Mother’s Day moments preserved at Hall of Fame

Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series
Written by: Bill Francis

While the second Sunday of May is when Mother’s Day is celebrated, it’s also a time when those maternal bonds have manifested in unique ways on the baseball diamond.

Since Mother’s Day originated in 1907, arguably the baseball moment that has gained the most emotional acclaim on the special date has been the 2010 Dallas Braden perfect game. But there have been numerous events in the sport’s past, both poignant and historic, that have made the time appointed for the honoring mothers even more memorable.

In 1974, Jim and Gaylord Perry, a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 1991, were pitching stars with the Cleveland Indians. Teammates for the first time since they both toed the rubber for the 1955 Williamston (N.C.) High School baseball team, the pair in ‘74 combined for 38 wins, the 38-year-old Jim finishing 17-12, while Gaylord, 35, went 21-13.

“We can’t pick up the Indians games on the radio very often down here,” said Ruby Perry, the proud mother of Jim and Gaylord, at the time. “But one of our neighbors, a blind lady, can pick up all the games. She always calls me after the games and tells me what happened.”

With her boys – the only brothers to win Cy Young awards – together again, the Indians front office flew Ruby to Cleveland from the family farm in Williamston to be honored as “Mother of the Day” during a Mother’s Day doubleheader at Municipal Stadium against the visiting Baltimore Orioles in which Jim was scheduled to start one of the games. Mrs. Perry was set to watch Gaylord pitch, too, as he was slated to start the next day’s game against the Boston Red Sox. She had never seen her sons pitch on consecutive days in the majors.

“I can’t believe it’s going to happen,” Ruby Perry said. “My boys always call me on Mother’s Day. But it’s been 15 years since we’ve been together on Mother’s Day.”

Unfortunately, the twin bill was postponed due to rain. But mom did pose for a photo in which her sons planted a kiss on her on the field during her Mother’s Day Weekend stay in Cleveland.

In 2015, Seattle Mariners righty Félix Hernández’s Mother’s Day included notching his 2,000th career strikeout, becoming, at 29 years and 32 days, the fourth-youngest to reach the milestone. Only Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven and Walter Johnson, as well as Sam McDowell, reached the milestone at a younger age.

“This is Mother's Day, so it's pretty special for me,” said Hernández after the game. “My mom's in Venezuela and I miss her so much. I just want to go out there and trying to help the team to win. Just dedicated this game to my mom and my wife.

“I was thinking about having a good game for my mom and my wife.”

In front of his home fans at Safeco Field, Hernández whiffed Oakland’s Sam Fuld in the fifth inning to record his 2,000th strikeout. He finished with six strikeouts in seven innings in the Mariners' 4-3 win.

Hernández told reporters he phoned his mother before the game, who told him to “go out there and do what you know to do. Pitch good.”

Longtime super utility player Bill Hall, who played more than 200 games at each of third base, shortstop, outfield and second base, spent eight of his 11 big league seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. Of his 827 career hits, none may be as noteworthy as his game-ending home run on Mother’s Day in 2006.

Starting at short this game against the visiting New York Mets, Hall came to the plate with two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the 10th inning in a 5-5 tie game. On the first Mother’s Day that Major League Baseball allowed hitters to use pink bats, the righty swinging Hall homered against relief pitcher Chad Bradford over the wall in right-center. Among the crowd of 28,104 that day to see the Brewers’ extra-inning victory was Hall’s mother Vergie, who had driven 10 hours from Nettleton, Miss., to see her son play.

The use of pink bats by players was MLB-sponsored and a way to increase awareness for breast cancer research. Hall not only used his pink bat throughout the game, but had his mother's name engraved on it instead of his own.

“My mom was always there for me growing up,” Hall said to reporters after the game. “She is the love of my life. If there is anything special I can do for her, I want to do it.

“She is the most positive influence I've ever had.”

The Hall of Fame has in its permanent collection a pink bat used by Cincinnati Reds pitcher Brandon Claussen from the 2006 Mother’s Day games, as well as a 2013 Mother’s Day baseball used in a game between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Chicago White Sox – the first time that MLB approved pink stitching and printing.

Reds legend Joey Votto’s 2012 Mother’s Day was made memorable with a three-homer game, which included a walk-off grand slam. Facing the visiting Washington Nationals at Great American Ball Park, the longtime first baseman walloped solo homers in the first inning and fourth innings before clubbing a walk-off grand slam that turned a 6-5 deficit into a 9-6 victory.

According to a 2020 story written by Joe Posnanski in The Athletic, Votto recalled calling his mother Wendy on his way home after the game and hearing her say, “Thank you. That was really cool.”

Votto would later admit he didn’t think that much at the time about his offensive explosion being taking place on Mother’s Day. But many others have shared heartwarming stories about watching the game with their mothers.

“So many people have told me how much that meant to them,” Votto told Posnanski. “That’s a pretty incredible thing to hear. I still hear people talk about it. It’s really cool, if you think about it, that I can share my perfect day with them.”

As for Dallas Braden, he was a big league pitcher with the Oakland A’s from 2007 to 2011. The southpaw ended his career with a 26-36 record. But on Mother’s Day, May 9, 2010, he became immortal by tossing the 19th perfect game in MLB history – his first career complete game. Having his grandmother in the stands made the story even more special.

In a home game at the Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, the A’s defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-0, facing the minimum 27 batters while throwing 109 pitches. Braden, 26, who threw his arms in the air after Gabe Kapler grounded out to shortstop for the final out, then pointed to the sky in honor of his single mom, Jodie Atwood, who died of skin cancer in 2001 when he was a senior at nearby Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in Stockton, Calif. He then emotionally embraced his grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, who helped raise him, in front of the dugout.

“It hasn't been a joyous day for me in a while,” Braden said. “But to know that I still get to come out and compete and play a game on that day, that makes it a little better. With my grandma in the stands, that makes it a lot better. And to be able to give her this today, it's perfect.

“That's the biggest thing, to give her something like this on a day of this magnitude considering everything we've been through together. It's more about her for me.”

According to Braden, his grandmother had made it very clear the sacrifices she and his mother had made were all to get him on a baseball field and to keep him out of jail.

“And she made it abundantly clear I was not headed to the baseball field, I was headed to the other place,” Braden said. “I came real close to taking it away from myself, then my grandmother stepped in and kind of slapped me back into shape and got me going. I told my grandma that someday she would watch me pitch in the majors.”

Artifacts donated to the Hall of Fame from the perfect game include scorecards, a game-used baseball, tickets and photos, as well as the shoes worn by Braden.

Later that night, while celebrating at a friend’s home in Stockton, Braden explained the toll of Mother’s Day.

“It's always rough on me whether I'm pitching or out on a fishing boat somewhere,” Braden said. “I struggle with these days, but on this day it's nice to be able to do this, and it's dedicated to the sacrifices two extremely strong women made to get me here today. In this life my grandmother was here to see it, and in her next life my mother was here as well.”

Braden’s grandmother added she was overcome with emotion as she embraced her grandson after the game.

“I was just feeling a whole lot of pride, and thinking his mom should have been there and how proud she would be if she was here to share this with us," she said. "Everybody is so proud of Dallas, and he's just an amazing young man. He makes us proud, he's a good person and he loves what he does. He loves baseball, and he's good at it."

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series