Julie had just walked into the dry cleaning store to pick up my suit and I was wasting time on the sidewalk when a guy walked out of the store next to me and said, “Nice shirt.” At that moment, mostly because I was preoccupied with g-mail, I had to stop and think for a moment what he was talking about. As I was figuring it out he said as he walked away, “Not too many of us up here.”(“Up here” being Chicago Cubs country and the St. Louis Cardinals are to Cubs fans what the cross is to Dracula) So, he liked my Cardinals jersey. So do I. Yelling after him I said, “I’ve been a Cardinal fan since I was ten years old.” He continued walking but turned back and said, “I became a fan because of the 1989 team.” I then began telling him this story as he walked toward me; seemingly interested.
Back in 1967 we had just relocated to Missouri from Los Angeles, California and it was only a month into the school year. One day the teacher stopped her normal teaching, left the room, and shortly returned rolling a 19” Magnavox television to the front of the class. After stringing a few extension cords together, she plugged it in and when she turned it on, there in the middle of class, we were watching the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox. I could hardly believe it; a teacher who loved baseball as much as I did. I got to see Bob Gibson pitching to Carl Yastrzemski. Wow!
Because we had just arrived in Missouri, I wasn’t yet a Cardinal fan. This would be my first encounter with the “Redbirds”, but it was almost love at first sight. There was one problem; I still loved the Los Angeles Dodgers, having been raised on Koufax, Drysdale, and Maury Wills. Not only that, the Dodgers had the best radio announcer in the game, Vin Scully, and Dad would listen to him on his transistor radio every weekend during the summer. While Dad listened, we kids would play; but eventually I too began listening at about the same time I began playing baseball. Vin Scully on a lazy summer afternoon; almost a part of nature. This would be a hard transition. I felt much loyalty to the Dodgers, but they were seventeen hundred miles away. How would they ever find out that I was cheating on them?
After watching the Cardinals during this World Series, one of their many world championships, I would become a lifelong fan. In future seasons I would experience divided loyalties when the Dodgers and Cardinals went head to head in the playoffs, but even then, my new love would take precedence over my old flame. Whenever the Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs, I was free to root for the Dodgers, and I did. In the 1988 World Series, when Kirk Gibson hit his most famous of home runs, I got to hear my old friend Vin Scully, as Gibson limped around the bases, say this, “High fly ball into right field, she i-i-i-s…gone!” and a minute later, “In a year that has been so improbable…the impossible has happened!” I was free to relish the moment as my second favorite team went on to win one of their many championships.
As I finished the story, my new-found friend and fellow Cardinal’s fan said, “My team was the ’89 team” and I jumped in with, “Yeah, Ozzie and Willie and Vince Coleman,” and he added, “and Tommy Herr.” It was good to reminisce with a fellow traveler. How could anyone be a Cubs fan? Julie came out of the shop and asked me why the big smile was on my face. So I replied, “That guy down there said he liked my shirt. Did you know that back in 1967 the teacher brought a television set into class…”