A trip home to St. Louis, for my dear mother's 90th birthday, was my first opportunity to visit the new Busch Stadium, the third stadium, so named, in which I have had the pleasure of watching the Redbirds play the great American game.
Toronto won it in the top of the ninth, adding to a St. Louis slump due to erratic play and now an injury to Albert Pujols, who has not quite played up to his normally high standards this season. The heir to Stan Musial, an outstanding humanitarian in his own right, may also be distracted by pending contract negotiations.
But the virtue of Cardinal baseball, the serenity of being a fan of this most venerable franchise, comes from the certain knowledge that, while losses happen, and entire seasons do turn sour, the Birds will, inevitably, be back strong, always in contention for the Pennant and, from time to time, the World Series. This has been the case for decades and decades. What a team. What an organization. As the hometown saying goes, "How 'bout those Redbirds!" This is a statement about excellence over time. There is no question mark at the end of that sentence.
I have had the great privilege of seeing the Cardinals play in two of the World Series in which they played, most recently the 1982 match up with the Brewers. Both times were 7th games that they won. I can't imagine the complete lack of gratification which, say, the Cubs fans put up with. Their loyalty is truly wondrous.
"I grew up in Champaign, IL, midway between Chicago and St. Louis," said the political columnists George Will. "At an age too tender for life-shaping decisions, I made one. While all my friends were becoming Cardinal fans, I became a Cub fan."
"My friends, happily rooting for Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and other great Redbirds, grew up cheerfully convinced that the world is a benign place, so of course, they became liberals," said Will. "Rooting for the Cubs in the late 1940s and early 1950s, I became a gloomy, pessimistic, morose, dyspeptic and conservative…. Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be Cub fans."
I am no liberal, but I plead to being an insufferable, cheerful Cards fan. Hope always springs eternal in Busch Stadium. Sorry, George.
Thanks to my father's generosity, my brother and I were able to attend the final and seventh game of the 1964 World Series between the Cardinals and the Yankees, the two most successful organizations in the history of baseball. While he and my mother attended an earlier game, I cannot imagine the sacrifice of giving his two sons the tickets to game seven. I still carry a picture of them in my wallet, both dressed up, my father in a sport coat and tie, my mother in a fall dress, heading into the stadium, looking jaunty, expectant and happy. I will always remember them that way.
The '64 Series was played at the old Sportsman's Park on North Grand, where the St. Louis Browns, now the Baltimore Orioles, used to play. It was renamed Busch Stadium in 1953, having expanded from 8,000 seats in 1902 to 30,500.
I had several great aunts who lived close enough for parking the family car and walking to the stadium. When my grandfather, a physician, native of Cincinnati and diehard Reds fan, took us to a game, he always had a local police officer, one of his many Irish-American patients, waiting to park his Cadillac -- right next to the main entrance of the ballpark where it remained, free from any harm or vandalism, compliments of St. Louis's finest. My brother and I thought that was pretty neat -- but for the fact that our beloved grandfather, a massive, distinguished man in his sixties, would wildly cheer for the Redlegs, causing us to slink down into our seats from embarrassment given the cold stares from the hometown crowd.
At the final game of the Series, my brother and I witnessed the ultimate St. Louis victory over a legendary team including Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Clete Boyer who played third base, opposite his brother Ken Boyer, playing the same position for the Redbirds. Whitey Ford played in the series, but Mel Stottlemyre was the starter in this final clash of the titans.
Bob Gibson pitched all nine innings for the Cardinals. Lou Brock, along with Boyer, homered. St. Louis won, 7-5.
"I never considered taking him [Gibson] out. I had a commitment to his heart," said Cardinal Manager Johnny Keane.
I still harbor the hope, no, the prayer, that one day, before I die, the Cardinals and the Yankees will face off in another World Series, going the full seven games.