Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

I Never Got to See Stan

The more I learned about the Cardinals as I was growing up, the more I realized that there were 3 players that I never really got to see play, but desperately wanted to:

  1. Bob Gibson was first in my mind. I read the book From Ghetto to Glory for a book report in junior high, and I was hooked on this almost mythological man that pitched on a broken leg and struck out 18 in a World Series game and would knock his grandmother on her ear if she dug in too much on him in the batter’s box. I asked my dad about watching Gibby pitch and if he really was that mean and if he had ever seen a more awesome pitcher.
  2. Ozzie Smith was second. I really started focusing in on players and teams around the time Ozzie retired. I saw a few of his last games on TV, and I know I was at the stadium a handful of times when he was still diving across the turf and back-flipping on to the field, but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember him. Considering the shortstops the Cardinals have gone through in the last few years, even though there have been a few dazzling plays, I know it doesn’t compare.
  3. I never saw Stan Musial. Like most of America, it took me awhile to really see how great “the Man” was during his career. I feel like I really didn’t figure it out until I was in college. I had heard of Stan, but I didn’t understand why he was so great.


A perfect knight. The words make you think regal and showy and other such adjectives. Stan was none of those things. He was humble, happy, loyal, a gentleman to the core, and the nicest man you ever got to meet.

I never got to see Stan. He retired long before my parents even met. I never lived in St. Louis to just see him out and about. I never went to his restaurant and had a chance siting of him wandering around glad-handing the customers. I never got to see him drive around the warning track in a golf cart. I didn’t get to be at the stadium to Stand for Stan. I never went to Opening Day and saw him shake Tony’s hand. I never heard him play his harmonica. I wasn’t at the All-Star game in St. Louis when he got his triumphal entry that FOX didn’t even feel the need to really show on live television, and I wanted to throw things at the TV because of it.

I guess I thought I would someday. I live just 3 hours from the stadium now. I’m making plans to go to Opening Day.

I guess I thought there was still time.

I found out about Stan’s passing when I was on vacation this past weekend. In the midst of our relaxing weekend away, my husband and I sat in silence for a little while when we heard the news. I texted my parents, who hadn’t heard the news. We didn’t really have the words to describe what we were thinking. We debated on detouring through St. Louis on our way home from our trip, but it didn’t happen. We both felt drawn to the stadium, like it was calling us to come pay our respects.

I never got to see Stan, but I will never forget him.

Fill ‘Em Up!

Aah, postseason baseball…

Everyone’s a little on edge.  Professional athletes (even the seasoned ones) get jitters. Fans are barely holding onto their sanity.  Winners, losers, adrenaline, infield fly primers….  all part of the drama.  And from what I can tell, there are two ways to dwell in this unique era (not “error”, mind you… that’s something entirely different despite what the TBS broadcast sounds like during a Cards/Nats game.)

This 2012 Cardinals Postseason Era rallies Cardinal Nation under a set of unique circumstances that, while touched on here, run far deeper if you bleed Cardinal red:

#1 The Cardinals are the reigning 2011 World Series Champions (hard-fought, comeback Cardinals defying all odds – remember??  Of course you do.)

#2 The Cardinals are the first postseason team in history to have won entry as a 2nd wildcard team.  (Of course they did.)

#3 The first-ever Wildcard playoff game was a doozy, temporarily played under a big ol’ P (for protest) and the Cardinals won (of course they did.)

And lest we forget some of the other less-than-lovely 2012 defining sidenotes:  Tony La Russa and Albert La Pujols have left the building.  You may have heard it mentioned that new manager Mike Matheny has zero previous managerial experience.  Lance Berkman, the 2011 National League Comeback Player of the Year, spent much of 2012 injured and most likely has already taken his last career at bat, with rumors of retirement sounding increasingly likely.  Defensively, at shortstop we’ve lost Rafael Furcal (strained elbow ligament) in exchange for Pete Kozma.  (love him or hate him, he’s made it interesting already.)  The Cards squeaked into the postseason with only 88 regular season wins, again rallying juusssst enough to beat the clock as the door slammed shut on the 2012 regular season.

So, with a lead-in like this, why would anyone expect the Cardinals to win in the postseason?  I would.  And let me tell you why.

#1 These are the St. Louis Cardinals.

 Enough said.  😉

Okay then, back to the reason that got me writing this morning-

From the sounds and smells of the internets yesterday, there are two predominant camps in Cardinal Nation and things started to get ugly (a few notches below bottle-throwing, temper tantrum, Atlanta Wildcard crowd-type ugly, but still…) when their rights to free speech bumped up against the others’ rights to look on the Brightside.

(Quick note for those of you under the rocks:  Despite an other-worldly performance by Adam Wainwright in which he struck out TEN batters in under 6 innings, the Cardinals lost Game 1 of the NLDS to the Nationals even though their rockstar pitcher, Gio Gonzalez, walked – or hit – so many redbirds that we could potentially have won the game by a landslide while Gio still had a no-hitter.  Plus there were pesky SHADOWS on the field, and our boys couldn’t get a hit to save Torty.  In all truthfulness, Allen Craig summed it up best saying “We just didn’t get it done.”)


The flood of postgame accusations and criticisms of Matheny’s 8th inning pitching choices spread like wildfire.  Yes, Cardinal Nation was bitterly disappointed in the loss, but why the landslide of gloom and doom and the crazy amount of time spent  slinging blame at all the easy targets?  Why would you want to spend your postseason angry?  This is October baseball and it is a-maaaaaaazing.  The fact that a game can turn on the smallest nuance (Kozma, for instance) means that even those pesky Cardinals have a shot.

Some of us (guilty as charged) are choosing to look at this postseason as a gift.  Yes, our Cardinals snuck in the backdoor (again).  Yes, we started out by losing game 1 of the NLDS (again).  Yes, our offense is schizophrenic (again).  But my postseason glass will be half full until we’re down to the last strike (….again).  Because these are our comeback Cardinals and we’ve felt the magic before.

Sure, on the flipside, even the grumpiest, angriest and down right hostile-est (grammar be darned, it sounds better that way) of baseball fans have a right to their opinions and comments.  And after a tough loss it can even be highly therapeutic (and informative) to read/hear impassioned pleas for why certain armchair management decisions would have saved the planet (hindsight and all.) Truth be told, I follow a whole slew of intelligent, but grumpy Cardinal fans on twitter because most of them throw out some valid points and after unwrapping their anger, I can, at times, discover an interesting nugget and learn a thing or two… and sometimes not, but still…  😉

So, if I had one postseason wish, it would be for our Cardinals to repeat. (Of course it would!)  Okay, but if I had TWO postseason wishes, I might consider spending the other wish that the glass-half-empty-ers would be more tolerant of us glass-half-full-ers because IMHO the postseason is a heckuva lot more fun when you think  when you KNOW there’s a chance.

Go Cards!!

Has it been this long?

So, this blogging thing is like riding a bike… right??

This season has been a crazy, hot MESS (and I’m not even talking about the baseball stuff yet.)  Angela had a wedding to plan.  I had a family to pack up and move to a new town.  Needless to say, we’ve both been spread thinner than the bullpen back in April and May.

And last night the Cardinals got pummeled in true Cubs-like fashion, FIFTEEN to zip by Buster Posey and Co.

Now’s a good time to fire up the laptop?
Yes, I must be crazy.

Beyond the highs and lows of a half-spent season, this year has afforded me yet another baseball experience.  Over the past half-decade, I’ve been tagged as the “new fan”, the “learning fan”, the “addict” who HAD to see every single moment of every game (including pre- and post-game broadcasts) and even became the anything-baseball Go-To Girl among family and friends.  I was lucky enough to experience one of those bucket list moments, being at a Game 7 when my team won the World Series.  It has been a crazy awesome baseball fan timeline.
And then 2012 happened.

The season started with a bang.  Winter Warm-Up led to Opening Day and the Cardinals weren’t just the Cardinals.  They were the WORLD SERIES CHAMPION St. Louis Cardinals.  New manager…  Albert who? … Cardinal Nation was abuzz and our boys were poised to continue the fairytale.

Then the injury bug bit the Cards (as it sometimes does) and some not-so-champion-like performances were stacking up (like they sometimes do.)

On my side of the diamond, I was being forced to experience baseball in a manner I’d only heard of:  casually.  Aside from the time-sucking saga of relocating, a couple of injuries of my own put my camera wielding abilities on the extended DL, forcing also my AAA photo safari adventures on indefinite hiatus.

I was beginning to understand “those” fans: the ones who follow it but aren’t experiencing it.  They aren’t living and breathing it, aren’t hanging on every pitch and celebrating (or mourning) what each new game dealt.  Apparently true fans can fall under this category, and I (sigh) have become one.  I’d often wondered what it would feel like to not immediately know who was tonight’s starting pitcher or why and when one of our boys was put on the DL.  How can anyone who considers themself a fan survive (and admit) that this is their story?  This year is teaching me just that.

“It’s okay to be a casual fan.”

I am still struggling to embrace this idea.  Isn’t part of being a good fan the knowing??  Knowing the team, knowing the situation, knowing the stuff that fills in all the behind-the-scenes blanks.  The rumors, the injuries, the hype and the personalities – these make the grand story of a baseball season into an epic adventure.

So what’s a recovering baseball junkie to do when she just can’t do it all?

12 things I know as a casual fan in 2012:

1) The team will play whether I am watching or not.

2) The team’s chances of winning will not be lessened if I do not watch the entire game.  AND it is NOT my fault if they lose.  (rinse and repeat, as necessary)

3) During reports of a slump it is much easier on your mental health to be a casual fan.

4) Other bloggers will hold down the fort and comment, complain, bemoan, celebrate and analyze all details; and I WILL NOT feel smarter than a 5th grader reading things I know nothing about.  (This is okay.  Rinse and repeat.)

5) I still absolutely do NOT like the Reds while I simultaneously DO like many of the Reds players.  (and for this, I still have no logical explanation.)

6) I have always liked Tyler Greene, and apparently this is best maintained by not watching him play. (**and as I wrote this, Tyler Greene was apparently traded to Houston?  wow!)

7) Carlos Beltran is good.  Carlos Beltran is “2011 Lance Berkman” good.

8) 2012 Lance Berkman is not like 2011 Lance Berkman – except he remains most definitely one of the best, kindest and most positive baseball personalities ever.

9) Daniel Descalso is fabulous.  He will snag uncatchable baseballs while defying gravity and will inevitably be on any highlight reels I happen to watch.

10) Adam Wainwright is a goofball. (see video proof posted on Twitter)

11) Yadi is a base-stealing ninja.  *things I never thought I’d say

12)… and yes, Matt Holliday still heats up as the weather heats up.

It takes 162, so Play Ball!!
… and I’ll try and keep up.  😉

Opening Weekend Freebees

Nothing is better than Opening Day at Busch Stadium. I’ve never been, and I know this. It’s actually hard saying what I would give to be able to go to an Opening Day… but since you’re reading this a mere hour or two before first pitch, I’m obviously not there yet! Maybe next year.

Your goal today is simple:

  1. Watch the Cardinals beat down the Cubs.
  2. Enjoy every glimpse of every red-coated Hall of Famer you can see.
  3. Tweet us (@DiamondDiaries) or post in the comments and tell us what your favorite part of Opening Day is. Why? Because we’ve got some freebees to give away! The kind people at A+E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions have provided us with Blu-Ray/DVD copies of last year’s game 6 magic to give away to all of you!

It’s that simple. Deadline for our little contest is Sunday afternoon, 1:15 PM CST, otherwise known as first pitch of the final game of this Cards/Cubs series. We will announce the winners on Monday morning.

Excited to see all of your responses. Enjoy the game!

A Bromance We Can Get Behind

In past years it was easy to accuse the Cardinals of being almost… bland. Elder statesmen of the team like Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter brought drive, passion, and supreme athletic ability to a strong team.

What they didn’t bring? Fun!

It sounds stupid, but the more you think about it, the more you realize that this clubhouse was not one that seemed like a barrel full of laughs. Older teams like the 2006 World Series winners brought winning, although there wasn’t much in the way of personality there. Outside of the Jim Edmonds nightly game ball and Scott Rolen’s drama with manager Tony LaRussa, I can’t say I recall much else that involved the players in the clubhouse.

Over the last couple of years, the combination of Yadier Molina and Pujols created a bromance that Matt Sebek of Joe Sports Fan captured with this:

However, having these two being so close hasn’t translated to a whole clubhouse. Stories surfaced about how Albert’s entourage would do things like go to NBA games and barely notice the peons of the team that also went to the game and wanted to meet Kobe (oh crap, I’m talking about Brendan Ryan again… did you hear he’s engaged?). It wasn’t team things – it was entourage things. Maybe there was something to the whole Colby Rasmus thinking the team was rough on him thing. If it was a fractured clubhouse……..

Wait, was I about to stick up for Colby’s whining? Moving on…

Now that Albert has split for the sunny beaches of California, a new bromance has emerged.

You know who I’m talking about: Matt Holliday and David Freese. They’re everywhere, from a Skype interview on Intentional Talk to their latest endeavor with the Cardinals as the ambassadors for the new “Homers for Health” initiative where fans are encouraged to donate money in quarter increments to help out a local children’s hospital in St. Louis. Their work together has shown up on Twitter, although not in the way you would think…

Offseason squash workouts became Twitter fodder for most of us bored-tired-of-football-when-does-spring-training-start-again?! baseball fans, seeing pictures like this and watching all of the interaction between the Cardinal players on Twitter has brought about a new feel with this team.

They laugh. They joke. They include more than Freese – it’s Lance Berkman’s candid interviews and Jon Jay’s Nike collection and Jason Motte’s beard eating small children.

Wait, that’s wrong too.

What I’m saying is that this is a new era for the Cardinals. One that we can definitely get behind.

Is it Opening Day yet?

Speaking of Hollidays…

Happy day-after-St-Patty’s to you!  Green eggs, green beer, green baseball jerseys…. what’s not to love?  Checking in on our Cardinals this morning (yesterday’s Spring Training loss, 10-3 to the Tigers), I found a lovely video highlight from MLB:  Matt Holliday, in green, belting a two run homer.  (With a couple of slow-mo views to savor the moment again and again!)  Thank you, MLB!

(click HERE to watch)

Of course, seeing Holliday all dressed in green, smacking the shamrocks off a baseball, reminded me of this gem from 2011.  A day late, but definitely worth hunting down.

So Happy St. Patrick’s Day…. from me (and Matt Holliday)

Go Cards!!  😉

The Boys Are Back! Almost.

Little league practice schedules and reports from Jupiter’s Spring Training games: signs that the world is finally waking up from a long winter, and baseball’s back! …..almost.

Spring Training whets the appetite and refreshes the senses.  Lineups, pitching reports, actual games on green grass with familiar faces (and some unfamiliar mugs) donning the birds on the bat… it’s all so surreal, especially with the backdrop of Florida palm trees.

While that’s all very well and tropically good (and I’m still crossing my fingers for the possibility of a quick pilgrimage to Florida), I find myself longing for the real deal:  the true start of the 2012 season.   The 2011 World Series Champions have a lot to prove.  New manager and No Albert Pujols may top the list, but whether ESPN is interested or not, Cardinal Nation has a lot of curiosities about how this team will perform.

My Top 10 Highlights/Curiosities for the upcoming 2012 season:

10. Pregame interviews on Fox Sports Midwest:  this is where the players get a chance to prove they have personality.  Sink or swim, boys!

9. Who’s on 2nd?  Descalso? Greene? Schumaker??  The anticipation’s killing me.  Wishlist:  quick glove, soft hands, excellent range, add in a little offense… Honestly, I’m just glad it isn’t Theriot.

8. Eduardo Sanchez’ filthy slider.  I fell in love with that pitch only to have it ripped away too early in the season last year.  Please, oh please, let’s have a healthy Sanchez and many, many gorgeous dirty pitches out of the bullpen this year.

7.  Mike Matheny management style.  What attitude will this team have under Matheny’s reins? Will it be more youthful? Will the playbook be more predictable? One thing’s for certain, getting my non-baseball girlfriends to watch a game will be easier with Matheny front and center in dugout shots.  (Cute manager?  Heckya!)

6. Jason Motte, “The Closer”.  Bearded, fidgety, always throwing himself off the mound with the force of that fastball.  He makes me smile.  Bring on the crazy-Motte!  I miss watching him yell at his glove.

5. Lovable Lance at 1st – those are mighty big shoes to fill!  Can Berkman be more than “adequate”?  For his sake (and ours), I hope we never hear “Albert would’ve…” or “if Albert had been there…”  Honestly, Berkman surpassed any and all expectations last year, so here’s hoping he can make us forget all about you-know-who.

4. Chris Carpenter attitude.  Yes, he scares me.  Yes, he has a mouth on him.  But man, oh man, a game with Carp on the mound is like a baseball drug.  He’s our bad boy, intense. fierce.  And afterwards, please throw in a good dose of that sexy, deep, gurgly Carp-voice in post game interviews?  Thank you.

3. Adam Wainwright back on the bump.  Remind me again…How did we ever win the World Series without Wainwright??   Soooo glad he’s back.  Soooo thrilled he’s healthy.  The question now is can we expect him to pick up where he left off??  Pencil him into those pregame TV interviews ASAP.  And also into those dugout shots.  Ok?  Ok. Good!  😉

2. David Freese smiles.  Is there anything lovelier?  Especially those ginormous joyful grins of a walk-off win.  Such a humble, talented, gorgeous MVP… and he tweets?!!  (love!) Stay healthy, Dave, stay healthy!

…and for my #1 pick, I gotta say that I am most looking forward to seeing the return of my favorite familiar baseball sight: Matt Holliday digging in at the plate, Matt Holliday leg kicks, Matt Holliday launching ‘em into the stands, Matt Holliday digging for home,  Matt Holliday… well, you get the point.

The boys are back!  Almost.  =)

When Does the Season Start For YOU?

As part of my Numbers Nerd ways, I am constantly counting down something. Days until Christmas. Hours until the weekend. Weeks until the end of the school year (yes, teachers count those too). But once the clock turns midnight, the champagne has been toasted, and the confetti has been cleaned, chances are there is one countdown that I think about more than others.

When is the first day of the season? What is that day exactly?

For me, we just passed that milestone. Saturday pitchers and catchers all arrived at Jupiter, refreshed from a busy offseason and ready for baseball again. As soon as I start hearing whispers of player X has arrived at camp in the best shape of his life, I know that real live baseball news is right around the corner.

The United Cardinal Bloggers are at it again with their roundtable discussions. My question to them this time around was simple: When does the season ‘begin’? Here’s what they had to say…

Dathan Brooks: Cards Tied For First

For me, it never ends.  It just has various cycles.  I’ve often said that the offseason is exciting for me, just as is the regular season, only in different ways.  But, for me I don’t really “feel” like the season has begun until I’ve seen a game at Busch for the first time that season.  Sometimes that’s Opening Day, sometimes a little later, but that’s my short answer.

Daniel Solzman: Redbirds Fun

Opening Day.  I don’t have FSN Midwest and MLB TV costs me an arm and a leg.  It certainly does not help that the cable company and MLB have yet to come to any kind of an agreement to air MLB Network on TV.
If I want to watch baseball on TV, I am limited to ESPN, WGN, FSN Ohio, and TBS.  It’s sad.  Plus, being a college basketball fan, it works out perfectly.   Opening day, at least this season, is two days after the championship game.
Christine Coleman: Aaron Miles’ Fastball
Officially, Opening Day. Spring training is great, but it’s not real for me until the games matter.
Diane Schultz: You know her…
Opening Day is the first day the season officially begins for me. Spring training for me is like Advent (the countdown to Christmas) and Opening Day is like Christmas Day.
Ray DeRousse: Stl Cardinal Baseball

I guess when anyone does what we all do – namely, cover the team – the seasons seem to blend from one phase to the next.

Spring training is wonderful, a welcome ramping up of festivities and a fresh renewal, but nothing beats opening day for sheer excitement and hope. That’s where it really starts for me.

Daniel Shoptaw: C70 at the Bat

I’m with Ray on this one.  When I see the pictures on the Post-Dispatch website, when that bit of warmth pervades the winter (such as it has been this year), when I see baseballs being tossed back and forth, that’s when the season starts for me.  It means less fumbling for topics on the blog, which helps, but there’s news constantly then.  Opening Day is great and obviously that has a lot of import, but baseball is back for me when there’s a couple of guys in Cardinal uniforms playing catch.

Tyler Giles: Rally Birds

The season begins with the first exhibition game of the Spring… but the season OFFICIALLY begins with the first Major League baseball game played where the result stays in the W/L column for the next 6 months.  I’m feverishly excited when Spring exhibition play begins, but it’s like that fever breaks as soon as real baseball is being playing across the United States and I can just bathe in the excitement of baseball like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his vault of gold coins.  God, I cannot wait for that moment…

Rodney Knuppel: Saint Louis Sports

For me, opening day is that time.  Spring Training is nice and all, but the first real game is when they blood really gets flowing.

Matt Whitener: St. Louis Sports 360

Like a few others have said already, it never reallys ends for me. The offseason is just as active of a time for me in following the game, and perhaps even more so sometimes, just due to the mass amount of information that flies around during the Hot Stove season. Spring Training is nice because of the buzz of the team getting back together, but the games don’t really mean much to me. Moreso, the news & player evaluations/status that comes from it is what I check for. It’s kind of like an extension of the winter mostly. Opening Day I really enjoy overall, because it’s back to everybody having a shot again, and how can you not love that. But overall, it never feels like the season ends to me, just moves in different shifts.

Aaron Hooks: Cards Diaspora

I don’t care about the Cardinals teams in Memphis or Springfield or anywhere else for that matter. I hope that a few of the guys playing on those teams make it to the St. Louis Cardinals and kick ass, but the teams I could care less about.

In the same light, all the hot stove, Winter Warm-Ups, and Spring Trainings are nice touchstones, but they don’t mean  squat until the games count. At least for me.

Opening Day will always be the perfect St. Louis day.

Mark Tomasik: Retro Simba

The first spring training game makes me feel that baseball is back. Seeing the batting order in the boxscore, checking on which prospects get used late in games, feeling the old familiar pit in the stomach, even though an exhibition loss doesn’t count, and experiencing that wonderful emotional ride when the Cardinals play well and seem to have all the potential in the world.

Bill Ivie: i70 Baseball

The season never ends for me.  Sure, I miss live games or consistent news, but with today’s day and age of multimedia access, constant chatter via social media, winter leagues, and much more, the game just never stops for me.  There is not a day of the year that I don’t find a way to have a baseball related discussion.  To me, this game is a year-round event.

Mary Clausen: MLB Voice

The first day of baseball for me is “pitchers & catchers report” day.  It all just falls in right after that. I love every single bit of it!

JE Powell: Stl Fear the Red

First day that pitchers and catchers report starts the “regular” season for me. In baseball there is the “Regular Season” which starts with pitchers anc catchers reporting and ends when the Cardinals season officially ends (whether it’s the last day of the actual regular seaon or the final playoff game) and then there is the “Off Season” which still has quite a bit going on most of the time. So, the answer to the questions is both Pitchers and Catchers Reporting and It Never Ends. Not a very good answer, to be sure, but it’s the only one I’ve got.

Christopher Carelli: Redbird Rants

I’m of the mindset that baseball is going on around the clock. I never stop thinking about the game and there are endless discussions about it daily. Baseball has four seasons which blend into one another; spring training, regular season, post season and hot stove season. Can’t get enough!

Chris Reed: Bird Brained

In the past, it was always the day pitchers and catchers reported to  Spring Training. But I would also get a return of that “New Season”  feeling when I’d hear the first radio broadcast from Florida, then see  the first telecast, etc. And that hasn’t really changed since I was a  kid. Over the last two years though, thanks to I-70 Baseball, I’ve  been able to cover the Winter Warm Up as a reporter and that has  become the true start of the new season for me. It’s the first  official Cardinal baseball event after the calendar flips to the new  year. It’s the first time since the end of the previous season that  most of the team is all in one place. And throughout the day, many of the guys talk about when they’re heading down to Jupiter. The St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm Up is my first real “baseball is back” experience of the new season.

Nick: Pitchers Hit Eighth

Clydesdales and red sportcoats.

I just love Opening Day at Busch.

Now you know their thoughts. What are yours? When does the season start for you?

Happy Spring Training Day!

As the calendar turns the corner into the New Year, baseball fans begin to see the light at the end of winter’s tunnel.  Like the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve, we baseball fans begin the countdown to the first day of spring training, and we at Diamond Diaries have been counting the days too, as you can see in the sidebar to the right of your screen. After Opening Day, the first day of spring training is the second most important day on the baseball fan’s calendar.  I am celebrating the first day of spring training by wearing my World Series T-shirt, my Cardinals watch and my Cardinals necklace. 🙂

Although it may be cold and snowy where you are, in Florida and Arizona, where spring training is headquartered, the weather is warm and sunny, reminding us that spring and a new baseball season is right around the corner. “Pitchers and catchers report” are the words that get me through a cold and gray February.

On the first day of spring training, all teams are on equal footing.  Fans of teams who made the playoffs and World Series will dream of repeat appearances.  Fans of perennially losing teams will wonder, Is this the year? Could it all gel together this year?  (In the case of the Cubs, probably not.) Cardinals fans have a lot to think about this spring training season.  Let’s take a brief look.

1. Subtractions.  The first big loss was when manager Tony LaRussa announced his retirement.  The Player Who is Not to be Named defected to the Angels.  Then Dave Duncan decided to take a leave to take care of his wife.  Those losses could take down a less disciplined team than the Cardinals.

2.  Additions.  Tony’s replacement is Mike Matheny, who is a well-loved former Cardinal, but who also has no big league managing experience.  Cardinal killer Carlos Beltran is on the prowl in right field, and we’re grateful his bat will be used for us instead of against us.

3.  Variables.  How well will Lance Berkman play at first base?  Will his bat be as hot this year as last?  Will Matt Holiday play and hit better once he’s out of #5’s shadow?  Second base is wide open – who will be the starter in that slot, Greene, Descalso, or Schumaker?  How well will the players adapt to a new manager, especially one who used to be one of their fellow players? Can Derek Lilliquist perform the same magic with the pitching staff that Dave Duncan did?

This spring training promises to be an interesting one, considering all of the above.  I can’t wait to see the boys in uniform again, listening to Mike Shannon and John Rooney on KMOX, and watching the games on TV.  Hurry up March 5th!  Let’s go Cards!

As always, thanks for reading!  See you next time!


The Top 5 Iconic Moments in Cardinal History

Sometimes the fearless leader of the UCB Daniel Shoptaw puts us on the spot with the monthly projects. January’s project is the top five moments in Cardinal history.

Five? I only get five? I don’t know how Bob Netherton managed to narrow it down, but after reading his I was spurned towards figuring out mine (So… thanks Bob!).

If you are digging back to the very beginning of the Cardinals, the pre-1900’s would be a starting point, but those moments were not really ‘iconic.’ Let’s see… where to start…

5. Bob Gibson’s 1968 season

Have you ever known a player to completely change the way the game was played singlehandedly? No, you think. That doesn’t happen. One player cannot change an entire sport. Oh yes it can…

32 STL NL 22 9 .710 1.12 34 34 0 28 13 0 304.2 198 49 38 11 62 6 268 7 0 4 1161 258 0.853 5.8 0.3 1.8 7.9 4.32 AS,CYA-1,MVP-1,GG
17 Seasons 251 174 .591 2.91 528 482 21 255 56 6 3884.1 3279 1420 1258 257 1336 118 3117 102 13 108 16068 128 1.188 7.6 0.6 3.1 7.2 2.33
162 Game Avg. 17 12 .591 2.91 36 32 1 17 4 0 262 221 96 85 17 90 8 210 7 1 7 1082 128 1.188 7.6 0.6 3.1 7.2 2.33
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2012.

Yes, you are reading that correctly. Bob Gibson’s 1968 season was other-worldly. A 1.12 ERA, 13 complete game shutouts, giving up 38 earned runs over 304 innings… who does this?

No one, not since Bob Gibson. You see, 1968 became somewhat of a “year of the pitcher” in Major League Baseball. Run-scoring was down, and since most fans come to see at least a little bit of action at a baseball game, the powers that be determined that this was a terrible thing. The result? The actual pitchers’ mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 inches. It was a literal leveling of the playing field, and all Gibson got to show for his season was an All-Star selection, Gold Glove, Cy Young, MVP award, and a National League pennant.

Oh, that’s all.

4. October 27, 2011 – “They just won’t go away.”

Despite the recentness of this moment, it is crazy to think that game 6 of this past year’s World Series might not make this list. On the whole I feel like I am a pretty lucky baseball fan. I’ve seen my team play in 3 World Series (winning twice) and countless playoff games in my 25 years on this earth. On the flip side, my grandpa turned 80 years old last year and is still waiting for his beloved Cubs to win it all.

The 2011 postseason had its share of thrills, spills and chills, but the Cardinals found themselves against the wall, finding themselves down to their final strike not once, but twice, and they still came out on top. David Freese became a household name with his game-tying triple, then followed it up with his walk-off winner. Joe Buck gave us all goosebumps with his call of the home run, channeling his dad with a “We will see you tomorrow night!”

The team wouldn’t quit. They pushed through and came out on top. Also, to further my point that I am a very lucky baseball fan? October 27 is my birthday. 😉

3. The teams that would not die. 

The 2011 team was not the only one that was left for dead. 1964 was a wild pennant run in and of itself (and if you want a more detailed look, check out Bob Netherton’s posts on the subject). Ten games back? Nine games back? No matter, somehow these two Cardinal teams rose from the ashes and claimed a place in history.

Now, did it take a hard fall from the teams that were ahead of them in order for the birds on the bat to make it to the playoffs? You betcha. The 1964 Phillies are still remembered for that epic collapse. Will the 2011 Braves be remembered in the same way? Probably not, in all honesty. People don’t talk about the 1964 World Series the same way they will talk about the 2011 version. One thing is certain: no one will forget the Cardinals and their fight to the end!

2. Big Mac breaks the record

1998 was a magical summer for 11 year old me. I was living and dying with every long ball hit by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I watched more Cubs baseball on WGN than any sane baseball fan should ever have to endure.

Yeah yeah, steriods. I know. But I didn’t back then. I’m not the only one that didn’t see behind the curtain either. Many of those that did, just didn’t care. For the first time since the strike of 1994 crippled many baseball fans from their love of the game, baseball had life. Games at Kauffman Stadium and the Astrodome were being sold out, and those teams had no business having that many fans in the stands. Nightly news would be cut off to update the score and the fact that Mac/Sammy had just blasted another one (and I didn’t live in the St. Louis/Chicago area to get full coverage).

But September 8, 1998 is a night that I will never forget. I screamed, I jumped around the living room, and I almost cut off my poor sisters’ circulation from hugging them so tightly. Watching that ball skirt over the wall, watching Mac almost miss first base, seeing the Maris family and Sammy running in from the outfield and all the people screaming and cheering… I was a part of that! We were all part of that. Despite what we know now… back then we were all just baseball fans again.

1.  “Go Crazy Folks”

Ozzie with one out. Took a ball just outside. Cardinals have left ten men on and they left a lotta men on early. A runner at third nobody out in the first and didn’t score, second and third in the second and didn’t score. Smith corks one into 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 3-2 on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!

Seeing the words just doesn’t do that call justice. It never will. The 1985 NLCS game 5 home run by Ozzie Smith was great in and of itself. He wasn’t a home run hitter, especially not from the left side. The home run was incredible, but it was not the iconic moment.

It was the call. It was Jack Buck. There will never be another.


There you go – the top 5 moments in Cardinals history from my eyes. What say you? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments…

Is it baseball season yet?

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