Baseball more than any other activity has always been a family affair for me. From little league to visiting that first Major League stadium, the thoughts are always the same. It is the exact same thing each and every time Field of Dreams comes on or the Winter Meetings send you in a flurry of emotions. We were all lucky enough to be taught the greatest game and given the opportunity to pass it down for generations to come.
In my case the Cardinals have been around as long as anything else in my memory. I was too young to fully grasp the 1982 World Series but heard about it plenty from my Dad who loved Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee and especially Whitey Herzog. Over the years we shared more highs than lows and no matter where I was, we always had St. Louis. The 2011 season has been on a loop for me thru the Matheny years and helped get me thru the pandemic. Unfortunately, those conversations have come to an end but choosing not to be sad about it.
My father passed away earlier this month and left behind a mark that can never be replaced. He taught me so much and will never stop honoring him for the man I have become. My brother and I grew up in a split household in a very fitting place, right on the Mississippi River. The Birds on the Bat have always been the only team for me, even if my brother and both best friends growing up chose the Cubs.
It started with box scores and the occasional Minor League game where the players didn’t matter because it was perfect. Dad taught me the game and played catch with us after long hours without a complaint. He came to our games even though I was quite possibly the worst player ever. With very little coordination and an inability to get out of the way, getting plunked was pretty much all I could contribute. Except that never mattered to my Dad because he saw the same thing I did – a love for the other parts of the game.
Attention to detail has been my single greatest attribute as an adult, and I credit baseball plus Dad teaching me to keep score for that. It also could be he knew before anyone how ADHD I was and needed to find something to keep me focused. Either way I smile anytime I see a box score with the need to add everything up to make sure it is correct. The Cardinals followed me to boot camp and on today of all days, what’s rolling around in my head has been the Grandfather who started the St. Louis fandom.
I never got to meet him but have enjoyed hearing stories from everyone who did. A bus driver for my school after World War II, the United States Army vet left an impression with the students and teachers alike. He shared a love for the Cardinals unlike any I can ever recall and that passion has continued to this day. His memory lives on with the brick outside the team store at Busch in Section G. Don’t be afraid to stop by and say hi to Johnny Gilliam or his sons John and Dan.
As many of you know, I was in Iraq during both the 2004 and 2006 postseason trips and spent Veteran’s Day in country as well. Today is a special day to remember those who served and are still doing it like my Daughter. Some of the most important moments in the history of the Cardinals were celebrated not from a stadium or a bar but hunched over a computer at three in the morning. Those are things I remember fondly when thinking about the two generations of St. Louis fans that came before me.
My Dad and I didn’t always see eye to eye, a fact he liked to bring up over the years. In August of 2011, I had given up all hope and was already looking forward to the Winter of Pujols. He was delusional in my opinion but refused to believe that TLR had thrown in the towel. Well, I’ve never been happier to be wrong or to have him bring it up more times than I can count. The same thing happened after the season when I told him Albert wouldn’t be coming back. He flatly refused to listen and said the same organization with Ozzie and Stan the Man wouldn’t allow #5 to walk.
I won’t tell you how that conversation went when it was all said and done, but let’s just say it isn’t safe for work or younger readers. I get my stubborn tendencies from him but also the ability to see good in any situation. He was one of a kind, and I’m proud to be his son. Thank you Dad for so many things but mostly for reminding me what’s important in life. The Cardinals won’t be quite the same for me in 2024, but the legacy he passed down will never be forgotten.
Love you Dad, go Cards!