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MX News Update 2024

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Before she became known as Joe Mauer’s mother, Teresa Mauer was a standout athlete from St. Paul

To have a mother is to know her in the context of you.

Does she clean your knee after a fall? Does she cheer your name from the stands or pump her fist when you take the photo?

A strange thing happened to the three Mauer children as they grew up in St. Paul and excelled in baseball, football and basketball. Although Teresa Mauer never spoke to her sons about her playing days, people in her community remembered it. They told the boys, “Your mother is the best athlete in your family.”

The children heard it all the time. From referees and umpires. Parents of friends. Coaches at the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center. Teresa’s athletic dominance became undeniable to Joe, her youngest, when he was in fourth grade and the recreation center hosted a parent-child basketball game. His teammates were blown away: His mother was a baller.

“She kind of took over the game,” Joe recalls with a smile.

You may know her as the mother of Minnesota Twins legend Joe Mauer, but Teresa Mauer — who went by Teresa Tierney before she married — was a three-sport athlete in the infancy of girls’ prep sports in Minnesota. She helped lead her St. Paul Central basketball team to Minnesota’s first official Class AA state championship for high school girls in 1976 and has been inducted into three local halls of fame.

Although she also played volleyball and ran track in high school, she was unable to participate in one of her favorite sports, softball, because St. Paul schools did not have a girls’ team at the time. In her senior year, she tried to play baseball with the boys but was unsuccessful.

“I tell that to my granddaughters and their friends,” says Teresa, “and they look at me like, ‘Holy cow. How old?’ Are you?” (She is only 65.)

Her granddaughters are growing up in a world where interest in women’s sports is growing at an astronomical pace, where viewership of the women’s basketball finals exceeded the ratings for the men. Caitlin, Angel, Paige and JuJu are household names, spoken breathlessly by every NCAA and WNBA fan, young or old, of any gender. It’s an almost unrecognizable landscape from Teresa’s high school days, when, just after the passage of Title IX, girls at Central had to wear the same uniform for track, volleyball and basketball.

The competition started young

Teresa, the third oldest of nine active children, started playing sports with her siblings at the neighborhood playground. During her elementary school years at St. Mark’s, she discovered competition, the kind of competition that makes you work harder. The Catholic Athletics Association, which coordinated the competitions, was way ahead of its time by offering girls’ sports in addition to boys’ sports.

“Competition sometimes gets a bad rap,” she says. “But it can be a very good thing. It teaches you not only how to win, but also how to lose gracefully. As I told my children, sometimes you try your best, but you still lose. But if you If you did your best, you should feel good. There was nothing else you could have done.”

However, as she grew older, the opportunities to deepen her love for sports became fewer. At Ramsey Junior High, girls’ teams occasionally competed against other schools on “Play Day.” There was no bracket play and there were refreshments after the games.

“When they said, ‘Now we’re going to sit at the table with punch and cookies,’ I said, ‘Wait a minute. She just hit the ball in my face. I’m not going to sit at that table,'” Teresa says.


Carrots for grandchildren

Last Monday morning, Teresa gathered with her 40-something sons – Jake, Bill and Joe – at a restaurant in Mendota Heights. It was a peaceful break from what would be a full day. Two of Teresa’s granddaughters had games after school. And Joe was scheduled to coach the season opener for his 5-year-old son Chip. (Joe wisely enlisted two 10-year-old daughters, Emily and Maren, as his assistants.)

Teresa has a total of ten grandchildren, and almost every day she helps take them to practices and games or just drops by to cheer them on. She is as constant as the sun and supports them in the same way her parents did for her and her siblings. (Although her mother and father were known to sound an old-fashioned horn and cowbell from the stands.)

“They made you think you could do anything, be anything,” Teresa says of her parents.

Before pancakes hit the table, she and her sons flip through old yearbooks and black-and-white photos documenting the emerging girls basketball scene of the 1970s. There she is, in knee-high socks and Converse All Stars, her long dark braids flying in the air as she jumps up to celebrate her teammates. “Look how high your mother could jump!” she says.

As you would expect from Joe Mauer’s mother, Teresa is as friendly and humble as can be. “I was decent,” she says of her athleticism. “I wasn’t a shooter.” As a 6-foot-2 guard, her job was simply to give her teammates a dish so they could sink the baskets.

Nonsense, says friend Lisa Lissimore, who remembers Teresa welcoming her to the team when Lisa was a sophomore. Teresa had a beautiful jump shot and was a threat on offense and defense, Lisa said. She landed her shots consistently. But more than that, Teresa showed leadership and unselfish play as the team’s co-captain.

“She was probably one of the most humble players I ever played with,” Lissimore says. “One of the greatest lessons I learned from her was the lesson in humility.”

Central had a lot to prove in 1976. Lissimore, a native of the Rondo neighborhood and once the heart of the city’s black community, remembers wanting to show the state how the game was played downtown. Some Minnesotans wanted to write off a racially integrated school that had seen much racial tension in the 1960s. “At that time, the focus was on us against the world,” Teresa recalls. “It wasn’t about proving that the girls could play. It proved that high school was a great place.”

And it was. The entire community rallied behind the girls as they competed in the first state championship game at the old Metropolitan Sports Center in Bloomington. Central defeated Benilde-St. Margaret is 49-47 in front of 10,000 fans.

Early coach of boys

Teresa brought her competitive edge to the College of St. Catherine, where she played basketball and volleyball. She also brought it to dating and later parenthood. She met her future husband, Jake, at a high school graduation party, where she defeated him in a game of horseback. As a mother, she shot hoops in the driveway and played catch with her boys in their small backyard.

“My mother wouldn’t let you win,” says son Jake, now 45.

She coached the boys in baseball in their early years and taught them the basics. (See the ball, hit the ball.) But when they turned ten, old enough to learn about stealing bases, she passed the torch to her husband. One of the lessons Teresa and Jake taught their children: You don’t have to be talented to work.

Now that he is a parent himself, Joe finds these words coming out of his lips today as he coaches his own children. “We don’t run on the field, we always run on the field. That doesn’t require any talent,” he says.

For some kids, the post-match analysis on the drive home from a game can be the most dreaded part of the competition. Teresa asked her children: How have you contributed to your team? What do you think you could have done better? But the conversation always started with her favorite question.

“I remember my mother asking, ‘Did you have fun?’ says Joe.

All of her sons participated in multiple sports annually, something Teresa wonders is possible these days. With the rise of year-round private clubs, she doesn’t think they could have afforded it.

Jake Jr. is missing

All three Mauer boys also went on to play for the Minnesota Twins – Jake and Bill in the minor leagues, with Joe ending his 15-year career in 2018. Bill says that after experiencing the highs and lows of the sport , comforted him to have a mother. and a father who had also experienced it.

Donald “Jake” Mauer Jr. died in January 2023. Joe says he still has the urge to call his father to talk about his children or ask for advice. He now turns even more to his mother and brothers.

The 41-year-old will head to Cooperstown in July to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Teresa takes a deep breath and dabs her eyes with a napkin, thinking about how much she wanted her husband to witness it.

‘We’ve had such great highlights. I wish he…’ she starts, then stops herself again. “I know he’s there.”

Joe says he owes a lot of his success to his parents. I asked where he got his humility. He nodded to his mother. ‘It’s not just about what you say, but also how you live your life. She was a great athlete in her own right, but she’ll never say it.”

On Mother’s Day, remember this: our mothers can be a mystery to us. But if you’re lucky, your story might tell you a story you’ve never heard before, a story that helps you understand what kind of woman she ultimately became.