Grey Day in St. Louis

  It was a grey day today for sports fans in St. Louis.

The Rams lost a game they should have won. The Cardinals lost their last game of the year played at Busch and now have to win two in a row in Beantown and that seems about as likely as the Rams beating the Seahawks did last night. The Tigers are re-grouping in Columbia, a homecoming weekend spoiled by a kick that went off the goalpost. The Blues won another game, teasing us once again with a fast start – but Lord Stanley is so far in the future and the NHL playoffs invite so many teams to the dance that it’s hard to give them any more attention than a page-3 story in the Post-Dispatch.

It was a weekend full of promise. Perfect fall weather, ideal for getting out and enjoying the turning of the leaves before they all end up on our respective front lawns.

Then things went south. Driving in to work today was a bleak ride, grey skies and rain in the forecast and nothing but gloom from the local sports talk radio chatter. This weekend, we fall back, re-setting the clocks so that darkness envelops us on the way home.

But all is not as grey as it seems.

We are in the World Series. Last time we played Boston, we couldn’t say that after the fourth game. We’ve got Michael Wacha on the mound tomorrow and the hope that the Cardinals bats will awaken from their weekend slumber.

The Rams aren’t totally without hope. I was at the game last night and thoroughly enjoyed the defensive performance put on by the team. The defense gave it everything they had and for the most part, so did the offense. I had very little hope once they got down inside the 10-yard line at the end of the game that they would somehow manage to score a touchdown. When Greg the Leg missed his fourth field goal of the night, the writing was on the wall. Had he made it, I was confident the Rams would win. Once he missed, I fully expected them to lose in a goal line stand with an inept final play of the game that can only leave you shaking your head.

It’s okay. Jeff Fisher is a career below .500 coach. We’re going to win this Sunday to put the Rams one game below .500. That’s about right where they belong and one of these days, Stan is going to make a decision to either pull up stakes and take his toy elsewhere or he’ll commit to St. Louis and maybe even build his own version of Cowboys Stadium – but don’t hold your breath.

Today was a good day for getting back to work.

St. Louis probably needed a day off, a chance to re-focus and get back to business.

We’ve had a great recent run of sports. But sports are merely a diversion – though they sure do a  pretty good job of being all-consuming, wrapping you up and tieing your stomach in knots only to hope for the exhilaration that comes with a game-winning home run (obstruction calls simply aren’t very exhilarating) kind of diversion.

I enjoyed the little respite and will be happy to go to sleep tonight without replaying the game I just saw in my head.

Wacha-mania resumes tomorrow night.


(BTW – the painting shown is one of my favorite ones I’ve ever done and reminds me that it’s time to pick up the brush again and see what might come out on canvas once I put my mind to it.)


World Serious money rolling in

While the Rams are wondering if their upcoming game might be the first ever blackout in the history of Monday Night Football, the rest of the St. Louis region is all abuzz about the World Series-bound Cardinals.

And for good reason. Each home game is expected to add more than $5 million to our St. Louis economy. If you look at the many ways we’re somehow spending time – and money – on the Cardinals, the impact may be far greater than that.

Of course there are the booked downtown hotel rooms, extending out into the county and spilling across the river onto the Illinois side. There’s all the downtown restaurants and bars, eager to cater to Cardinals appetites. Sports bars across the region will be packed with Bird-watchers and many a beer will be consumed. A-B InBev should notice a bump in sales – at bars, grocery stores and just about anywhere beverages are sold.

Cardinals employees have their season extended – and their paychecks. Same for concession stand employees, souvenir sellers, waiters and waitresses – they’ll all see more dollars coming their way thanks to the Cardinals. (Just imagine the added economic boost if the BallPark Village was open for business.)

But it goes well beyond that.

KTVI is thrilled with the added ratings points they’ll be generating, able to sell advertising air time at the end of October that will pull in way more dollars than if this were a Pittsburgh-Detroit match up. The mighty ‘MOX will get an added boost in ratings, as will the other sports talk radio stations and that spillover effect extends beyond the games – there’s more pre-game, post-game and day-after the game air time to sell – more people tuning in to talk radio to hear about Craig batting cleanup or if Shelby will get a start.

The Post-Dispatch is literally drooling at the prospect of more ad space to sell and people will actually buy the paper, even if it only is to read the Sports page. The scribes will have plenty to say and you’ll see countless ads wishing the Cardinals good luck in the Series – ads that were probably created locally – (that just means the creatives work later into the night, trying to come up with some clever way of saying, “Good luck, Cardinals”).

Companies that make banners are seeing a boost as businesses across St. Louis are wishing the Redbirds the best of luck while silk screen printers are running the presses as we speak, printing off World Series gear and probably coming up with some angle that promotes revenge on Beantown for that four-game sweep they inflicted on us last time these two teams met.

We’ll even see a run on Cardinals-related Halloween costumes – if there is a Game 7, it will be on Halloween night – possibly causing a run on Wacha-Wacha costumes or maybe we’ll see a few zombified, beard-wearing Red Sox imitators.

St. Louis will be getting national media attention. They’ll be showing our downtown skyline all lit up at night, giving the impression it’s like this all the time. (I wish it was.)

It’s all good for the St. Louis economy. Though we’ll all be decked out in Cardinals red, this region will be reveling in the color green.

So thanks, Cardinals.

And good luck on Monday night, Rams.

You’re going to need it.

My plea to Mike Matheny

Hi, Mike.

Tomorrow is Game Six of the NLCS and I congratulate you and all the Cardinals for getting there. It’s been a great season and you’re in a position right now that only one other team in Major League baseball is in – win Game 6 and you head to the World Series.

It’s a big responsibility and as a manager you’ve got to do what you believe is right.

I’m sure that’s what you’ve done all along. All the right moves you made the night before last turned into all the wrong moves last night.

When you brought Pete Kozma into Game Four, he had an immediate impact on the game. His defense may have saved the night. Using Shane Robinson as a pinch hitter was pure genius – at least after he hit his home run.

Then there was last night – where you left Joe Kelly in for too long. Where you refused to use Shelby Miller and still, no one quite understands why. Where you brought in Edward Mujica – I thought it was actually an okay move for him to finish the sixth. He got an out. That was big. But you didn’t stop there. You had to send him out for another inning. Why, I, and the rest of Cardinals nation, can’t quite fathom. But you’re the manager. Maybe you thought the game was already lost and that there was no way the bats could rally for two more runs.

I don’t get that part.

I wasn’t too sure why Mr. Axford took the mound, either. I was completely bummed when he gave up the fourth home run of the day to the Dodgers – a team that hadn’t hit a single homer until yesterday.

But the Cardinals rallied. We had the tying runs on base, the winning run at the plate – only it wasn’t Shane Robinson with a chance to recreate his magic. It was Adron Chambers. I love his speed and I know he’s had some big hits this year. But none in the past 30 days. Two hits in his last twenty at bats doesn’t exactly say, “Yeah, he’s the guy you want at the plate.” But with our bench, it seems all your options are less than ideal. Shane at least would have made some semblance of sense.

The game wasn’t really lost in the 9th. It was lost when Joe Kelly gave up that fourth run when he probably shouldn’t have even been in to give up the third one. Mujica was insult to injury. Axford was damage beyond repair.

But that was Game 5. And we’re not here to talk about the past.

It’s time for Game 6. You may not have a lot to say in the outcome of this game. After all, you won’t be at the plate, trying to somehow get on base against Clayton Kershaw. But you are the one who pulls the strings.

Just remember, this isn’t a Spring Training game. The moves you make or don’t make will be analyzed, scrutinized and either belittled or praised.

You are a good manager. You are intense but you’re also balanced. You live the Cardinal way.

My plea to you: make us proud.

1982 – My favorite Cardinals year

On the eve of the Redbirds Game 5 showdown against the Pirates, I thought I’d take a shaky walk down memory lane and relive my favorite Cardinals year – 1982.

I’m a lifelong Cardinals fan. I remember listening to the Cardinals on a transistor radio with my grandpa, hearing Jack Buck and Harry Caray.  I remember listening to a Cardinals game against the Braves that went 17 innings and my dad and I heard the whole game, start to finish while driving down to Florida. I’ve heard and loved the stunning wit and wisdom of Mike Shannon since he began broadcasting. I’ve been to World Series or playoff games in ’67, ’68, ’82, ’85, ’87, ’04, ’06 and game seven of ’11. But nothing compares to 1982.

That was my favorite Cardinals year.

That was the year that Kenrick Advertising did the Cardinals advertising. (We actually did their advertising for two years). I was the writer on the account, Jeff Miller was the Creative Director. Jeff came up with the overall line and it made perfect sense to me.

For a few years, Jack Buck would wrap up Cardinals victories by proclaiming, “And that’s a winner.” Jeff’s thought was simple – take that line and blend it with a call to action to the fans.

We came up with some TV commercials, one that involved Leonard Slatkin – the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra conductor and the symphony’s lead violinist – or maybe he was a cello player, I don’t remember. The commercial opened on Leonard about to begin conducting, he looks over at his lead violinist who smiles and nods as he reaches into his top pocket and pulls out two Cardinals tickets. Leonard sees that and begins conducting, which cued the symphony music while the video featured a montage of great Cardinals plays, wrapping up with Leonard and the violinist in their seats cheering on a big hit as Jack Buck delivered his line, “Be a part of a winning combination – you and the Cardinals – that’s a winner!”

I got to record Jack delivering that line and I’ll always remember it. When Jack entered the halls of Technisonic Studios, the whole place was buzzing. I’m pretty sure that Jim Sinclair was the audio engineer during the session. Jeff was in a meeting back in the office so I was on my own as director of the session. Jack came in, told some jokes then stepped into the announcer booth and delivered his line.  As the director of the session, I had to provide him some direction.

Jack told me, “Kid, I only talk one way and if you don’t like it, you can get someone else.”

“Uh, actually, that line was perfect, Mr. Buck.”

But he did it again anyway. Several more times in fact until we had the perfect read that wrapped up the TV commercials and the radio spots that I went on to write – two of them were Flair winners – the predecessor of the ADDYs and they were written from the heart. They were both slice-of-life radio – one was about a grandpa and his grandson talking about Willie McGee (wonder where I got that idea). The other was about heading off to see the Wizard.

I got to meet Willie and Ozzie that year, I sat in the Cardinals dugout before a game began, put on Fredbird’s head during one of the TV shoots and enjoyed several Cardinals games courtesy of Kenrick’s media ties.

When the Cardinals went to the playoffs, I went to one of the games and when they made it to the World Series against the Brewers, I went to two of the games including the not-so-memobrable Game 6 where the Cardinals won by the score of 13-1 – but there were two mammoth, beer-filled rain delays during the game that extended well into the night. We stayed until the last out because that’s what you do for a Series game, win or lose.

When they went on to win Game 7 and Jack Buck delivered his memorable line of, “And that’s a winner, a World Series winner” my year was made.

That year was magical. I hope this one is, too.

Go Cardinals!