“Well if the Cardinals are all that great, why do they keep losing to the Royals like they did in the World Series?”
I had no reply. I never bothered to come up with one. It was at this point in the conversation I realized that this was going nowhere, so I should just change the subject or find some other way to move on.
I was actually born one year to the day after game 7 of the 1985 World Series. By the time I was old enough to really follow the team and know what was going on, the ‘Whiteyball Era’ was long over, and the only two names that I really knew of from those glory days were Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee. In my house, Ozzie was a legend, and McGee a villain.
Yes, you heard me. I thought Willie McGee was awful when I was little. It is not my fault – that is how I was raised. Actually, everything about my upbringing was strange if the topic is baseball. Despite the fact that I grew up about an hour north of Kauffman Stadium and have never actually had a permanent residence within 300 miles of Busch, I was always a Cardinals fan. I actually had no idea that I was in the wrong until I was 7 or 8 and some well-meaning adult asked why I was a Cardinals fan instead of Royals.
“Who are the Royals?”
I knew my Cardinals, and I knew that the Cubs, Braves and Mets were enemies, but at that point, there was not enough time in the day to figure out who the Royals were and why I should care. That mindset changed once interleague play started in 1997. Suddenly the Cardinals and Royals were squaring off once or twice a year and I had a reason to go with my family to that place in Kansas City known merely as ‘the K.’ It was also around then that the 1985 series first entered into my life.
I never disliked the Royals. Just to appease friends I told them that when we went to Royals games I could be a Royals fan as long at the other team was not wearing the birds on the bat. But the minute they mentioned 1985 I bristled, and eventually that question came back. Why didn’t the Cardinals win the 1985 series? A casual inquiry (this was before I really got into baseball history – it was enough for me to know all the players in the starting lineup back then) led me to “The Call,” and for a few years I actually was convinced that one blown call had literally lost the World Series for the Cardinals back then.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. I know that now. Back then I obviously had no clue. I can claim ignorance, because who is going to yell at a 12 year old girl who was living and dying with every game in the present? I was already an enigma, and people were impressed that I knew the roster and could follow along with a scorecard. They were not about to fault me for not understanding something that happened before I was born.
I figured it out after reading Wizard, an autobiography of Ozzie Smith. The call was in Game 6, and there was no reason for the team to roll over and play dead in Game 7. The series was winnable, but the Cardinals lost. It happens. However, understanding 1985 was not helping me in the early 2000s when I was living in Royals territory and trying to singlehandedly defend my boys’ honor against all my friends. They knew the Royals stunk, but they had 1985 to hold over my head, and I had a string of playoff appearances but no titles since that fateful year.
In 2006, I was in college. I no longer lived in Royals territory, and no longer talked to most of the people who gave me so much crap when I was growing up. Right when I had something to rub their faces in…