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Scioscia shaped by mom's influence

Scioscia shaped by mom's influence

Mike Scioscia's mother, Florence, was born in Philadelphia, the daughter of Italian immigrants, and graduated from Temple University at a time when it was not common for women.

"She always wanted to teach," said Scioscia, a two-time American League Manager of the Year for the Angels. "She felt a connection to it. She taught first grade for almost 40 years."

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Born in Upper Darby, Pa., and raised six miles outside Philadelphia in Morton -- a small town named after Declaration of Independence signee John Morton -- Scioscia absorbed his mother's lessons well.

They say apples don't fall far from the tree. This one landed at its feet, carrying a legacy on with his teachings to young men from around the globe.

"The lessons I got at home that helped me out in baseball had nothing to do with playing the game," Scioscia said. "They were about the perseverance you need during hard times, [that] if you believe in yourself, you never quit. The lessons I hope the kids get here have hopefully already been instilled by their home life. But not everyone was as lucky as I was."

Florence Scioscia and her husband raised three children, and each drew strength from their strength. She lived a rich, full life before passing away with breast cancer in November 1983, having just turned 62.

That was two years after she'd watched her son play on a World Series championship team with the Dodgers, beating the Yankees in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. Returning home to Los Angeles from New York the following morning, Florence Scioscia was in awe to see her 23-year-old son treated like a rock star by fans at a wild airport celebration.

This was 1981, five years after Scioscia had been taken by the Dodgers in the first round (19th overall) of the First-Year Player Draft.

With his mother's disapproval, Scioscia -- who'd signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Clemson University -- moved rapidly from the Springfield (Pa.) High School campus through the Dodgers' system, reaching the Major Leagues at age 21 in 1980.

He never forgot the words she left him with as he departed the airport in Philly for Walla Walla, Wash., in June 1976 to launch his professional career at age 17.

"Mom said, `Michael, if you want to be a leader, the first person you have to lead is yourself,'" Scioscia said. "That was pretty profound. She was telling me something that I think I've always carried with me."

He played 1,141 Major League games, his last one in 1992 with the Dodgers. He earned World Series championship rings as a player in 1981 and in 1988 -- when he launched his memorable homer against Dwight Gooden to turn the National League Championship Series the Dodgers' way.

The Angels made him their manager in 2000, and his era has been by far the most successful in franchise history, featuring a World Series title in 2002 and AL West titles in five of the past six seasons. Scioscia owns Manager of the Year awards from '02 and '09, but he remains as committed as ever to the job at hand, keeping his team focused on that day, that game, that challenge.

It is the way he was raised by the woman who brought him into the world and shaped the man he became.

"I was 5 or 6 when my mom's dad died," Scioscia recalled. "I remember him doing nothing but working. My grandmother was pregnant with my dad when she came over from Italy.

"Those first-generation American families wanted their kids to become Americans. They wanted us to get acclimated into American life and culture. My mom made sure she learned English. They were proud people with a sense of duty that was unbelievable."

John Barr, who has enriched several Major League organizations as a scout and executive and serves as the Giants' scouting director, has a strong connection to Scioscia. Their mothers attended South Philadelphia High for Girls together, and Mrs. Barr has given Scioscia illuminating insights into his mother as a teen.

"John's mom has told me some great stories about when they were in high school, the whole environment, how much fun they had," Scioscia said. "It was beautiful to get a different perspective.

"What it does is it reaffirms the kind of idea you have of your parents at a younger age. You always think of them as from a different generation, but then you hear stories that show what they were like, how their character was formed."

Now Scioscia, in his 11th season as Angels manager, sees in Matthew and Taylor, the children he and his wife, Anne, have raised, many of those qualities of his mother.

"She was a real people person," Scioscia said. "You are a product of your environment, absolutely. She was so strong of a person. Whatever obstacles there were, whatever was happening with the family, she was so strong.

"She was there for neighbors, for the kids she taught, for us. She was a giving person. I see parts of my family and parts of Anne's family in our kids. We're the product of families that went the extra mile to make sure their kids understood the important character traits that are going to help them through life.

"It's a good feeling to see those things in your own children."

On Mother's Day, and every other day.

MLB again joins forces with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's largest breast cancer organization, on this Mother's Day to help raise awareness of the disease and raise funding for treatment and the pursuit of a cure, with hundreds of Major Leaguers swinging pink bats produced by Louisville Slugger and stamped with the MLB breast cancer logo. Many players will also wear pink wristbands and the symbolic pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness on their uniforms, as will all on-field personnel.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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