was the longest of his career; his previous long was 5 2/3 innings against the Royals on June 13, 2007.
2. Wainwright has pitched well against the Rockies in the past:, compiling a 1.17 ERA against them.
How Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright shut out the Rockies:
6dJeff Banister, Special to ESPN.com
7dBrayan Pena, Special to ESPN.com
10dMatt Buschmann, Special to ESPN.com
11dA.J. Ellis, Special for ESPN.com
12dRob Manfred, Special to ESPN.com
12dSean Doolittle, Special to ESPN.com