I love baseball – I always have and always will. Maybe that’s an inherent part of being a St. Louisan. No matter what people say, this really is a baseball town and yes, I believe St. Louis fans are a little more knowledgeable about the game than fans in other cities. But that’s easily debatable and this isn’t about a debate. This is about a weekend of baseball that was quite unlike any other baseball weekend I’ve ever experienced.
It began Friday night when our family went to the Cardinals game with Chris’ parents and her brother and his family. We had a great pre-game dinner downtown and then left for Busch Stadium in plenty of time to assure that we all got our Mike Shannon bobblehead. That alone is probably worth the price of admission – I’ve been a huge fan of the Moon Man and his brilliant mis-use of the English language ever since he first paired up with Jack Buck.
I can still remember listening to a late-night Cardinals broadcast when I was a teenager. They were playing the Giants and it was late in the game. “That’s a 6-4-3 double play for any of you still scoring in the sack,” said Mr. Shannon. That’s just one of literally hundreds of Shannon-isms that I’ve heard through the years. Mike’s a Hall-of-Fame broadcaster in my book and I’m glad he got his own bobblehead night. He deserved it.
It wasn’t a great game. But it was a good game – lots of good fielding, some timely hitting and it was just fun taking in the major league atmosphere.
Next morning, Michael and I left the house at 6:10 and drove to Memphis for a baseball tournament. Michael plays on a pretty solid 18-and-under team that travels to a number of different locations for tournaments. This was a wood bat tournament which I love because aluminum bats in the hands of 18-year-olds can do major damage if line drives are struck and with Michael being a pitcher, he’s most likely to be in the line of fire.
They had a double-header. Michael didn’t even play in the first game but it was well-played by both sides and it came down to the last inning. The St. Louis Tigers pitcher ran out of gas, hitting two batters and their coach brought in a reliever who promptly gave up a bases clearing triple and they lost 8-7.
Michael took the mound in the second game and was getting rocked in the first inning. Somehow, he got out of it, only giving up two runs, followed by another in the second. They were down 3-1 and I was thinking our trip to Memphis was going to be less than desirable when all of a sudden, Michael flipped a switch. His curve ball was almost Wainwright-like. His fast ball was popping and his change-up was exactly that. They ended up winning the game 9-3 with Michael pitching a complete game and having about four or five Ks.
His teammates were telling him to “throw the Blood ball” – which is their name for his curve ball. The mere fact that they even call it that is awesome.
So we made it back to our hotel, showered and then headed out for another baseball game – this time it was the Memphis Redbirds.
Memphis has a gorgeous stadium. It’s right in the heart of their downtown, basically across the street from the Peabody Hotel. They had a nice crowd on hand but seats were available, so we ended up sitting right behind home plate about 15 rows back.
Minor leaguers are guys who are right there on the cusp. Several of the Redbirds have played for the Cardinals and got sent back down. It’s got to be a nerve-wracking experience – knowing you’re so close – to playing in the Bigs, to getting big-time money and endorsement deals.
So few players make it. It’s when you see the 32-year-old guys coming to the plate, knowing that their time is probably already past-tense and you feel sorry for them – but not really – they’re playing baseball. And baseball is a great game to be able to play.
Sunday was another game for Michael which they won, coming back from being down five in the fourth inning and winning it 12-6. Michael was the DH and was 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored. Another game was to start at 3:30 – but I had several work obligations that I needed to tend to last night so we hit the road – and of course, tuned in to the Cardinals game which we listened to from about the third inning on. Sweep!
Today, the Cardinals have an off day. I’m taking one, too – not from work, but from baseball.
Play shall resume tomorrow – for the Cardinals, for Michael and for Catherine – who’s in a summer softball league and is also a pitcher.