Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

The UCB’s “Too Soon” Attempt at Pujols Nostalgia

Pujols is gone. We saw magic for 11 years, and now we will find new players to find that spark.

Oh ugh. It is way too soon to be sunshine-y about this one. Just shut it.

I know. Too soon. Who tries to spin some silver lining when every Cardinal fan everywhere feels like we were just collectively spit on by a man we once compared to “The Man,” a man who we felt could one day be as incredible as Stan… a lifer with the Cardinals. A legend.

He won’t be. Not anymore.

But dangit, I drew the crazy straw and landed on today for the annual United Cardinal Bloggers roundtable discussion. My options were to:

1) Mope, whine, and complain. Let everyone vent.

2) Go for the “Okay, what do we do now?” tactic.

or 3) Attempt to put a bow on the career he did have here.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I tried. I am trying. Earlier in the day yesterday I was able to be more okay with it. I was able to be Erika, if you want to spin it like that. I was okay. Then I read this. Now, if I wrote like Hooks, I would have written a piece closer to the one that Hooks posted yesterday (not suitable for my family – don’t click that mom! :)).

But here it is… the UCB’s attempt at nostalgia, including my original question out to the team:

Here’s your chance to not talk about the contract, the money, the betrayal (the venom!) that we have seen all over the internets today. Here is your chance to be nostalgic.

What is your favorite Pujols memory? The Lidge bomb? The MVP awards? A specific game or meet-and-greet or whatever you choose. What specific memory will you tell your kids and grandkids about when you talk about Albert Pujols. The fact that he’s gone stings, but it doesn’t negate how we felt when he was here.

I was not let down. I absolutely understand that many could not bring themselves to answer this one. The state I’m in currently… I’m not sure I could have either. But the news broke while I was at work, and I like my job, so I wasn’t upset about it all really until later in the afternoon/evening.

For me, my favorite Pujols memory has to be the Lidge homerun. I was in college, watching the game with 1 Cards fan and approximately 200 Astros fan. Okay, maybe only 15-20 of them. Texas kids all over the place. They were shaking hands, poking fun, having a good time, making World Series plans.

Boom. Bang. Pow.

Their jaws were on the floor. I was screaming and hugging a girl I barely knew, knowing that not only did the Cardinals have life, the also had the opportunity to go back to Busch II for at least one more game. It was beautiful. But that’s my thought… what did the rest of the UCB think?

Bill Ivie: i70 Baseball

I’m going to have to go “nostalgic” a few months ago.
Three home runs in one World Series game, no matter how far out of reach, was impressive.  I seriously do not think anyone in the crowd thought that last at bat would go differently.  It was a flash back to the Pujols of old seeing him step in and do exactly what we expected him to do.  It was a moment that I will tell my kids about, the way my dad told me that he watched Reggie do it.

Daniel Solzman: @dsolzman

Like many of us, I was in the first step of denial when I started thinking about 2005 NLCS Game 5.  I’m starting to sob as I type this because of all that I associate with that memory.  I will be forever grateful for Albert bringing the series game to Busch for one final farewell.  Even though we lost, it was one final way to say goodbye.

In May 2006, I was at a rare game.  Rolen was out with the flu.  Pujols was at the hotel with back spasms or something.  Jimmy?  Well, he had the day off.  It was the first time since the MV3 started that none of them were starting.
Game 5 stands out as a special memory as does the 3 home run game during this past World Series.  I know exactly where I was when it happened.

Daniel Shoptaw: C70 at the Bat

Favorite moment?  Wow, that’s tough.

Besides the obvious, the Lidge homer, the big game in Texas this year, I think one of my favorite memories is going to be a mid-season game in Colorado.  Pujols is on third and a ground ball is hit to the third baseman, I believe.  As soon as it was hit, I was sure what was going to happen and, sure enough, Pujols rounded third and came home, scoring the winning run.

It was pure Pujols.  Doing the little things, the heads-up things, to win a ball game.  Something we’ll sorely miss.

Aaron Hooks: Cards Diaspora

Too soon, Angela. Too soon. I’m still ready to hammer that backstabbing, St. Louis hating, money chasing, double play machine, former Cardinal.

Jesus. Former Cardinal. That sounds so weird.

Favorite Pujols Moment? I really did think hard about this. And even though it’s pretty obvious, that HR in 2005 against the Astros was so incredible. Not only was it a go-ahead homerun to put the Cards on top of a game they had no business winning, but it was sooooo top tank.

On the road, nevertheless. And it also melted a dominant closer down for years and provided us with the classic Andy Pettite “OH MY GOD” clip from the dugout. I can still watch that specific play 20 times in a row and find something new to love every time. Just wish Gus Johnson could have somehow been on the call.

Kevin Reynolds: Cards ‘n Stuff

For me, it was a couple years ago…when Albert was on his grand slam tear…a buddy (@dmbfan81 actually) and myself had gone up like a week before my wife was due to have our daughter for two games against the Cubs in Busch. We were in the right field bleachers…Albert hit a grand slam to LF so hard we never saw the ball…just heard the crowd’s reaction and saw Soriano turn and watch it go…and we started screaming and jumping up and down in the bleachers so hard that half our beer ended up all over the other bleacher goers (who were doing the same) and my buddy fell and nearly broke his ankle (swelled up the size of a softball on the way home). Was amazing to actually be present when he hit that.

Erika Lynn: You know her!

For the glory story, I’m going with being in the stands at Arlington to see Albert hit those three homeruns in Game 3 of the World Series AND at Busch Stadium for Game 7 to witness (what we didn’t know at the time would be) his final at bat as a Cardinal.  (Future grandkids may be impressed by that in a few decades.)  I have Hubby to thank for those memories.  He had to convince me to spend the money, said it was a bucket list kinda thing.  I’m so glad he did.  It was our chance to witness history.

For the personal story:  We’ve watched Albert at Spring Training for the past few years and in 2009 I remember being surprised and struck by Albert’s camaraderie with players and staff from the OTHER teams.  It was one of the final Spring Training games, against the Mets, and both before the game and after, Pujols was greeting the Mets players, coaches and managers like long lost buddies.  I was taken aback at first, but then it hit me: Pujols wasn’t just a Cardinal, he was a Major League baseball player and these were his peers.  The meaning of baseball family got bigger for me that day.

Tom Knuppel: Cardinals GM

2001- Vonachen Stadium- Peoria Illinois- Pujols hit his first home run. The scorboard flashed Jose Pujols…. he told the local sports guys, “I prefer to be called Albert” ………..from then on, he was Albert.

Ray DeRousse: Stl Cardinal Baseball

My favorite Pujols memory was Easter Sunday of 2005. Pujols ripped three home runs that gorgeous afternoon while I got completely drunk and screamed my head off with my friends. Afterwards, driving home down highway 55, the wrecked hood of my car flipped up and smashed my windshield. I was forced to drive like Ace Ventura while hoping the police never saw me. They didn’t, which only makes the memory even sweeter.

Malcolm Pierce: The Redbirds Menace

July 20, 2004.  The Chicago Cubs put up seven runs against Matt Morris and the Cardinals in the second inning in Wrigley Field.  Cal Eldred comes into pick up the pieces.

The wind is blowing out, but even the most optimistic Cards fan doubts the team can come back from this one.  This isn’t your usual sadsack Cubs squad.  This is the team that prompted Sports Illustrated to announce “Hell Freezes Over”, handing the league championship to the Northsiders before the season even began.  They’re several games back but the national media wants us to believe they’re just biding their time.  Glendon Rusch, the Cubs starter, is having a career year and the Cardinals always seemed to struggle against his wily left-handed ways.  It’s almost enough to make you turn off the game.  Almost.

In the top of the third inning, Pujols turns on a pitch to tack on a run.  7-1 becomes 7-2.  Still need to bat around to take the lead.  Still looks like a struggle, but at least the team has life.  At least you got to see a Pujols home run.  It almost looks pointless, as Eldred immediately gives the run back in the bottom of the inning when Aramis Ramirez makes a bad pitch disappear.  8-2.

Three more innings pass.  Rusch is doing what Rusch did best, changing speeds and making you wonder if Jim Edmonds should start switch-hitting to get a better look.  But there’s Albert again.  Leads off the sixth inning with a single.  Doesn’t seem like much at the time, but it’s the start of something.  Rolen and Edmonds follow him up with singles of their own.  Rusch is out, replaced by Francis Beltran who treats the strike zone like it has the plague.  He can’t touch it.  Walk.  Bases loaded walk.  Single by So Taguchi.  Giving up a critical hit to Taguchi is unacceptable.  Beltran is out, replaced by old friend Kent Merker to face Ray Lankford.  Sacrifice fly.  8-6.  The rally Pujols started made it a game, but the good guys were still losing.

Pujols smashes another solo home run, second of the day, to lead off the seventh.  Cardinals fans everywhere bemoan what Cardinals fans have been bemoaning for eleven years now: why aren’t there hitters with better OBPs in front of Pujols?  But it’s a one run game now.  Later, So Taguchi’s second most unlikely HR of his career ties the game.  The Cardinals have battled back from oblivion.  It’s a new start.  Bullpen versus bullpen, but who will give?

In the ninth, Edgar Renteria leads off the inning with a single against Latroy Hawkins, bringing Pujols to the plate.  Do I know what’s going to happen next?  Is it that obvious?  Is Pujols that amazing?  Or do I just dare to hope so much that I convince myself of such a glorious inevitability?  the ball jumps off Albert’s bat.  It sails through the sky and it doesn’t land until the Cardinals finally have the lead. Third home run of the day.  Fifth hit.  Fifth RBI.   Comeback complete.

Even Isringhausen’s bases-loaded tightrope act to get the save in the ninth can’t kill the high.

JE Powell: Stl Fear the Red

My fondest memory of Pujols wasn’t historic, but personal in a lot of ways. In September of 2009 my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Milwaukee for a three game series against the Brewers. I had never been to a full series before and it was definitely memorable. The Cardinals swept the Brew Crew and Pujols went 7-12 with 3 home runs and 6 RBI. The final game the Cardinals won 5-1 and Pujols hit two homers. We had very good seats for the series (Miller Park is a very good stadium) and it was was great to seem him hit so well and put on a power display.

Chris Reed: Bird Brained

I’m going to have to take the easy route for my memory, and then tell a little story about this year.

The Lidge Home Run in the 2005 NLCS stands out for me because I remember all the circumstances surrounding the moment so perfectly. When the game got to the 9th inning and the Cards got a couple outs, my roommate turned the channel to the Rams game (Monday Night Football, if I remember correctly) because the game was “over.” I went downstairs to our other TV and flipped the Cards back on, because I’ve learned time and again never to give up on baseball early. When Eckstein got on with his seeing-eye single, I ran back upstairs and told my roomie “Turn the baseball game back on; they’re not done yet!” He did, and we watched Edmonds also get on in front of Albert. We both scooted to the edge of our seats. And when he connected, we both yelled and jumped high enough to damn near hit our heads on the ceiling. It was such a pure baseball scene: two buddies sitting around watching the ballgame, and it turns into an iconic moment which causes them to act like kids celebrating a little league win. And I will never forget the home run or our reaction.

OK, story time. I split season tickets to Busch with three other people so my girlfriend and I go to about 20 games per year. At the beginning of each season, we “draft” our games for the year. My first pick is usually the last home game, because 1) it could have playoff ramifications; and 2) you get a voucher for a free ticket the following year. This season was no different, and in March I thought it could be an even bigger deal because who knew what would happen with La Russa, Pujols and Carpenter, let alone the team. So we were there 09/25 vs. the Cubs and did the Standing O for Pujols and everything. Then, of course, they make the playoffs. Time to draft tickets again. As luck would have it, we drew #1 for the playoff series tickets so we got the extra game (maximum possible 5 games at Busch between the NLDS and NLCS). My first pick was NLCS Game 5 on the off chance it might be a clincher/last game. The game that was left after everyone else picked was NLDS Game 4…also a possible clincher/last game. When it came time to pick for the World Series, we each got tickets to one game (maximum possible 4 games at Busch). But I drew the shortest straw this time, and we got “stuck with” Game 7. So I was present for what could have been the absolute last possible AB for Albert Pujols as a Cardinal at Busch Stadium four times this season. But each game was a winner, eventually leading to them moving on. And it turns out I did see his final AB as a Cardinal, in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. I did think about it each time, too…”Wonder if this is the last one.” My intuition turned out to be correct, but my timing isn’t as strong as my luck. That seems so long ago now…

Nick: Pitchers Hit Eighth

The photo in this post – that’s how I choose to remember Pujols.  For all his accomplishments and notable events – that’s what I want to see when I think of Pujols and his time with the Redbirds.

Thanks for all of your thoughts!

2 responses to “The UCB’s “Too Soon” Attempt at Pujols Nostalgia

  1. foultalk December 9, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    I can’t blame Pujols for going to a class organization like the Angels. That being said, he had built a legacy in St. Louis that’s now been tainted. Read the rest of my thoughts here: http://foultalk.wordpress.com/

  2. Pingback: October Project: UCB Postseason Roundtable — United Cardinal Bloggers

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