[Ed. note - Once again we are taking part in a United Cardinal Bloggers project. This month is the ever popular pre-season Roundtable discussions. You can find the full schedule of roundtable questions and posts at the UCB website.
I wrote and sent out this question one week ago, the night before Baby PH8 was due to arrive. As such, this question had a bit of a direct personal influence...]
Nick: What is your first memory as a Cardinal fan? It could be attending your first game, or the first time you watched a really important game with your family, or perhaps the first Cardinal cap you received as a gift, or listening to Jack Buck on KMOX. For many folks there is a certain historical and/or family aspect that goes along with being a Cardinal fan, and I’m anxious to hear yours. For those who were “transplanted” into Cardinal Nation, I’m just as curious to hear how you wound up with the Redbirds.
The responses were wonderful:
Daniel, C70 at the Bat: My first memory of the Cardinals is actually my father listening to the radio during the 1985 World Series. We had just moved into a new house, one that my parents had built, and the cable had not been installed yet. So I remember him standing next to the counter listening to the radio broadcast of one of the games, I’m not sure which one.
My second memory is having oatmeal a couple mornings later and being sad when the radio guy said they “were playing this one for Whitey Herzog” and turned on “Kansas City” by Wilbert Harrison.
Joseph, The McBrayer-Baseball Blog: I have so many different defining moments, its hard just to choose just one. All I have ever known since birth was the St.Louis Cardinals will always be a part of our family. I am cousins with Charlie James a Cardinal player that was a part of the 1964 World Series Champions. Cardinal Baseball is in our blood. I always remember going to the games with my dad during the 70′s. He would buy the hard shell peanuts and he would buy me a box of Cracker Jacks. I recall pulling a mini-baseball card of Nolan Ryan, I still have it. The ritual still continues with my 5 year old son Gabe. He loves the Cracker Jack but there is no longer the tiny baseball cards. Gabe is now a hard-core Cardinal Fan.
Kathy, Redbird Chatter: My earliest baseball memory is spending summer evenings at my grandparents house. My grandpa would have one game on the TV and another on the radio. I never knew him to love a particular team. He just loved the game. My mom can remember as a girl, the family radio was in the kitchen. My grandpa would come in from a long day in the fields and sit on a hard kitchen chair to listen to the game. Any game.
I always liked baseball, but did not have a team. I felt an obligation to the Royals, having spent part of my life living in Kansas. It was more duty, than passion. In October of 2006, (yes, that 2006), I happened to be in St. Louis for during the NLCS. I was sitting in a room full of Cardinals fans, when hope seemed slim and Yadier Molina came to the plate. When Molina deposited that ball over the fence, the room exploded. And, I fell in love with Cardinals for the first time and baseball all over again.
We went out after the game. Downtown St. Louis crackled and sparked with a highly contagious excitement. I was introduced to Baseball City, USA. I knew I was home.
Jeff, 5ive O’Clock Blogger: My earliest Cardinals memories are spotty at best (the result of a misspent youth, I guess). My dad, of course, is responsible for my baseball fandom. I was born and raised in central Illinois, which is a Mason-Dixon line of sorts for rooting interests. My dad was a native Californian, but that state didn’t get baseball until after he left for the Marines, so he could have gone either way by the time he settled in Springfield. I’m forever thankful he chose the Cardinals.
The first specific player I remember rooting for was Garry Templeton, and I’m sure that it wasn’t long after that I learned the meaning of “obscene gesture.” But once Ozzie Smith came to St. Louis, I formed an all-encompassing obsession with the Wizard. And I remember watching the 1982 World Series on TV as a second-grader.
My earliest memory of being at Busch Stadium is hazy as well. I believe it was 1983, and I’m pretty sure it was against the Expos, possibly this game. The only specific memory I have from the game is the loudmouthed little kid sitting behind us who was heckling Dane Iorg the entire time because Iorg got the start at 1B instead of George Hendrick.
Michael, Whiteyball: My first Cardinals memory is Vince Coleman standing on first base with everyone in the stadium anticipating the excitement of a stolen base (probably 1985 or 1986). I’m not sure why this moment sticks out as my first memory, but it was important to my becoming a fan. Right after my Dad told me to watch, he did steal the base and the crowd went crazy. The scoreboard screamed “IN-VINCE-ABLE” with glorious mid 80’s technology and Ernie Hayes on the organ. A run hadn’t even scored, but it was one of the things that led me to fall in love with the game.
Ryan, Cardinals GM: My first Cardinal memory occured right outside the old Busch Stadium sometime in the early to mid 1990′s when I was probably around 5-6 years old. I remember my dad telling me to go up and shake Jack Buck’s hand, as he was outside the stadium before the game. I thought it was so cool to see the guy in person that my dad always listened to on the radio back home. I remember Jack being very friendly to me (as he was with everyone). I consider myself to be very fortunate that I was able to hear Jack on the radio towards the end of his amazing run of broadcasting Cardinal baseball, and I’ll never forget the day when I got to shake hands with a legend.
Sarah, la Beisbolista: I don’t have one specific memory, but my earliest Cardinals memories are of my family and I going to Busch II and sitting in the bleachers (usually once a season). My dad always had his walkman (because “a Cardinals game isn’t a Cardinals game without Jack Buck”), binoculars (because you couldn’t see a lot from the bleachers), and glove (and we did bring home a ball or two). As we watched, he would (not always patiently) explain the fundamentals of the game to me and tell me when to cheer.
More recent fond memories are of my son (at about age 5, the year Big Mac broke the HR record) playing baseball in the backyard and pretending to be Mark McGwire as he hit home run after home run (even though less than half of them actually left the yard). “Say ‘Home Run’, Mom!” he would instruct me every time he made contact. Then he would run in a big circle through the grass (with his head down and no showboating, thank you very much).
Mike, Stan Musial’s Stance: My first Cardinal memory was going to a game with my Dad in August 1977 at Dodger Stadium. I still have the tickets, and remember the Dodgers crushed St Louis 11-0. I’ve written about that separately on my blog.
My Cardinal fan-ness, though, didn’t really start until that fall when my Grandma sent a birthday present: a Cardinal cap and batting helmet. I wore that hat until it was completely frayed and didn’t fit anymore. Living in LA rooting for the Cardinals – especially when the Dodgers were good and the Cardinals weren’t – was a little tough, but since following the Cardinals connected me to my extended family 1500 miles away, I supported the team rather tenaciously.
Still have the hat. And the helmet.
Pip, Fungoes: Being from southern Illinois, my mom grew up admiring Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst, whom she’d met as a girl, and with my dad’s Chicago ties, I assume they must have settled early on that, wanting the best for their kids, they’d raise us as Cardinal fans. My earliest — or at least strongest — memories are from the 1982 championship season. Of the handful of games that my family would attend each year, I would get to buy a souvenir once a season (at one of the booths outside the stadium). My first real souvenir — as in something that had the staying power of a Star Wars figure — was a plastic bat bank (see photo at http://www.fungoes.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/2010-bat-bank.jpg). The little white bats had the logos of 10 of the National League’s 12 teams (for some reason, the Pirates and Padres weren’t represented) and clipped into the red bank, encircling it like the World Series trophy that the Cardinals would win that October. In that series, I remember feeling the vindication when Keith Hernandez, my favorite player, broke out of his slump in Game 6, and, after the Game 7 win, listening and dancing with my little brother to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” on our record player.
Chris, Bird-Brained: My first Cardinal memory actually isn’t of a game or meeting a player or seeing a special moment on TV. It’s of a couple of records. Back before DVDs of the entire series or VHS cassettes showing video highlights, teams would put together radio highlights of a championship year on an LP. At least, I’m assuming all teams did that. I know the Cardinals did, because my dad has one from 1967 and one from 1982. I was enamored with music before I was enamored with baseball, but I listened to these two albums as well. The ’82 record is one of my favorites of all time (which is saying something, since my own record collection is nearly 600 strong). It was narrated by Jack Buck, of course, and I practically have most of his narration–as well as the radio calls by him and Mike Shannon–memorized. So even though I was barely 5 years old when the Cards won in ’82, I know the radio broadcasts from that season like the back of my hand. From Shannon’s “Brummer’s Stealing Home!” to Buck’s “A-di-os!” those highlights are my earliest Cardinal memory…and, perhaps uniquely, ones that I can re-live over and over again.
My own earliest and fondest memories of being a Cardinal fan revolve mostly around being indoctrinated into the game and Cardinal Nation by my father. I’ve written about the game of baseball in St. Louis being passed down within families before, and will expand a bit on that here.
When I was just a young dude, around the 1982 World Series, I didn’t get to go to games, but my dad did – often with the neighbor who had season tickets. Without fail, my father would bring me something from the game – a hat, a mini-helmet, a baseball card, a half-filled scorecard from that night’s game – that became my new favorite trinket for weeks. A few years after the ’82 Series was over, and I was a bit older (enough to know not to tear it up), my father willed to me his copy of the ’82 World Series program. Tiny photos of each player from each team – Joe Torre with the Atlanta Braves, Robin Yount with the Milwaukee Brewers – and most importantly, all of the photos and information about the Cardinals I could handle.
Soon we were going to games as a family – dad, mom, sister, and me – at Busch II about once a season, thanks in part to Mom’s new job that allowed her to choose a game or two per season to attend on the company’s season tickets. Our yearly pilgrimage to my new baseball mecca was truly an event looked forward to.
As the years have gone by, and I’ve been able to attend numerous additional games – including some special ones near and dear to my heart (Mark McGwire’s 500 and 501 HR game, the 2004 Series with my father, 2006 Opening Day at Busch III, taking my wife to her first game in St. Louis, etc.) – and I still get a little emotional and pride-filled when the National Anthem begins.
Now that Baby PH8 has arrived, I can’t wait to make our annual pilgrimages to Busch III with him in tow. He’s already got his first red shirt with Birds on the Bat…