Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

The best of times.

Two days without baseball, and so much rain. Since the boys haven’t played in a while, and there (probably) isn’t much new to say about the Ryan Franklin/new closer situation (at least for a minute), this seems a good a time as any to present my inaugural solo post here at Diamond Diaries. I thought briefly about babbling on and on about myself, but then I realized–there is no better way for me to introduce myself to a bunch of Cardinals fans than to recount my top three best moments as a Cardinals fan.

So. Without further ado.

3. August 7, 2005: David Eckstein’s walk-off grand slam

This game… it’s been nearly six years, and I still have visceral memories of this game. I was watching by myself at my parents’ house in St. Louis, and for most of the first eight innings, it was beyond frustrating. It wasn’t unlike the first week of this 2011 season–people struggling to get on base, people struggling to hit when other people finally got on base. But David Eckstein, god bless his scrappiness and enormous heart, was doing everything that he could. As the lead-off man, he certainly did everything he was supposed to, which was get on base for the big bats behind him to knock him in. So he walked. Twice. He singled. He doubled. He stole a base. All of these efforts left him stranded out there on various bases, until the bottom of the ninth rolled around, and Davey found himself in a position to do a little more damage.

At the time of this game, I was only in the midst of my second full season as a Cardinals fan. I did not yet fully appreciate the Cardinals’ history of scrappy middle infielders, but on that day, I fell in love with them. There’s something so heartwarming and gratifying about seeing someone try so hard and then succeed–with Albert, it never looks like trying. So when Davey belted that walk-off grand slam to give us the 5-4 victory over Atlanta on that random August day in my parents’ living room… I’m not going to lie. I might have cried a little. And then I ran outside and danced a little. And then I called every baseball fan I knew at the time to squeal about it.

In retrospect, maybe that game didn’t mean all that much to the Cardinals season–after all, they won 100 games in 2005 and ran away with the division. But for me, watching Eckstein both play small ball and then swing the big bat was undoubtedly one of my best and most memorable moments as a fan.

2. October 18, 2005: Albert Pujols breaks Brad Lidge

I have heard a lot of argument about this moment and whether or not it is significant (mostly from the other side, who is all YOU DIDN’T EVEN END UP WINNING THE SERIES). I think it is. A lead-changing (and ultimately game-changing) home run is always at least mildly significant, and this one was just so… HUGE. Not in implication, but in… hugeness. (Huge enough that I can’t even find the right words!) I think we can all agree that Brad Lidge has not been the same since this home run, which is awesome.

For me, though, this moment was something else entirely. I didn’t even see this game. While this game was being played, a cruel fate had me somewhere in the sky between Shanghai and Tokyo, and I was a mess. So my memory of one of Albert’s greatest home runs goes more like this:

I am running through Narita airport. I am frantic. I need the Internet! A man spots my Cardinals shirt as we pass by each other on moving walkways moving in opposite directions. He says something like, “Hell of a game. Can’t believe they lost that one.” My heart drops.

“We LOST?!” I yell, turning around as he glides by. The man clarifies: “Astros. Astros lost. Hell of a home run.”

My plummeting heart shoots back up. The Astros lost! That means we won! And I have no idea what “hell of a home run” means, but I’ll be damned if I’m not about to find out. Now I run happily through the terminal. I find some Internet. I pay an inordinate amount of yen to use the Internet. I sit and read, gulping up every happy word, every joyous description.

It is the best.

1. October 19, 2006: Oh, you KNOW

Hmm. So it appears that all of my favorite baseball moments happened when I was alone, and the top two happened when I was alone in Asia. I will address this in a minute.

Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS is the best St. Louis Cardinals game I’ve ever seen. I’ve only been watching for 7+ years, of course, but I think that’s a fair statement. For this game, I got up at the crack of dawn, scootered across the city of Taipei, and let myself into my friends’ apartment–their TV got the English broadcast, and mine did not. Watching American baseball with the Taiwanese broadcast is certainly an experience worth having (the announcers, honestly, yell HASTA LA VISTA, BABY! whenever someone hits a home run), but not for the playoffs. And certainly not for Game 7.

My friends were off to work, so it was just me on their couch with my Cardinals cow. Yes, that was my company for the biggest game of my young life as a baseball fan–a stuffed cow that I made at Build-A-Bear and dressed in a Cardinals uniform. (You might say I was lonely, sometimes.)

We all know about this game. How Endy Chavez robbed Scott Rolen (and us!) of hope, and Yadier snatched that hope right back and knocked it out of the park. Given the present closer situation, we’ve all had Wainwright’s stellar rookie stint as a closer in mind.  We all remember holding our breaths and staring as Carlos Beltran, the “Cardinals Killer”, went: strike looking, strike swinging, strike looking, with the bases loaded and all our hearts on the verge of cardiac arrest. This, along with the day I got married, might have been the best moment of my life.

I guess it’s kind of weird that all of these “best moments” are kind of lonely moments, but maybe it’s significant that I don’t think of them in that way. Baseball makes me feel connected to a community, no matter where I am or what stuffed animals are keeping me company. Joining Diamond Diaries and getting more involved in that community is a really exciting step for me, and I look forward to it greatly!

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