I couldn’t tell you the first baseball game I actually watched. Too many years since. As good as my memory is, that’s still way to long ago. I do have a few memories of the 1979 season watching Lou Brock play and seeing the All Star game that year and a few memories of the World Series between the Pirates and Orioles. I have more memories of the 1980 season. George Hendrick, Ted Simmons, Leon Durham hitting a long home run against the Cubs, Keith Hernandez, Garry Templeton, Tony Scott getting thrown out stealing a base and my dad cursing that he hadn’t done “crap” all year, Bobby Bonds, and Bob Forsch among others. I watched a few games but always enjoyed playing more than I like watching.
As I grew up, I always knew when the season started thanks to baseball card packs appearing in stores. (I remember getting a pack of cards for a quarter!) That changed once I stopped collecting though my love for the game was strong. I still remember the Cardinal teams of the 1980′s. I remember the Willie McGee World Series game in 82, Ozzie’s home run against the Dodgers in 85, followed by Jack Clark’s two nights later. (I remember calling my friend Tim Hinkle right after that, asking him if he had watched it.) and the improbable Tom Lawless home run against the Twins in the 87 World Series. As much as I loved baseball, I still didn’t “get it.”
The nineties didn’t produce much for the Cards, though they were loaded with some good players. Ray Lankford, Brian Jordan, Bob Tewksbury, Andy Benes, Todd Zeile, Lee Smith, Mark Whiten, (I remember listening to his 4-home run game. It was a double header and Jack Buck jokingly called him a “bum” when he managed only a single in first appearance in the second game.) Jose Jimenez and his no hitter against Randy Johnson, and finally Mark McGwire. I know a lot of people still regularly bash him for PED’s but you know what, I still appreciate what he did for the game. The supplement that he used in 98 was legal. He hit 66 homers the following year without taking anything. Had he not got hurt in 2000, the Cards might have played the Yankees in the World Series.
Since 2000, most everyone who reads this knows what’s happened with my beloved Cardinals. Albert (I will always be an Albert Pujols fan. His blast against the Astros in the 05 LCS is the stuff legends are made of.), Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Waino’s big Curveball, Chris Carpenter, David Freese putting the team on his back in game six of the 2011 Series, Yadi, 2 World Championships and these young guns we now have. I have never before in all my years of following seen such a collection of arms as I see now. The future is bright for the Redbirds.
I mentioned before that I didn’t get it. By the time 2000 rolled around I still hadn’t. I loved the game and my knowledge of the game is immense. Am I bragging about that a bit? Yeah, because it’s the truth. I often argue with people about certain baseball related things and I sometimes have to put them down hard when they’re being fairly ignorant about it. Not that I know everything, because I don’t. I just know a lot. Anyway, I still didn’t fully comprehend what Opening Day and what baseball means to me. I think it finally sunk in the last few years. The excitement, the thrill of a game winning hit, the emotional agony of a hard loss. You just can’t explain it.
As I write this, Opening Day is just two days away and I’m as excited as an eight year-old on Christmas Day. Baseball gives me energy and life. I have the old desire to grab my glove and a ball and play “wall ball” as I did when I was a kid. Now if I feel like throwing I just play catch with Alan. My arm hurts after awhile but I feel good anyway. Alan. like me, loves the Cards. Like me at his age, he doesn’t get it, he just loves the game. I take what I said earlier back, maybe I did get it, maybe I didn’t understand it then. But I do now.
To all that read this, sorry if I rambled. What I began to write changed as I wrote. It evolved and became what it is.