UCB Round Table: Day 5 – Cardinal Memories

Every season, the United Cardinal Bloggers feature round table discussions with the members of the group, featuring a question from each website, and answers from various bloggers willing to participate. It is Day 5 of the round tables (you can read all of the round table discussions on the official site) and that means I-70 Baseball gets to participate. Here is the email that I sent out to the group for discussion:

As a young man growing up in Missouri, my father took me to a lot of Cardinal games. We were “Bleacher Bums” and would spend hours at the stadium waiting to get tickets (back then, bleachers went on sale 2 hours before game time). I was an autograph hound and would meet the visiting ball players as they walked across the street from the Marriott. I collected autographs in this manor from the time I was 8 years old until I moved out of my parents’ house and no longer went to as many games.

Throughout those years I seen Ozzie do countless backflips, I seen Felix Jose hit a home run that struck the right field scoreboard above my head, I met the “Mayor Of The Bleachers” and listened for hours to his memories, I seen the arrival and departure of more players than I can count that would wear the birds on the bat, and I now have countless stories that I share through the “Classic” sections of the sites I write for.

For today’s roundtable, I ask you to dig deep into your memories. I want to know a Cardinal memory that you have. One of those moments that meant something to you, even if it wasn’t a historical moment to the rest of the world. It doesn’t have to be a World Series win or a playoff walk-off, it can be anything that you remember vividly and can say “I was there for that” or “I was watching that” or even “I saw it through Jack Buck’s eyes on the radio”. Here, I’ll give you one of mine to start with:

Bill Ivie – i70baseball
Andres Galarraga had joined the Cardinals as a very huge acquisition in a trade with the Montreal Expos for pitcher Ken Hill. Galarraga had one year left on his contract and the Cards hoped to catch lightning in a bottle with the “Big Cat”. Renovations had just been completed at Busch Stadium that brought the fences in a little, installed shrubs and flowers along the walls, and placed a large grassy area in the center field “batter’s eye”. Galarraga was hit by a pitch early in the year and sidelined with a fractured bone in his wrist or hand, I honestly do not remember which. When he came off the Disabled List, many fans, announcers and writers started making a big deal out of the fact that he had never hit a home run in St. Louis. With my father, my mother, and I sitting in the bleachers in right field, Galarraga launched his first Busch Stadium Home Run into the center field grassy area. My father jumped the wall and retrieved the ball, bringing it back to me to jump up and down with. A few minutes later, security arrived and escorted my dad, and my souvenir, to a small area near the bathrooms. He was given the option of forfeiting his seat and the ball and being allowed to sit in the very last row of bleachers and stay for the game. If he chose to keep the ball, they would press charges for trespassing as he entered a restricted area of the stadium in order to retrieve the ball. Despite my objections, he turned the ball over to security and took his assigned seat. Galarraga left as a free agent at the end of that season, having hit only 10 home runs in a Cardinal uniform, and heading to Colorado to hit 172 of his 399 career bombs. But, for a brief moment, I held the first one he ever hit in St. Louis in my hands.

Pip – fungoes
In high school, my friends and I sneaked and fibbed our way to any place at Busch Stadium where were weren’t allowed to be, which was usually anywhere but the upper deck. After getting kicked out of the box seats, we got the wild idea to try to meet legendary organist Ernie Hays. After the game, we sweet-talked our way to his booth, where he received us like we were old pals. We asked him about the music he played for the various players, and I asked him if he remembered what he played for Keith Hernandez, who hadn’t been with the team for several years. “Let’s see,” he said. “Ah, yes, it was Jethro Tull — Thick as a Brick.” You just can’t get that kind of info from the internet.

Daniel Shoptaw – C70 At The Bat
There are a lot of memories in my years of following the Cardinals. We went to a few games when I was growing up back in the late ’80s. I actually made it to a Cardinals/Cubs game in ’02, I believe, with Mark Prior on the mound for the Cubbies. There was Ken Griffey Jr.’s #500th home run, and of course the amazingly great memories made this season at the Social Media Extravaganza.

Still, probably the most lasting of memories came from one of those trips to St. Louis when I was growing up. We usually stayed for 2-3 games and, one year, it was camera day back at the old cookie cutter they called Busch Stadium back then (and we lovingly refer to as Busch II nowadays). It must have been ’89, the summer before my ninth grade year, and was on the field behind the ropes with my parents and brother.
I still have a lot of those pictures. Guys that just passed through like Tom Brunansky. The old Redhead, shaking hands. Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, Joe Magrane. Even Fredbird got into the action. Looking back on those pictures now really is a kick.
However, there is one picture that got more prominence. Because all the Cardinals participated in this event, and that meant my hero.
When Ozzie Smith walked around to that spot, numerous kids ducked under the ropes to have their picture taken with him, and I was no exception. Granted, I was about 5-6 years older than the rest of them, but this was Ozzie Smith!
Being around Ozzie’s height worked out, because as he gathers all these kids together, he says, “Where’re we looking?”. I pointed straight to my mother, who was taking the picture, so that Ozzie and I are looking in the same spot while the other kids were looking away at their parents. I wonder how many of them still have that picture and wonder who that goofy kid in the middle was?

That memory got a new tint last summer. After spending the day at FanFest, my wife and kids joined a friend of mine and his family at Ozzie’s restaurant. While we were there, Ozzie actually came in and sat in a private room right behind our table and talked to my son for a while. When Ozzie left, he stopped by our table to say thanks for coming, and I was able to get him to pose with my son. So now both of us have a picture with the Wizard.

Mark Tomasik – RetroSimba
The Glenn Brummer steal of home with two outs in the 12th inning to beat the Giants in St. Louis on Aug. 22, 1982.

I was with two buddies in the third-to-last row from the top of the upper deck behind home plate at Busch Stadium II on that Sunday afternoon. The game was in extra innings and it looked like it might get away from the Cardinals. The steal was so unexpected and so startling that we literally were awestruck. Then, everyone around us started hugging and high-fiving one another and bouncing up and down, total strangers just letting loose and reveling in the joy. The celebration carried on for quite a while as the crowd spilled into downtown St. Louis. The straight steal of home by a reserve catcher to win a game was so emblematic of that ’82 Cardinals season: full of hope and spirit and a sense that anything was possible. It carried right on through the World Series. Pretty special.

Dustin McClure – Welcome To Baseball Heaven
My girlfriend’s Aunt and Uncle had been discussing making the trip to St. Louis to visit us from out of state and bringing their kids (Sonnie 8, Kail 5) so they could attend their first major league baseball game. The time chosen to visit was in the middle of June when the Oakland A’s would be in town. We attended the Saturday night game which was the 2nd game of the series and featured Adam Wainwright on the mound. Our tickets were in the 5th row of the right field bleachers next to the Cardinal’s bullpen.

I’ve never seen as much joy in a 5 year olds eyes as I did in Kail’s the first time we came to the top of the steps to our section and the Busch Stadium playing field was in his view. I tried not to steal too much thunder from his Dad but I had such a great time explaining everything I could to Kail as the game progressed. Filling his head with way more information then he could handle I’m sure.

Going into the bottom half of the sixth Blake Hawksworth appeared from the Cardinal pen to warm up right fielder Ryan Ludwick. As Blake made his way back towards the pen he made eye contact with Kail’s Dad and pointed at Kail as he threw the ball. And with that young Kail took home a lifetime memory that he and his Dad can share for years to come. I was just glad to be a part of it.

Tom Knuppel – Cardinals GM
September 29, 1963, my older brother took me to Stan Musial’s last game. I didn’t realize the significance at the time but knew something was big. The commissioner spoke along with Gussie Busch. I knew it was a long ceremony. Then the game and I remember the loud and raucous cheer for “The Man” every time he batted. Musial had 2 hits that day. I didn’t know till later when I read it later, as I was 11 years old when I attended but Gary Kolb was the pinch runner after Stan’s 2nd hit of the game.I still have the ticket stub for the game!

The other two do not have dates as they are random happenings. I live 3 hours from St Louis and my parents allowed me, a 16 yr old kid, to take 2 friends for the entire weekend several times a year. Now remember, this was the 60’s and we didn’t view the world as a scary place. We always went for take your camera on the field day and things like that. On one game day we got there early , as usual, and watched batting practice. One of my friends dropped his comb accidentally over the center field wall. Gerry McNertney stuck it in his glove and threw his glove up to me to retrieve the comb. For a split second or two we looked at each other and thought about making a run for it with his glove but thought the better of it.

Another weekend we had 2 experiences. The first was away from Busch Stadium. We always stayed around Collinsville area and drove in. I was the only one of the group that did not drink alcohol but i was the oldest. They convinced me to attempt to purchase beer for them. So we drive about a mile out of town to a bar in the middle of the afternoon. I stroll in very cool, calm and collected and order a case of beer. The guy looks at me and asks, “have any ID?” I tell him I don’t as I left my billfold back at the hotel. He gives me a sneer and gets the case to purchase. What do I do next? I pull out my BILLFOLD and pay him He looks at me and laughs out loud and takes my money. I walk out of there shaking my head as I realize I am a big moron!

The second one that same weekend at the ballpark is short. We arrived at the stadium a few minutes later than we wanted, batting practice had started. We are coming down the steps in left center field and a batting practice ball comes careening off the concrete in front of us and continues bounding away. I sprint after it, dive on the concourse to get it among a few other people. When I dove, I knocked a man off his crutches and he hits the ground with a “thud” I got the ball and being a 16 yr old, I am too cool to apologize and stroll away as quickly as possible. My buddies, of course, are laughing their heads off.

We figured we drove to STL about 6 weekends per summer for awhile and the stories mount up. FYI, I never allowed my kids to drive to St Louis at that age (and now you know why)!

Jacqueline Conrad – Cardinal Diamond Diaries
Memories of the Cardinals. Asking me to choose just one is difficult because I’m not good at narrowing down. An extremely memorable and emotional game for me was the very last regular season game at Busch II on Oct 2, 2005. I loved that stadium because it was all I had ever known as home to the Cards. So many memories were tied up in that huge concrete bottle cap. I had deeply mixed feelings that day.

During the actual game against the Reds, I tried to imprint everything that happened for the last time. I remember the National Anthem and the players running onto the field for the last time. I remember silly things like getting my last beer and hot dog from the vendors and waiting in line for the lovely women’s bathroom. For some reason, I remember saying “That’s the last time I’ll see Jimmie Edmonds catch a fly in center field.” Why I vividly remember him I have no idea. I don’t remember whether we won or lost.

But the most emotional part was the long ceremony after the game. No-one left. Everyone stood and yelled and cried. We were celebrating four decades of memories in the stadium. They honored so many people and players. I cried the whole ceremony. My dad was not able to come and the ceremony was not televised by FSMW, so I called him and gave him the minute by minute account of what was happening and who was there. Of course the Hall of Famers were there, but so were loads of players from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s teams. I was particularly excited to see my favorite player growing up, Tommy Herr. I know people around me thought I was loony, screaming and crying into my phone to my dad details of what was going on. But the thing that was the most emotional to me was when the Clydesdales appeared and clip clopped around the stadium with everyone standing and singing ‘Here Comes the King’.

So from the very first time I saw that stadium, that to me was like the Roman Coliseum, to that very last game, Busch II will always hold a place in my heart.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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