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Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney

Oct. 20, 2003


Well, here I am, just another of the thousands of transplanted Yankees fans watching the World Series from my home in South Florida. Unlike many of my type, I have never worn a Yankees hat to Pro Player while watching a Marlins game. In fact, thanks to a bunch of fun loving, hard playing, young Florida Marlins players, I have grown to admire the closest thing to a college baseball team playing in the Big Leagues.

Thanks to my neighbor Gary Becher, I was able to see the Marlins up close a few times late this season. It was weird to sit there and think that if Cabrerra was at FAU, I'd be worried because he'd only be a sophomore. They play with a great deal of enthusiasm and confidence, and make their senior citizen manager look good. That part hits close to home for me.

But, my formative years were spent in a family of Yankees fans. Going to Yankee Stadium was one of the main features of our summers. My Dad would often be the bus driver for a local tavern on their monthly forays into the South Bronx. By the time we reached Jerome St. there wasn't a bottle of Ballantine or Schaeffer left onboard.

The biggest fan of all was my Mom.

Lucille Cooney was a school crossing guard. It freaks me out now to think that this very shy and non confident woman actually worked the busiest intersection in Cedar Grove, NJ. She was there every day rain or shine. It made my life tough 'cause my friends would always rat me out to her if I had gotten in trouble that day at St. Catherine's.

She spent a lot of time with my brother and me throwing baseballs to us in the backyard. She prevented me from playing football because "you are going to be a baseball player." I remember she had to miss the biggest Little League game of my life because she was taking my brother to Yankee Stadium for his birthday, and my Dad couldn't get off work to take him. She called from a pay phone to check on the outcome. I won my first complete game.

She has lived alone since my Dad passed away nearly 20 years ago. Well... she's only alone from November to March. The rest of the year she has Joe Torre and his boys. Thank God for cable tv!

Mom is legally blind, but can see enough with her chair pulled up against the tube to follow the play by play and root home "her boys". She's nearly 91 and lives a fiercely independent life in a Dunmore PA senior citizen building. There is no nursing care... just a bunch of nice older people who keep an eye on each other.

I spent Game 7 of the playoffs watching with her. She had been hospitalized the day before. Dehydrated and weak, she hadn't been eating, had a sore hip from an earlier fall, and a lump on the side of her head that gave her pain.

But here we were together... hoping the Ghosts of October would get Jeter and the rest past the hated Red Sox. (Ironically my Mom and Dad spent their courtship sneaking in to see the Scranton Red Sox play Triple A baseball.) She became a Yankees fan when they moved to NJ after the war. But Thursday night, all that mattered was this game. Bedpans and IV's, doctors and nurses, they all had to take a back seat.

It was the greatest pro game I ever saw. My only regret is that I left the hospital in the 7th because I was exhausted and needed to check into the hotel. I should have stayed and been with her for Boone's home run. The nurses came running into room 320 because they heard a scream. It was only Mom letting out a yell for her boys!

Luke and Maggie say they are rooting for the Marlins and the Yankees. They are the third and fourth Cooney children who have worn the same little Yankees jacket, but they also have stood on the field and met Billy the Marlin!

I got home late yesterday, pretty tired from the last four days. After dinner Luke begged me to pitch to him. MB told him Daddy was real tired, but Daddy remembered that Lucille Cooney was always tired but never begged off.

By the light of the driveway, Luke stood in lefthanded, (yes!) and hit more than he missed. Maggie missed more than she hit, but the fire doesn't burn for her.

I asked Luke if he is a Yankee or Marlin.

He tapped the bat... got in his stance and said... "MARLIN". I think Grandma will understand. KC



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