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Stallard: I still miss my short stick of dynamite

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I watched my little redheaded mama take her last breath back in June 1998. She was 58.

Mom was always a tiny thing, and the battle she fought against cancer for more than seven years took a horrible toll on her little body. To be brutally honest, it was a relief when she took that final breath, because I knew she was no longer in pain.

Cancer.

I hate the disease. Hell. I hate the word. It made me pray for my own mama to die. That’ll mess with your head if you dwell on it for too long.

Sorry for the pity party, but I miss her like crazy even 23 years later, and it’s a real gut punch every Mother’s Day.

One of the things I do when I miss mom the most is push the way she died out of my mind and remember the way she lived.

And, dadgum if that little redhead didn’t live the heck out of life.

She dated Waylon Jennings for a short time. When she was a waitress at a truck stop out in West Texas, mom nearly punched out a young Tanya Tucker when the soon-to-be country superstar was rude to her and some customers.

She had five boys and still loved my dad even after they decided they didn’t like each other enough to stay married. Mom later gave her sons a gift when she married Don Capps. He’s still around. We call him “Pop.”

But, my favorite memory about mom happened back in 1992, a few months after her initial cancer diagnosis.

I was sports editor down in Lufkin, and my brother, Gary, was in charge of the Marine Corps recruiting station in town. That allowed us to play on the same city league softball team.

After our parents split up, dad and the boys ended up in Tennessee, so mom had never seen us play on the same team together. She made the 80-mile trip to Lufkin for a game, and folks are probably still talking about her.

Late in the game, the Marine broke up a double play near the second base bag. The shortstop wound up in left field, and his relay throw bounced harmlessly away from the first baseman.

Textbook stuff, but it was also illegal to maim shortstops in the name of breaking up a double play in this particular league — a minor detail the coach (me) had failed to mention to the Marine.

The Marine was quickly ejected from the game. The coach soon followed after informing the umpire the shortstop was lucky. After all, Gary had previously played 12 seasons in a Marine Corps league — where it was not unusual to take out a guy on a double play and then go after his family.

When the game ended, the umpire exited the field through our dugout, where he was met by the little redheaded mama of the two players he had just tossed.

I can’t repeat what she said in a family newspaper, but when it was all over the 5-foot-3, 100-pound package of dynamite put her arm around each of her 6-foot tall “babies” and walked away smiling.

I was friends with the umpire, and talked to him a few days later to make sure there were no hard feelings on either side. He assured me we were good, and — with a big laugh — also told me in 20 years of umpiring he had never been ripped the way my mom tore into him.

I almost told him he now had something in common with Tanya Tucker, but I didn’t figure he would understand since not everyone had a mom like mine.

If you feel the same way about your mom, and she’s still around, be sure and tell her that today.

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— Jack Stallard is sports editor of the News-Journal. Email: jstallard@news-journal.com; follow on Twitter @lnjsport

Sports editor

I've covered sports in East Texas since 1987, starting as a 21-year-old sports editor at the Kilgore News Herald before spending seven years at the Lufkin Daily News and the past 23 years at the Longview News-Journal.

Today's Bible verse

“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

Luke 15:7

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