I am a baseball fan, more importantly a St Louis Cardinal baseball fan. I have been for 50 years. It was the team my dad and Grandpa listened to at night on the radio. They would Make sure they were home to watch when it was the game of the week. We only had 3 networks back then and very little local coverage of St. Louis here in Central Illinois. As a side note here we did have an interesting dynamic in our family in that my Grandmother on my dad's side was a Cubs fan. So you can imagine some debates we had. Another interesting thing was, we did have a local station that carried some of the Cub games. for a long time until the mid 70s we did not have a TV station that carried the Cardinals. We did have a local radio station that carried the Cardinals. but no local radio that carried the Cubs.
What is being a Cardinal Fan?
Being a baseball fan first, My dad would watch the game of the week no matter who played, so I became a baseball fan first. Watching guys like; Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, Matty Alou, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, Bobby Bonds, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams And pitchers like Tom Seaver, Juan Marichal, Fergie Jenkins, Jerry Koosman, the Niekro bros. Dad and I would discuss the plays. He wold point out the positioning of players, their swings, the manager moves. My dad was a fast-pitch softball player, little League coach and umpire. so it is fair to say he loved baseball. When I started following the Cardinals, I was watching guys like; Gibson, Brock, Flood, Javier, Davallio, Torrre, Carlton. I remember dad talking about how he couldn't wait for Simmons to get the catching job or "That Hrabowsky is going to be something." I would ask him about the older players. He was a big fan of the old Redhead, Red Schoendienst (my dad was redheaded also, maybe that had something to do with it), Musial, Gibson and Mike Shannon. My grandpa would tell me about the Gashouse Gang winning the world series in 1934. he would say oh they were a rough bunch. I think it is like that for many of us who follow baseball and the Cardinals we learned form our parents and family. We asked questions and we followed the game. We became baseball fans.
a quick story
My first live game I won tickets to it was 1972. I was at my grandparents house while mom and dad were bowling. I was listening to the Cardinal game on the radio with grandpa. they had a contest that the first 500 kids who write in got 2 free tickets. So I said I wanted to try. So grandma got a pencil paper and 2 envelopes (one had to self addressed and stamped). I put down my name, age and DOB and sealed the envelope. When dad came to pick me up I handed him the envelope and said you need to mail this in the morning. (My dad was a letter carrier). When he found out what it was he tried to prepare me. "You know there are a lot of kids in St. Louis you may not win." He took it to work and made sure it got in the outgoing morning load. about 2 weeks later I got an envelope from the Cardinals with two tickets to a Friday night Mets v Cardinals game Left Field near the foul pole about 10 rows up. My dad was surprised and happy. So when he got off work Friday this was in late May I was still in school. He came to school and picked me up had my ball glove and we made the 3 hour drive to St. Louis. got to our seats about 5 minutes before game time. Rick Wise bested Tom Seaver as the Cardinals won 6 -2.
Why the Cardinals?
Like I said this hiatus has given me time to think about the Cardinals and the fan base. I knew my experience but what would draw a fan to the Cardinals over say the Dodgers, Yankees or any other team.
For some it is the legends that have played for the Cardinals? Jessie Grimes, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Rodgers Hornsby, Frankie Frisch, Dizzy Dean, Joe Medwick, Pepper Martin, Enos "country" Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Stan Musial, Roger Maris, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Bruce Sutter and Ozzie Smith.
Others point to the number of World Series wins 11, the number of National league Championships 26 and the number of Division championships 14.
For some it is the legends that have played in ST. Louis; Grover Cleveland Alexander, Rogers Hornsby, Frankie Frisch, Pepper Martin, Joe "Ducky" Medwick, Dizzy Dean, Paul Dean, Red Schoendienst, Stan Musial, Roger Maris, Bob Gibson, Ken Boyer, Lou Brock, Bob Forsch, Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Jim Edmonds Names that have thrilled fans in many generations.
How about some of the memorable moments; Slaughter's mad dash from first, Dean winning 30 games, the 1934 Gas House Gang, Musial's 3000th hit, Lou Brock breaking Maury Wills stolen base records and getting 3000 hits of his own. The all .300 hitting outfield of Brock, Bake McBride and Reggie Smith. Gibson's phenomenal 1968 season 1.12 ERA in over 300 innings and 17 strikeouts in game 1 of the World Series. Fernando Tatis and his 2 Grand Slams against Chan Ho Park in the same inning, Ozzie Smith's game winning home run off Tom Niedenfuer, in Game 5 of the NLCS. David Freeze in game 6 of the 2011 World Series.
Then there are the calls of those plays on radio and TV and the men that made those calls. We have ben very fortunate to have great announcers in St Louis. Each with there own signature Harry Carey - Holy Cow!, Jack Buck That's A Winner!, Mike Shannon Get up baby get up!
Harry Carey Musial's 3000th hit "Here's the pitch. Line dri..There it is! into left field! hit number 3000! A runner scores Musial around first on his way to second with a double! Holy Cow he came through! Jack Buck had so many "Smith Corks one into right, down the line! It may go! Go crazy folks! Go crazy! It's a home run! And the cardinals have won the game... by the score of of 3-2... on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!" "And Gibson is one strike away from the no-hitter.He takes off his cap. He mops his brow. He looks in and gets the sign He starts the wind-up. Here's the pitch and it's a strike called! A no-hitter for Gibson! Simmons roars to the mound,Embraces Gibson who is engulfed by his teammates." "Brock takes a lead Ruthven checks him. He is...going! The pitch is a strike, the throw....he is there! He did it! 105 for Lou Brock!" "Heeere it comes to McGwire. Swing. Looky there! Looky there! Looky There! McGwire's number 61. McGwire's flight 61 headed for, planet, Maris! Home run McGwire 61. History! Bedlam! What a moment, shaking hands with the 3rd baseman of the Cubs. Pardon me while I stand up and Applaud! Then there is Mike Shannon calling Fernado Tatis's historic night. and McGwire's 70th home run Swing and there it is folks! Baseball History! A second home run for Fernando Tatis! In the third inning in Los Angeles California. And the Cardinals lead it 11-12! Wow! "Swing! and it Get up baby! Get up! Get up! Home run he's done it again 70 home runs take a ride on that for history! Unbelievable! How can you end a season better than Big Mac has done!" Being a baseball fan and a Cardinals fan has provided many of with Joy, Happiness, Hope, sadness and longing. After we have beaten this new challenge for America we will once again Root Root Root for the Cardinals. We will watch our boys out on the field. Hitting, running, catching. We get to listen to the guys in the booth describe the action. We will have baseball back. With all due respect I would like to close the way the legend Jack Buck did after every game. "I thank you this time, for your time, until next time, so long."