Friday, June 26, 2009

Four Cardinal Events That Made A Difference

This post is brought to you by the United Cardinal Bloggers, as part of the June Project.

I had intended to make this a top 10 list, but instead, I'll make it a little more personal and much shorter. Here are four Cardinal games (or series of games) that made a difference for me.

Dodgers 11, Cardinals 0, August 28, 1977. I've mentioned this one before. My Dad took me to this game, my first. We had tickets in the left field bleachers at Dodger Stadium, and got there early enough to watch batting practice; I brought my glove, as all 7 year olds must, to their first game. I thought the Cardinals looked funny in those blue road uniforms. During BP one of the Cardinals hit a ball into the bleachers, very close to where I was sitting; a guy with no shirt, who was listening to a transistor radio and appeared to be asleep, stuck his hand out and caught it after it bounced in the stairwell. After he caught it, I thought I should have made some effort to get there and catch it, but whatever, more opportunities would come to catch a ball (I eventually did get some BP baseballs, but it would be 18 years later).

I remember very little of the game. I remember being surprised when it was over and Dad told me the Cardinals hadn't scored. As time passed, I remembered being at the game, but forgot the actual date (other than it being in 1977). One day, while my parents were packing to move back to St Louis, Dad handed me a packet - and in it was my ticket stub, his ticket stub, and the parking pass from that game. He had kept it in his desk at the house all these years.

I don't have any pictures of the game, but I have my memories and those ticket stubs. And that's enough.

Padres 1, Cardinals 0, May 16, 1995. MLB players went on strike on 12 August 94; I deployed to WESTPAC on 15 August. So for most of the baseball strike I was so otherwise occupied I didn't pay attention to it (this lack of memory also, for me, applies to the Branch Dividian siege and the Bush/Gore recount). When we got back, the players were still on strike, and replacement players were reporting to spring training. I thought both the union, and the owners, were a bunch of greedy, selfish people and was no longer interested in following baseball at all.

I was talked into going to this game, and somewhat reluctantly went. But what a game. Three cool things happened. One, there were only 6,743 people at Jack Murphy Stadium that night, so you could yell (something random or due to a bonehead play) and they would clearly hear you. Two, it turned into a hell of a game and a hell of a pitchers duel, with the Padres winning in the bottom of the ninth. Three, Ozzie Smith autographed a baseball for me. It was the first time any player had signed anything for me as a keepsake. Later that year I got Red Schoendienst to sign the same ball, and gave it to my Dad for his birthday - a Cardinal Hall of Fame double play combination.

I got my love of baseball back that night.

May 7-13, and September 3-5, 2001. 2001 sucked. And that was before Islamic Fundamentalist Radicals flew two planes into the World Trade Center. Reeling from several personal body blows we won't go into here, my sister talked me into flying to St Louis for a visit, which happened to coincide with a Cardinal homestand, and for which she and her then-boyfriend (now husband) had bought tickets.

To virtually the entire homestand. I think we missed the day game on 10 May, but we went to the rest of them.

I needed a distraction, and what better way to distract than by burying oneself in sports?

Anywho, the Cardinals one the first game. And the second. And the third. And kept winning. They won every game on that homestand. They entered the Cubs series two and a half back of the first place Cubs, and left it with a 1/2 game lead. I remember the fans cheering as a Cardinal employee changed the standings, on the large hand-operated scoreboard at old Busch, after the Sunday game ended. That was cool - took the Cubs down and put the Cardinals up.

So what could get better than a 6-0 homestand? How about a series sweep in San Diego? Went to all three of those games as well. Remember Bud Smith? Threw a no-hitter? Saw it. Saw a no-hitter live.

Six days after that series ended, we were making preps to load weapons and head out to war.

I remember 2001 just like everyone else does, but it's also the year I never saw the Cardinals lose in person. Oh, I wore the same hat to every game. I didn't wear it again until Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS, and I haven't worn it since. You don't use a talisman lightly.

Boston 3, Cardinals 0, October 27, 2004. A bad day for Cardinals fans everywhere. A sudden, abrupt end to a magical season. Swept out of their first World Series appearance in 17 years, and the first time they had been swept in the Fall Classic since 1928. So why in the world is it on the list?

I told my Mom, if the Cardinals made the World Series I was going to a game. I bought tickets to St Louis and made arrangements to take time off from work when they made the playoffs. When they won the NL, I flew home, bought some wildly overpriced tickets to sit in the top deck, waaaay out in left field of Busch, and was raring to go.

I also had a surprise. I invited my Dad to go with me.

The Cards fell behind in the first, as they seemingly had the entire series, and fought gamely throughout, but the Sox had all the momentum. When Izzy worked out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the top of the eighth, the stadium loudly came to life; but it was the last hurrah.

Red Sox fans in our section (a) couldn't believe we were tearing the building down, and (b) stood silently when the game ended. I asked one guy why he wasn't celebrating, and he just shook his head. He had tears in his eyes.

We didn't know it at the time, but it was the last game my Dad and I ever went to together. Which is, despite the outcome, why it is special.

I don't have any pictures of the game, but I have my memories and my ticket stub. And that's enough.

1 comment:

gforce said...

Love the stories, especially the losses. Now that I think about it, my first game with my dad was a loss to Colorado -- good ol' Marquis.

I think it is in defeat that the Cardinals get their true colors...classy team, always playing to win.

From one service man to another, Glad you got your baseball love back.