Touch 'Em All: Hard to top the spirit of St. Louis

Going nuts in the sixth: A squirrel ran loose while the Cards tried to mount a rally. It scampered off without being tasered.
Going nuts in the sixth: A squirrel ran loose while the Cards tried to mount a rally. It scampered off without being tasered. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 05, 2011

ST. LOUIS - There's a pleasant, Goldilocks middle-ness about this river city. It's not too small or too big. It's not too north or too south, too east or too west.

The residents here are open and friendly, sunny as the weather was for Game 3 of the National League division series Tuesday afternoon. St. Louis' symbol might be an arch, but it's people certainly aren't.

When the Phillies were introduced pregame, they all received polite applause. Not a single one of the ". . . sucks" or ". . . who?" that followed the Cardinals' intros at Citizens Bank Park.

They love their Cardinals here. And that's what it is, love. Philadelphia's fans might have more passion, but no more love than St. Louisans.

And why not? St. Louis has nearly as much baseball history as New York, despite the latter's unfair advantage - two teams now, three for nearly six decades, a huge financial edge. And since the St. Louis Browns were a virtual nonentity before moving to Baltimore, the Cardinals have done it all alone.

A commemorative brick walkway winds around Busch Stadium. Clusters of names and events mark each baseball season. It's an impressive stroll.

World Series wins in the '20s, '30s, '40s, '60s, '80s, and already in this new millennium. Triple Crown winners. Multiple MVPs. Classic characters such as Dizzy Dean and Pepper Martin. Hall of Famers with Hall of Fame nicknames such as "The Man" and "The Wizard." Legends such as Bob Gibson and Rogers Hornsby.

The Phillies have had plenty of recent glory. But in terms of overall baseball history, they seem like an expansion team next to all the memorable lore accumulated here along the Mississippi.

The Game 7 relief stint by Grover Cleveland Alexander - a former Phil - in the '26 World Series. Joe Medwick being escorted off the field at Detroit to prevent a riot at the '34 Series. Gibson's record strikeout game in '68. Enos Slaughter's daring dash in '46. Mark McGwire's 62d in '98.

A lot of people may snicker at St. Louis, with its Bowling Hall of Fame, its restaurateurs' penchant for red beef, and its out-of-fashion earnestness.

But as a baseball city, it's got cred.

Game 3 limerick

It's great to be back in St. Looie,

Though its downtown induces ennui.

It's so dead at night,

You can't pick a fight,

And in daylight it's bland as chop suey.

 

Sculpture haven

Speaking of monuments to the Cardinals' past, there's as much statuary around Busch Stadium as the Louvre.

There's a cluster of a dozen or so small statues of Dean, Ozzie Smith, and others. Elsewhere, there are bronzed likenesses of Jack Buck and Gibson. An August Busch bust welcomes visitors at one entrance. And, at the main entrance, atop a lofty pedestal, stands a huge one of Stan Musial, the "Happy Warrior," the Pennsylvania native who is 90.

Sort of squirrely

With Ryan Theriot at bat in the bottom of the sixth, the game was delayed when a squirrel - not Tony La Russa - ran onto the field.

Some thought it might be an omen, à la the black cat that ran onto the field during a Cubs-Mets game at Shea Stadium in 1969 and, for many a cursed Cubs fan, triggered Chicago's collapse.

No such karma this time.

After the squirrel scampered beneath a left-field tarp, Theriot singled, and Jon Jay, eager to return to the Federalist papers this offseason, then walked. But pitcher Jaime Garcia struck out to send the lost squirrel back to obscurity.

Unless someone can link him to Ben Francisco's game-breaking home run.

Red isn't dead?

Red Schoendienst was at the Cardinals workout Monday, which came as a surprise to those of us who assumed Schoendienst was either (A) too infirm to be anywhere, (B) as dead as Shane Victorino's arm, or (C) a Busch Stadium statue.

I tried to do the math. The first World Series I recall was as an 8-year-old in 1957. Schoendienst was the Milwaukee Braves' grizzled veteran in that one. That was 54 Octobers ago. I'll be 62 Friday. By my reckoning that makes Schoendienst 124.

Actually, he's 88, two years younger than Musial.

Near beer

It took some guts for St. Louis to build its ballpark, not to mention its football stadium and hockey arena, within a few blocks of the world headquarters of the world's largest brewery. Could you imagine a similar juxtaposition of alcohol and sports in, say, Philadelphia? One loss like the Eagles suffered Sunday and the place would be stormed Bastille-style.

Casting call

If they ever make a movie about this division series, they might want to consider the following casting suggestions:

Albert Pujols - The Rock.

Chase Utley - Marcel Marceau.

Tony La Russa - Paul Sorvino.

Shane Victorino - Heckyl or Jeckyl.

Charlie Manuel - Larry the Cable Guy.

Vance Worley - Meat Loaf.

Too talkative Tony

La Russa should have let one of his apostles do the Game 2 in-game TV interview. The Cardinals manager/genius/god was fined an undisclosed amount by MLB Tuesday for criticizing home-plate umpire Jerry Meals' extremely criticizable strike zone on TBS's telecast. When asked if he needed to "get anything off his chest" during Tuesday's Game 3 telecast, La Russa said: "My jaws are wired shut."


Touch

5 THINGS OVERHEARD BEFORE GAME 3

1. Cardinals fan to friend: "Hey, let's go down there. They're throwing balls into the crowd."

"No, they're just throwing them to kids."

"I'll kick their [butts]."

2. Fan to buddy who had been on the phone: "Where's he sitting at?"

"I have no idea. Section 316."

3. Female fan to friend: "This GPS watch I got for my birthday is awesome."

"Cool. We can get drunk and still find our way home."

4. Fan standing beneath billboard that updated the Dow Jones average: "Man, I hope the Phillies go down that easy."

5. Older woman to companion. "Wow, look at that grass. It almost seems real."

5 THINGS NOT OVERHEARD BEFORE GAME 3

1 "E-A-G-L-E-S . . . Eagles!"

2. "Hey, President Obama's in town. I may leave here after the fourth inning and go see him."

3. "That Bowling Hall of Fame across the street puts Cooperstown to shame."

4. "Hate this weather."

5. "Fredbird. Now there's a great mascot."


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068, ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com, or @philafitz on Twitter.

 

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