Editor’s Note: Recently I posted the first in what I’ve decided to make a series of posts about Cardinals fans and where they reside. If you didn’t get a change to read that post it can be found right here. Though the lofty goal in my head originally was to get one of these written and posted each week, life keeps getting in the way. As my writing will likely always remain a hobby, it gets pushed to the back burner more often than I would like. Moving forward I hope to post one monthly, with the possibility of taking more submissions once I’ve exhausted the current pool.
Sheila (@sheila_sheiley) is a lovely lady from New York whom I had the pleasure of meeting this summer when she came into town with her daughter for a week of Cardinals games. Yes, you read that right. New York, home to both the Yankees and that one Pond Scum team we Cardinals fans still love to hate. (Do you think Beltran still has nightmares about that nasty curveball from Wainwright to close out the 7 game NLCS in 2006?) You might be asking how a woman born and raised on the Eastern Coast became a Cardinals fan. I know I certainly did, knowing she wasn’t a transplant like many of the Cardinals fans that I’ve connected with through social media. As she explained it to me in her email, her dad told her around the age of 13 that she needed to choose a team. His only other words of advice were, ‘Don’t just choose a team because they are a winning team.’
So, in very girly fashion, she chose the Minnesota Vikings for her football team since they had purple uniforms. Purple is of course her favorite color. When it came to choosing a baseball team, however, Sheila ran into a problem. There wasn’t a team with purple uniforms then. Again, using girl logic, she chose the Cardinals since the football team that she was a cheerleader for was the Cardinals. Now before you jump to any conclusions about her fandom you should know that once she chose her team she found as many opportunities as possible to catch games, which wasn’t an easy feat living so far away. The technology that’s available today that allows fans to catch games all over the world didn’t exist in the 80s. Something else that she mentioned that was especially cool in my eyes was that as she has gotten older she’s sought out books and information on the early years of the team, how it came to be, and the history of some of the biggest wins and losses over the years.
Clint Hymes (@ClintHymes) grew up near Effingham, Illinois in the town of Neoga. He became a Cardinals fan around the age of 12. He spent his summer listening to games on KMOX. Even though his new radio barely picked up KMOX, Clint can still remember Jack Buck yelling, “Go Crazy folks! Go Crazy!” after Ozzie Smith’s dramatic home run against the Dodgers in game 5 of the 1985 NLCS. He was jumping up and down on his bed and screaming so loudly his father had to yell upstairs to him to keep it down. That moment cemented his fandom, and he has continued to follow the Cardinals wherever his life has taken him, including overseas while he was with the military. He even saves most games on his DVR so that he can re-watch the more memorable ones during the offseason.
Like many of the people who have reached out to me, Clint has a Cardinals cave in his home adorned with banners, pennants, bobble heads, and other Cardinal memorabilia. A unique item that he has is a Cardinals pool table. He also recently got a Cardinals tattoo. He plans to have his ashes spread around Busch stadium when he is gone in order to always be close to his favorite team. He says the players and managers have given him many memories to ensure that he will always be a Cardinals fan.
Aaron (@keppka) grew up in the greater St. Louis area attending many games each season. He has many fond memories of games at Busch Stadium as a kid especially series’ against the Chicago Cubs. Once upon a time MLB actually scheduled double headers and he remembers going to many of these with his family as well. The sea of red downtown left an impression on him. He credits his family with passing the culture and history of being a fan on to him at a young age.
Though he moved to the Washington, D.C. area during his junior year of high school, Aaron has remained a Cardinals and Blues fan through and through. He met his future wife, an Orioles fan, his senior year of high school. Over the years they moved often during his time in the Air Force. He’s retired now from the Air Force and working in the D.C. area, but he still catches Cardinals games on Sirius radio whenever they are playing. After many road trips to St. Louis and other locales to catch Cardinals games, his wife though still an Orioles fan, has found a place in her heart for the team as well.
He and his wife have gotten to watch the Cardinals play in several stadiums although one of his favorite memories was watching them play in Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos, while Coors Stadium was being built. He remembers being impressed at the amount of red among the 60,000 – 65,000+ fans watching the game. Aaron also included a personal story in his email, which I’ve included below. Anecdotes like these have been my favorite part of doing this series so far.
As a side note, I met Jim Edmonds parents on a flight from Seattle to Anaheim years ago. They were such nice people that they introduced themselves to me (wearing a Cards shirt) on the flight. His mother wanted to let me know how much they enjoyed St Louis and the Cards fans everywhere. She said Jim just fell in love with the fans and loved playing in St Louis. The funniest part was when his mother asked if I had heard of her son, as if he was some sort of utility player who saw little playing time. This was during Jim’s peak years with the team. I just smiled and said yes I know who your son is.
Jeff (@Gerb3x) is a slightly unique Cardinals fan on twitter. By unique, I mean that in the nicest way. Though he’s a fan of the team you won’t often see him ranting and raving about a bungled defensive play at first base or the god awful double switch Matheny made taking our best hitter out of the game in the process. Most of the time, you won’t see a ton of tweets about the Cardinals at all. Honestly, you’re more likely to see silly tweets or yelling in general about his Colts, which makes sense given he lives in Indiana. Just because he’s not constantly yelling or cheering about the team doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know what’s going on. His email to me made me laugh in addition to the talk about the players from years past so I’ve included it below:
Haaaiii Kristi 🙂
Here goes nothing…
A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, wait, that’s not right. Many years ago when I was a young lad, I became a fan of both the Cardinals and the Minnesota Twins at pretty much the same time. It must seem strange now in today’s world of instant information and communication, but back then cable television was relatively new nationally. ESPN existed, but had no baseball contract. They showed things like tractor pulls and rugby. There was no Fox Sports. USA Network occasionally aired games, which seems really funny now. You had WGN which showed the Cubs (gross) and WTBS which showed the Braves (eww), and that was about it for national coverage (given this, it’s no coincidence these are the two teams I hate the most). If you lived outside of a major league market, you’d get a regional game during the week and one on Saturday. Since I live roughly halfway between St. Louis and Cincinnati, this meant I’d get a lot of Cardinals and Reds games (related: I hate the Reds now). Since I know someone out there is wondering how in the hell I also became a Twins fan, I’ll explain. That year I played on an awful little league team. We went 2-19 and finished 7th in an 8th team league, beating only the 8th place team for our two wins. One night I saw a baseball game on USA Network. It was the Twins. They were the worst team in baseball, and that night set a record by starting a rookie at every position. Just like my team, they were young and bad. Easy connection for a kid. The Cardinals have always maintained my #1 spot, though liking both teams really made the 1987 World Series suck for me.
What really sealed my Cardinals fandom were the additions of Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee. There were already players I liked. There was Keith Hernandez, Tommy Herr, and Bob Forsch. Darrell Porter, who had a connection to my city. George Hendrick. Hendrick was a terrific player who also looked like he was 78 years old. They were all fine, but bringing in Ozzie and Willie brought a sense of excitement to the team that just wasn’t there before. When you’re a kid, I don’t think being a fan of a team is enough. You have to have a reason to keep coming back, and that reason was the excitement those two guys brought. Until Ozzie, I’d never seen anyone do a back flip on a baseball field before. It was the coolest thing ever. I’d also never seen a player make such ridiculously difficult plays look so routine. McGee brought a different kind of excitement. With him it was more the thrill of the stolen base, or the anticipation of a hit to the gap that he’d leg out for a triple. There are many reasons the Cardinals won the World Series that year, but it absolutely doesn’t happen without Ozzie and probably not without Willie either.
What little me discovered back then that still maintains today is Cardinal baseball on the radio. If I couldn’t watch many games, I could always listen on the radio. Like they were for so many others, Jack Buck and Mike Shannon were gods to me, and I hung on every word. Times have changed so much. I can now watch every game as part of my standard cable TV package. Sometimes I get a bonus and a game will be on ESPN but I won’t have to suffer through it because it will air on Fox Sports Midwest as well. A lot of times though, I’ll eschew the TV and sit outside listening to the radio broadcast instead. There’s something about food on the grill, a cold beer in the hand, and Cardinal baseball on the radio that just does it for me. It’s been three years since I’ve been to Busch Stadium, and although I love the place, I’m totally fine with watching or listening to a game within the confines of my own place (at least until Kristi invites me to a game).
One of the cool things about the passage of time has been the advent of social media, specifically Twitter. You would not be reading this if Twitter didn’t exist. It has allowed me to get to know so many awesome Cardinal fans, people I’d probably never meet even if I lived in St. Louis and went to a bunch of games. Whether I’m watching or listening to a game, I can always count on the Twitter feed to keep it lively. It might be people complaining about Matheny’s lineups, it might be a $99.99 tweet, whatever, I’m there, and I appreciate those who put up with my craziness. You’re why I keep coming back.
Still a fan from 3 hours away.
Karen L (@ishadow1) became a Cardinals fan thanks to a friend that was born in Missouri introducing her to the team. Like a few other fans that I’ve come to know through the wonders of Twitter, she resides in sunny Orlando, Florida. Her husband encourages her baseball habit with the gift of MLB TV, which he’s been giving her for Valentine’s Day for the last 7 or so years. It allows her to watch 3 or 4 games a week, where she’d otherwise not be able to watch any unless they are part of a national broadcast given she lives in an area where the Rays or Marlins are more likely to be shown. She’s fortunate to be able to attend Spring Training games, and she has gone to Cardinal’s games in Miami, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore. Attending a game at Busch Stadium is a bucket list item she hopes to make a reality one of these days.
Something she mentioned in her messages to me is how much she loves the online Cardinals community. I think with the constant dogging of the BFIB’s by some that this fact is often overlooked when outsiders if you will, write about our fan base. Karen has encountered Cardinals fans at Spring Training games and regular season games and it’s always been a positive experience. For as much as some of the fans fight amongst themselves, it’s really one big perhaps slightly dysfunctional family when you get right down to it.
As sometimes happen when two women converse our conversation quickly veered from the Cardinals to the Orioles to Tampa Bay teams (my adopted 2nd city when it comes to baseball and hockey) to soccer and something about men’s thighs. Soccer players that is. As you can tell, Karen is a pretty well-rounded sports fan, herself a former soccer player. Karen is also different from your typical Cardinals fan in that she has a love in her heart for more than one team. Her other team is the Orioles in case you were wondering. (Ed. I can’t believe I left this out.) I’ve gone round and round with fans in our own fan base on this very topic. For the record, I think having more than one team is just fine. For myself though, my hometown St. Louis teams, excluding football, will always come first no matter what city I may find myself living in down the road.
Stay tuned for future installments…
October 12, 2016