Every once in a while, someone will ask me why I’m a Cardinal fan. “Did you grow up in St. Louis?”, they’ll ask. Nope. My devotion to the Redbirds has little to do with geography. I’m a card-carrying member of Cardinal Nation for several reasons:
First and foremost, I owe my love of the Cardinals to my childhood baseball card collection. I can’t remember when I started collecting cards. But at one point, as I was showing off my collection to someone, I was asked which team was my favorite. I didn’t really have an answer. So I set out to select my favorite team with the scientific rigor of Galileo: I would count my cards out by team and the team with the most cards would be my new favorite club. Good thing I didn’t have a lot of Cubs, eh?
Later that year, I saved my money and purchased a Nintendo Entertainment System. I quickly tired with Mario and Duck Hunt, so I promptly put a copy of RBI Baseball on layaway at the local Wal-Mart. Each week I’d trudge down to Wally World and deposited my allowance towards the balance of the game. After a few weeks, I brought home the greatest video game of all-time. Real lineups! With actual MLB players! I could play as the 1987 Cardinals, my favorite team EVER. Their team speed is unreal (Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee…need I say more). I’ve still never been beaten when I play as the Cards. This great game further cemented my Redbird fidelity.
About this time, my father also bought me my first baseball bat. It was a wooden Louisville Slugger and I would spend hours in the backyard, throwing the ball up in the air and swinging away with my new bat (trademark facing me, naturally!). Lo and behold, the autograph on this particular bat belonged to Jack Clark, the St. Louis Cardinals power-hitting first baseman. Coincidence? I think not.
Finally, in 1988, I had the chance to see my first big league game. Cards / Giants in St. Louis on a Friday night in June. We took some great pictures before the game. My favorite was a picture my brother-in-law took of Ozzie Smith, my favorite player, in warm ups. When we got home, we had the picture blown up to poster size. It hung in my bedroom for years; now it’s in Joshua’s room. The Cards trailed the whole game against the Giants. In the ninth inning, with the Cards down by one and a runner on first, my hero, the Cards shortstop, stepped to the plate and drilled an opposite field, game-winning, two run homer off Scott Garrelts, the Giants closer. I went Jack Buck. Every kid should see his sports hero hit a walk-off homer. My all-time sports memory. If there was ever any doubt, that night I became a Cards fan for life.
Viva El Birdos!