I’ll never forget my first home run. I can’t. No one hearing the story would believe it, except that one of the mothers recorded the whole event with a movie camera. On this particular afternoon at a game, Mom, who was at every game, was hollering, cheering all the boys on my team, and giving the umpire hell when she thought he made a bad call—just like she always did. You could hear Mom all over the field. She stood up in the bleachers, yelled encouragement to all of our players, waved her arms, clapped her hands, and swung her hips to celebrate a hit or a run. As usual, Mom was at least as entertaining as the ball players were, and the rest of the fans loved her and howled at her antics.
When I got up to bat to start the game, I saw the defense moving in. I received my favorite “hit away” sign, and I waited for the perfect pitch. With the count at three balls and no strikes, I knew the pitcher would have to throw me a good fastball. It came, hip-high, right down the middle, and I swung as hard as I could. The ball sailed into deep left field—it looked like it had a motor on it.
Everyone knew this would be a home run, and I did too. I started running down the first-base line, stepped on the bag, and made the turn to go to second base. I stepped on that bag and made my way toward third, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement and thought, “Could I have been wrong? Is the second baseman making a play that I didn’t see?” I could hear the fans cheering, but I also heard laughter.
As I ran, I turned my head hard to the left and almost fainted. There, running about thirty feet right behind me was Mom, cheering and waving her arms the whole way. I kept running, faster now, because I thought if I slowed and she caught me, she might start hugging and kissing me. She followed me to third base and then to all the way to home plate. In her zeal, she touched every base just as I did. When I stepped on home plate, Mom did too. The umpire laughed and said, “Lady, I wish I could give you a run too, but I can’t.”
I stopped and looked up at the stands to acknowledge the cheers, but now, most of the fans were falling all over each other laughing. I was mortified, but I couldn’t be too mad at her—not Mom, who was excited enough to follow me around the bases. Still, I looked over at her and begged her never to do that again.
After the game, the coach came up to my mother and said, “Helen, your son, Ricky, is my secret weapon. No one expects him to do the things he does. I have never seen a kid his size who is so strong, so fast, and so talented. He can do everything. Push him to keep playing and keep getting better. He may have a future making money playing ball, maybe even in the big leagues, if he ever starts growing.”