I just never really understood baseball, and as a kid I had trouble even hitting a ball off a tee. My wife laughs that I don’t care much about it until the All-Star break, and even then pretty much tune back out until late September.
Yet once October rolls around, I’m all in. It’s second nature.
Growing up in St. Louis, there was something about the game that pervaded just about every aspect of life. We call ourselves Cardinal Nation and can recite a litany of stats and accomplishments of Cardinal greats from years past. We still haven’t forgiven Don Denkinger’s horrid call at first back in 1985 (it cost us the series to the Royals), and we are quick to explain why ‘The Wizard’ is the greatest shortstop to ever play the game. Those like me, who now live elsewhere, still naturally gravitate to fellow St. Louis expats who also wear Cardinal Red on a regular basis, and we can’t help but to love the Cardinals, even when we hate the Cardinals.
It’s just who we are.
In front of the St. Louis Art Museum stands a statue of Louis IX, King of France, for whom the city is named. But the true king in this town will always be Stan The Man.
Stan’s statue is better known, and stands on the hallowed ground in front of Busch Stadium.
Simply put, St. Louis is a baseball town, and that is never more evident than in October. This town expects its team to be playoff contenders, and the road to the pennant more often than not runs beneath the shadow of the Arch.
But this is also a town with an unnecessary inferiority complex. In spite of winning more pennants than any team in the National League, we still somehow feel like the perpetual underdog, and possess an innate desire to remind folks why we are still important.
We are quick to tell you that we were the first American city to host the Summer Olympics (in 1904), that we were once the 4th largest city in the nation (also in 1904), and that the plane that made the first solo flight across the Atlantic, The Spirit of St. Louis, was named for our town (1927).
We invented the hot dog and the ice cream cone at the 1904 World’s Fair (it was a good year for us). We order our ravioli toasted, we grill pork steaks, we eat flat pizza sliced in squares, and no one anywhere else seems to get that.
We are quick to claim famous native sons (Jon Hamm, Chuck Berry, Nelly, etc.), and take great pride in our top-ranked free-to-the-public zoo. The list goes on and on. Basically, we want to be sure you didn’t forget we are still around and aren’t thinking of us as just another “flyover” city.
As those glories fade farther and farther into the past, and national headlines from our corner of the world tend to be less than flattering, our strongest and most consistent ambassadors remain the Cardinals. They represent the best of all we have been, all we are and all we strive to be.
And so with another season behind us, we rest in assurance that we made it to yet another October as expected, and naturally assume we will be contending next October. Until then, some of us will cheer on our cross-state friends in Kansas City, but for others, the sting of 1985 is still too poignant to forgive.