I grew up in Belleville, Illinois, a mere 12 mile drive from St. Louis. My father, closest uncle and other family members are devoted Cardinal fans. It was always on the A.M. radio during the formative years. To my ears, Jack Buck and Mike Shannon riffing off each other sounded like summer as much as fireworks and cicadas.
My dad would take off work, get us outta school and go to the day-game home openers in Busch-II (nose bleeds) which always seemed to be against the Pirates. I am thankful for his and my uncle's knowledge of the game and why things happen the way they do and how the manager can influence a game and how to get runners over. I owe them so much for passing along their stories of Bob Gibson and Lou Brock. I was infatuated with how great they must have been (and are).
KMOX was the soundtrack of my Belleville years as that was THE station my parents listened to...all day long and into the night (I was sneaking in KSHE and Magic 108 to hear Thin Lizzy and early hip hop). The 1980's Cards teams were exhilarating and lovable. I was hooked for life. To grow up a Cards fan in that era might just mean one for life. They were so exciting. That, team and an early life obsession with baseball cards: Topps, Donruss, Fleer and Score. I memorized the 792 cards in the Topps decks and could trade to fill the full sets from 1982 - 1984 by wrote memory.
The team colors and emblems, uniforms, styles and speed game that ruled the day are etched into my brain. Ricky Henderson and Vince Coleman and Willie McGee had speed and cunning I don't think I'll see again. Stealing bases and manufacturing runs was the way of the Cardinals back then...vs. the power, OBP and Money Ball numbers game that rules today.
Don't get me wrong the 2006 NLCS Game 7 and 2011 Game 6 were two of the best goddamn sports dreams imaginable.
Herzog said: "Gimme a bopper and a stopper." That's all it took for the hook.
I had a personal goal to raise my kids right and pass the torch as Cardinal fans.
Things I chose to do:
1 . Raise my kids in St. Louis.
2. Take them to games on the cheap...listen/talk to the people around you. It's a different conversation than the box seats. You can get in for ~$6 these days. The narrative that Cards games are some unobtainable, money pit are just flat out false if you are willing to sit high and...here it comes...walk a block or two to the stadium...hence #3:
3. Park for free, walk to the game, and bring your own snacks. Take in the fact that you are not scared to walk in the city. Confidence and street smarts are an early lesson that is ingrained in my peeps. They are not scared of their shadows and know how to cross a street responsibly. They also know when something looks fishy. Spidey senses bring freedom to live anywhere you want in your life.
4. Keep score during the game to keep em engaged vs. the distractions of buying/pie-holing expensive crap.
5. Go to games in other cities to compare the Cardinal experience to other stadiums. One of the sweetest memories was when my youngest and I went to Milwaukee and he diligently recording the game with his head down in the scorecard, the Brewer fans around us were stunned and so kind to him. The Brewers are a distraction until the Packers kick in.
6. Sign up for CYC little league.
7. When the Cards won in 2006, I took my little guy (at the time) downtown to watch the fans spill out of Busch-III and celebrate. He was blown away and almost confused by the fans reaction. It was the first time I had to say: "son, those people are drunk".
Things that haven't panned out:
1. They tolerate baseball because it's important to me. In all honesty, they just don't care unless the playoffs are reached. The season is too long and they have so many other things to do.
2. Playing organized baseball never really took. They love playing soccer and watching Blues hockey. Baseball bores them with all the standing around and waiting for action. The World Cup comes around and you'd think we made it to the World Series...they love watching soccer even when the U.S. doesn't qualify. Go Croatia!
3. They can't sit down and commit to an entire game. It's too long, they claim.
I will admit, on the verge of having 3 teenagers, I think I have failed as a Cardinal fan to pass the baton.
I'm not conceding defeat just yet.
For now, they are Blues fans and want to play soccer. The joy I've experienced watching Willie McGee, Joaquín Andújar, Bob Forsch, George Hendrick, Ozzie, Vince Coleman, Yadi, Chris Carpenter, Scott Rolen, Albert Pujols and countless others will never waver.
Is anyone else having these struggles with their children? I'm feel like I didn't push the right buttons...but not for a lack of trying.