by ANDREW HICKS
I was 4 when the Cardinals won the World Series in 1982. I have one vague memory of being babysat by my grandma while my mom and grandpa were at the game. We spent all nine innings trying to spot them in the audience shots.
When the Cardinals played seven games against the Royals in the ’85 World Series, I was 7. I have spotty, nonspecific memories of that matchup. I barely remember the infamous blown Don Denkinger call at first base in Game 6 and the drama that ensued when Denkinger was home plate umpire for Game 7. Checked out some Wikipedia just now. Turns out that, after Denkinger ejected pitcher Joaquin Andujar and manager Whitey Herzog were from Game 7, Andujar “smashed a toilet in the Cardinals’ clubhouse.” Herzog smashed a dozen White Castle sliders.
By 1986, I was a huge baseball fan. My dad bought me a complete set of ’86 Topps baseball cards, and I religiously studied the stats on the backs of them. I remember all those guys from the Cardinals back then — Jack Clark, Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, Tommy Herr, Ozzie Smith, Terry Pendleton, John Tudor, Bob Forsch, Danny Cox, Todd Worrell, Andy Van Slyke, Ricky Horton, Tony Pena, Jose Oquendo… Lord, I used to watch whatever games were on TV, listen to the rest on the radio and read the sports section every day on top of it.
There were many great nights I sat next to my grandpa on his back porch, listening to Jack Buck and Mike Shannon call the games on KMOX radio. Grandpa had an old-school, battery-powered transistor radio. I wanna say it only got AM stations, but I might be wrong. I used to fall asleep at home listening to the 9:35 away games on the West Coast. Jack and Mike were a huge part of the soundtrack to my childhood.
So by age 9, when the Cardinals were back in the World Series, I was hanging on every play and call. I remember thinking the Minnesota Twins’ home ballpark, the Metrodome, was pretty freaking cool. By the end of the series, I hated that place, though, because the Cardinals never won a single game there. I blamed it on that big white domed ceiling. You couldn’t see the ball against all that white. So said all of St. Louis, suffering from collective metropolitan denial.
My love for baseball declined over the years. It didn’t help that the Cardinals basically sucked from 1988 through ’95. I got excited again in 1996, when St. Louis won three in a row against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. Then got smoked 15-0 by the Braves in Game 7.
Since young adulthood, I haven’t really followed Cardinals baseball. I can’t usually name more than four of the guys on the team. But when October baseball comes around, I start paying attention. I like to take advantage of fair weather and all.
Which brings me to right now. Tonight, the Cardinals won Game 6 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers. It had all the classic nail-biting elements of a game that repeatedly backs your team against the wall, only to have your team burst back with gasping, last-minute fervor. We’d score, they’d tie us. Then they pulled ahead, and we tied them. Twice. We were one out away from elimination when it happened. Twice.
It was exciting baseball, the type of baseball that can charge the soul, make a family feel closer, even make all the individuals in your hometown feel as one. There were sad moments, surrea; moments and a very happy ending. I can’t wait for Game 7.