Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

I Never Got to See Stan

The more I learned about the Cardinals as I was growing up, the more I realized that there were 3 players that I never really got to see play, but desperately wanted to:

  1. Bob Gibson was first in my mind. I read the book From Ghetto to Glory for a book report in junior high, and I was hooked on this almost mythological man that pitched on a broken leg and struck out 18 in a World Series game and would knock his grandmother on her ear if she dug in too much on him in the batter’s box. I asked my dad about watching Gibby pitch and if he really was that mean and if he had ever seen a more awesome pitcher.
  2. Ozzie Smith was second. I really started focusing in on players and teams around the time Ozzie retired. I saw a few of his last games on TV, and I know I was at the stadium a handful of times when he was still diving across the turf and back-flipping on to the field, but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember him. Considering the shortstops the Cardinals have gone through in the last few years, even though there have been a few dazzling plays, I know it doesn’t compare.
  3. I never saw Stan Musial. Like most of America, it took me awhile to really see how great “the Man” was during his career. I feel like I really didn’t figure it out until I was in college. I had heard of Stan, but I didn’t understand why he was so great.

Stan2

A perfect knight. The words make you think regal and showy and other such adjectives. Stan was none of those things. He was humble, happy, loyal, a gentleman to the core, and the nicest man you ever got to meet.

I never got to see Stan. He retired long before my parents even met. I never lived in St. Louis to just see him out and about. I never went to his restaurant and had a chance siting of him wandering around glad-handing the customers. I never got to see him drive around the warning track in a golf cart. I didn’t get to be at the stadium to Stand for Stan. I never went to Opening Day and saw him shake Tony’s hand. I never heard him play his harmonica. I wasn’t at the All-Star game in St. Louis when he got his triumphal entry that FOX didn’t even feel the need to really show on live television, and I wanted to throw things at the TV because of it.

I guess I thought I would someday. I live just 3 hours from the stadium now. I’m making plans to go to Opening Day.

I guess I thought there was still time.

I found out about Stan’s passing when I was on vacation this past weekend. In the midst of our relaxing weekend away, my husband and I sat in silence for a little while when we heard the news. I texted my parents, who hadn’t heard the news. We didn’t really have the words to describe what we were thinking. We debated on detouring through St. Louis on our way home from our trip, but it didn’t happen. We both felt drawn to the stadium, like it was calling us to come pay our respects.

I never got to see Stan, but I will never forget him.

Opening Weekend Freebees

Nothing is better than Opening Day at Busch Stadium. I’ve never been, and I know this. It’s actually hard saying what I would give to be able to go to an Opening Day… but since you’re reading this a mere hour or two before first pitch, I’m obviously not there yet! Maybe next year.

Your goal today is simple:

  1. Watch the Cardinals beat down the Cubs.
  2. Enjoy every glimpse of every red-coated Hall of Famer you can see.
  3. Tweet us (@DiamondDiaries) or post in the comments and tell us what your favorite part of Opening Day is. Why? Because we’ve got some freebees to give away! The kind people at A+E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions have provided us with Blu-Ray/DVD copies of last year’s game 6 magic to give away to all of you!

It’s that simple. Deadline for our little contest is Sunday afternoon, 1:15 PM CST, otherwise known as first pitch of the final game of this Cards/Cubs series. We will announce the winners on Monday morning.

Excited to see all of your responses. Enjoy the game!

A Bromance We Can Get Behind

In past years it was easy to accuse the Cardinals of being almost… bland. Elder statesmen of the team like Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter brought drive, passion, and supreme athletic ability to a strong team.

What they didn’t bring? Fun!

It sounds stupid, but the more you think about it, the more you realize that this clubhouse was not one that seemed like a barrel full of laughs. Older teams like the 2006 World Series winners brought winning, although there wasn’t much in the way of personality there. Outside of the Jim Edmonds nightly game ball and Scott Rolen’s drama with manager Tony LaRussa, I can’t say I recall much else that involved the players in the clubhouse.

Over the last couple of years, the combination of Yadier Molina and Pujols created a bromance that Matt Sebek of Joe Sports Fan captured with this:

However, having these two being so close hasn’t translated to a whole clubhouse. Stories surfaced about how Albert’s entourage would do things like go to NBA games and barely notice the peons of the team that also went to the game and wanted to meet Kobe (oh crap, I’m talking about Brendan Ryan again… did you hear he’s engaged?). It wasn’t team things – it was entourage things. Maybe there was something to the whole Colby Rasmus thinking the team was rough on him thing. If it was a fractured clubhouse……..

Wait, was I about to stick up for Colby’s whining? Moving on…

Now that Albert has split for the sunny beaches of California, a new bromance has emerged.

You know who I’m talking about: Matt Holliday and David Freese. They’re everywhere, from a Skype interview on Intentional Talk to their latest endeavor with the Cardinals as the ambassadors for the new “Homers for Health” initiative where fans are encouraged to donate money in quarter increments to help out a local children’s hospital in St. Louis. Their work together has shown up on Twitter, although not in the way you would think…

Offseason squash workouts became Twitter fodder for most of us bored-tired-of-football-when-does-spring-training-start-again?! baseball fans, seeing pictures like this and watching all of the interaction between the Cardinal players on Twitter has brought about a new feel with this team.

They laugh. They joke. They include more than Freese – it’s Lance Berkman’s candid interviews and Jon Jay’s Nike collection and Jason Motte’s beard eating small children.

Wait, that’s wrong too.

What I’m saying is that this is a new era for the Cardinals. One that we can definitely get behind.

Is it Opening Day yet?

When Does the Season Start For YOU?

As part of my Numbers Nerd ways, I am constantly counting down something. Days until Christmas. Hours until the weekend. Weeks until the end of the school year (yes, teachers count those too). But once the clock turns midnight, the champagne has been toasted, and the confetti has been cleaned, chances are there is one countdown that I think about more than others.

When is the first day of the season? What is that day exactly?

For me, we just passed that milestone. Saturday pitchers and catchers all arrived at Jupiter, refreshed from a busy offseason and ready for baseball again. As soon as I start hearing whispers of player X has arrived at camp in the best shape of his life, I know that real live baseball news is right around the corner.

The United Cardinal Bloggers are at it again with their roundtable discussions. My question to them this time around was simple: When does the season ‘begin’? Here’s what they had to say…

Dathan Brooks: Cards Tied For First

For me, it never ends.  It just has various cycles.  I’ve often said that the offseason is exciting for me, just as is the regular season, only in different ways.  But, for me I don’t really “feel” like the season has begun until I’ve seen a game at Busch for the first time that season.  Sometimes that’s Opening Day, sometimes a little later, but that’s my short answer.

Daniel Solzman: Redbirds Fun

Opening Day.  I don’t have FSN Midwest and MLB TV costs me an arm and a leg.  It certainly does not help that the cable company and MLB have yet to come to any kind of an agreement to air MLB Network on TV.
If I want to watch baseball on TV, I am limited to ESPN, WGN, FSN Ohio, and TBS.  It’s sad.  Plus, being a college basketball fan, it works out perfectly.   Opening day, at least this season, is two days after the championship game.
Christine Coleman: Aaron Miles’ Fastball
Officially, Opening Day. Spring training is great, but it’s not real for me until the games matter.
Diane Schultz: You know her…
Opening Day is the first day the season officially begins for me. Spring training for me is like Advent (the countdown to Christmas) and Opening Day is like Christmas Day.
Ray DeRousse: Stl Cardinal Baseball

I guess when anyone does what we all do – namely, cover the team – the seasons seem to blend from one phase to the next.

Spring training is wonderful, a welcome ramping up of festivities and a fresh renewal, but nothing beats opening day for sheer excitement and hope. That’s where it really starts for me.

Daniel Shoptaw: C70 at the Bat

I’m with Ray on this one.  When I see the pictures on the Post-Dispatch website, when that bit of warmth pervades the winter (such as it has been this year), when I see baseballs being tossed back and forth, that’s when the season starts for me.  It means less fumbling for topics on the blog, which helps, but there’s news constantly then.  Opening Day is great and obviously that has a lot of import, but baseball is back for me when there’s a couple of guys in Cardinal uniforms playing catch.

Tyler Giles: Rally Birds

The season begins with the first exhibition game of the Spring… but the season OFFICIALLY begins with the first Major League baseball game played where the result stays in the W/L column for the next 6 months.  I’m feverishly excited when Spring exhibition play begins, but it’s like that fever breaks as soon as real baseball is being playing across the United States and I can just bathe in the excitement of baseball like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his vault of gold coins.  God, I cannot wait for that moment…

Rodney Knuppel: Saint Louis Sports

For me, opening day is that time.  Spring Training is nice and all, but the first real game is when they blood really gets flowing.

Matt Whitener: St. Louis Sports 360

Like a few others have said already, it never reallys ends for me. The offseason is just as active of a time for me in following the game, and perhaps even more so sometimes, just due to the mass amount of information that flies around during the Hot Stove season. Spring Training is nice because of the buzz of the team getting back together, but the games don’t really mean much to me. Moreso, the news & player evaluations/status that comes from it is what I check for. It’s kind of like an extension of the winter mostly. Opening Day I really enjoy overall, because it’s back to everybody having a shot again, and how can you not love that. But overall, it never feels like the season ends to me, just moves in different shifts.

Aaron Hooks: Cards Diaspora

I don’t care about the Cardinals teams in Memphis or Springfield or anywhere else for that matter. I hope that a few of the guys playing on those teams make it to the St. Louis Cardinals and kick ass, but the teams I could care less about.

In the same light, all the hot stove, Winter Warm-Ups, and Spring Trainings are nice touchstones, but they don’t mean  squat until the games count. At least for me.

Opening Day will always be the perfect St. Louis day.

Mark Tomasik: Retro Simba

The first spring training game makes me feel that baseball is back. Seeing the batting order in the boxscore, checking on which prospects get used late in games, feeling the old familiar pit in the stomach, even though an exhibition loss doesn’t count, and experiencing that wonderful emotional ride when the Cardinals play well and seem to have all the potential in the world.

Bill Ivie: i70 Baseball

The season never ends for me.  Sure, I miss live games or consistent news, but with today’s day and age of multimedia access, constant chatter via social media, winter leagues, and much more, the game just never stops for me.  There is not a day of the year that I don’t find a way to have a baseball related discussion.  To me, this game is a year-round event.

Mary Clausen: MLB Voice

The first day of baseball for me is “pitchers & catchers report” day.  It all just falls in right after that. I love every single bit of it!

JE Powell: Stl Fear the Red

First day that pitchers and catchers report starts the “regular” season for me. In baseball there is the “Regular Season” which starts with pitchers anc catchers reporting and ends when the Cardinals season officially ends (whether it’s the last day of the actual regular seaon or the final playoff game) and then there is the “Off Season” which still has quite a bit going on most of the time. So, the answer to the questions is both Pitchers and Catchers Reporting and It Never Ends. Not a very good answer, to be sure, but it’s the only one I’ve got.

Christopher Carelli: Redbird Rants

I’m of the mindset that baseball is going on around the clock. I never stop thinking about the game and there are endless discussions about it daily. Baseball has four seasons which blend into one another; spring training, regular season, post season and hot stove season. Can’t get enough!

Chris Reed: Bird Brained

In the past, it was always the day pitchers and catchers reported to  Spring Training. But I would also get a return of that “New Season”  feeling when I’d hear the first radio broadcast from Florida, then see  the first telecast, etc. And that hasn’t really changed since I was a  kid. Over the last two years though, thanks to I-70 Baseball, I’ve  been able to cover the Winter Warm Up as a reporter and that has  become the true start of the new season for me. It’s the first  official Cardinal baseball event after the calendar flips to the new  year. It’s the first time since the end of the previous season that  most of the team is all in one place. And throughout the day, many of the guys talk about when they’re heading down to Jupiter. The St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm Up is my first real “baseball is back” experience of the new season.

Nick: Pitchers Hit Eighth

Clydesdales and red sportcoats.

I just love Opening Day at Busch.

Now you know their thoughts. What are yours? When does the season start for you?

The Top 5 Iconic Moments in Cardinal History

Sometimes the fearless leader of the UCB Daniel Shoptaw puts us on the spot with the monthly projects. January’s project is the top five moments in Cardinal history.

Five? I only get five? I don’t know how Bob Netherton managed to narrow it down, but after reading his I was spurned towards figuring out mine (So… thanks Bob!).

If you are digging back to the very beginning of the Cardinals, the pre-1900’s would be a starting point, but those moments were not really ‘iconic.’ Let’s see… where to start…

5. Bob Gibson’s 1968 season

Have you ever known a player to completely change the way the game was played singlehandedly? No, you think. That doesn’t happen. One player cannot change an entire sport. Oh yes it can…

Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
32 STL NL 22 9 .710 1.12 34 34 0 28 13 0 304.2 198 49 38 11 62 6 268 7 0 4 1161 258 0.853 5.8 0.3 1.8 7.9 4.32 AS,CYA-1,MVP-1,GG
17 Seasons 251 174 .591 2.91 528 482 21 255 56 6 3884.1 3279 1420 1258 257 1336 118 3117 102 13 108 16068 128 1.188 7.6 0.6 3.1 7.2 2.33
162 Game Avg. 17 12 .591 2.91 36 32 1 17 4 0 262 221 96 85 17 90 8 210 7 1 7 1082 128 1.188 7.6 0.6 3.1 7.2 2.33
Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB Awards
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2012.

Yes, you are reading that correctly. Bob Gibson’s 1968 season was other-worldly. A 1.12 ERA, 13 complete game shutouts, giving up 38 earned runs over 304 innings… who does this?

No one, not since Bob Gibson. You see, 1968 became somewhat of a “year of the pitcher” in Major League Baseball. Run-scoring was down, and since most fans come to see at least a little bit of action at a baseball game, the powers that be determined that this was a terrible thing. The result? The actual pitchers’ mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 inches. It was a literal leveling of the playing field, and all Gibson got to show for his season was an All-Star selection, Gold Glove, Cy Young, MVP award, and a National League pennant.

Oh, that’s all.

4. October 27, 2011 – “They just won’t go away.”

Despite the recentness of this moment, it is crazy to think that game 6 of this past year’s World Series might not make this list. On the whole I feel like I am a pretty lucky baseball fan. I’ve seen my team play in 3 World Series (winning twice) and countless playoff games in my 25 years on this earth. On the flip side, my grandpa turned 80 years old last year and is still waiting for his beloved Cubs to win it all.

The 2011 postseason had its share of thrills, spills and chills, but the Cardinals found themselves against the wall, finding themselves down to their final strike not once, but twice, and they still came out on top. David Freese became a household name with his game-tying triple, then followed it up with his walk-off winner. Joe Buck gave us all goosebumps with his call of the home run, channeling his dad with a “We will see you tomorrow night!”

The team wouldn’t quit. They pushed through and came out on top. Also, to further my point that I am a very lucky baseball fan? October 27 is my birthday. ;)

3. The teams that would not die. 

The 2011 team was not the only one that was left for dead. 1964 was a wild pennant run in and of itself (and if you want a more detailed look, check out Bob Netherton’s posts on the subject). Ten games back? Nine games back? No matter, somehow these two Cardinal teams rose from the ashes and claimed a place in history.

Now, did it take a hard fall from the teams that were ahead of them in order for the birds on the bat to make it to the playoffs? You betcha. The 1964 Phillies are still remembered for that epic collapse. Will the 2011 Braves be remembered in the same way? Probably not, in all honesty. People don’t talk about the 1964 World Series the same way they will talk about the 2011 version. One thing is certain: no one will forget the Cardinals and their fight to the end!

2. Big Mac breaks the record

1998 was a magical summer for 11 year old me. I was living and dying with every long ball hit by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I watched more Cubs baseball on WGN than any sane baseball fan should ever have to endure.

Yeah yeah, steriods. I know. But I didn’t back then. I’m not the only one that didn’t see behind the curtain either. Many of those that did, just didn’t care. For the first time since the strike of 1994 crippled many baseball fans from their love of the game, baseball had life. Games at Kauffman Stadium and the Astrodome were being sold out, and those teams had no business having that many fans in the stands. Nightly news would be cut off to update the score and the fact that Mac/Sammy had just blasted another one (and I didn’t live in the St. Louis/Chicago area to get full coverage).

But September 8, 1998 is a night that I will never forget. I screamed, I jumped around the living room, and I almost cut off my poor sisters’ circulation from hugging them so tightly. Watching that ball skirt over the wall, watching Mac almost miss first base, seeing the Maris family and Sammy running in from the outfield and all the people screaming and cheering… I was a part of that! We were all part of that. Despite what we know now… back then we were all just baseball fans again.

1.  “Go Crazy Folks”

Ozzie with one out. Took a ball just outside. Cardinals have left ten men on and they left a lotta men on early. A runner at third nobody out in the first and didn’t score, second and third in the second and didn’t score. Smith corks one into into right down the line… it may go… go crazy folks! Go crazy! It’s a home run, and the Cardinals have won the game, by the score of 3-2 on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!

Seeing the words just doesn’t do that call justice. It never will. The 1985 NLCS game 5 home run by Ozzie Smith was great in and of itself. He wasn’t a home run hitter, especially not from the left side. The home run was incredible, but it was not the iconic moment.

It was the call. It was Jack Buck. There will never be another.

~*~*~*~*~*~

There you go – the top 5 moments in Cardinals history from my eyes. What say you? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments…

Is it baseball season yet?

Diamond Diaries’ 2011 Stories of the Year

The United Cardinal Bloggers take part in many different activities throughout the course of the year. Many of these projects can be found on our site (search ‘ucb’ in the search tab at the top to find more). The last project of the year comes on the next to the last day of the year, and it is a time for reflection. What were the big stories of 2011? This is our list – what’s yours?

1. First and foremost has to be the #11in11 World Series win! This was a team that was left for dead, then came back and fought their way through a thrilling October run. You would be crazy not to appreciate what going out on top meant to Tony LaRussa, and now that he whose name Erika has forgotten is gone off to the West Coast like Tony did, the 2012 team is going to have a much different feel to it. But that doesn’t sour this win at all for us! The wild ride to the postseason, the extended series’ wins in the wildest of ways, the dramatic home runs and the dominant pitching performances. Yes, this was a postseason we will never forget!

2. Oh David Freese. Your glass ankles made me unsure that you would ever reach the potential Erika and I hoped you would. Your hot start to the season was derailed by your hit-by-a-pitch broken wrist on May 1. The .356 batting average cooled, but your solid play did not. Going in to the postseason we did not factor you in as a major player, but your wrote your name in the recordbooks over and over, thrilling us with clutch hits and home runs that no one expected. Your NLCS and WS MVP trophies must be getting dirty from having to lug them around on the talk show circuit. We would gladly offer to shine them up for you! :)

3. Erika’s favorite, Matt Holliday, had a strange year. What’s stunning is that despite having played in 34 fewer games than 2010, his counting numbers were still relatively in line with his career averages. Appendicitis in the first week of the season? One week out, no big deal. A moth flies in his ear and becomes lodged mid-game? Whatever, pull it out and stick it in a jar. Sore muscles, hurt fingers, Holliday was this year’s Freese in terms of strange injuries. Despite it all, he had a strong enough season to garner an All-Star selection and was even selected in the home run derby competition (I know, that feels like an incredibly long time ago!).

4. At the beginning of the year, Bill Ivie had a Diamond Diaries night on the UCB Radio Hour. Since it was the beginning of the season we were asked to make various predictions on how the season would go for various players and the team as a whole. While I was still licking my wounds about Adam Wainwright’s season-ending Tommy John surgery and Erika was wondering what would become of David Freese’s glass ankles, Bill threw us a curve and asked what we thought about the Lance Berkman signing. I was trying very hard to be optimistic. It was a shot in the dark signing, hoping that he could reclaim some of his former All-Star glory, while still knowing that even if he didn’t show much, it wasn’t a break-the-bank signing either.

Did anyone see an All-Star selection and a 7th place finish in the MVP award voting? Anyone?

Lies. You didn’t. We didn’t. We tried to predict counting stats – .280 batting, 20-25 home runs, 75ish RBI were the numbers I tossed out – wording our predictions with “If he could get here, that would be awesome!” He went above and beyond all of our expectations, while also adding that ever coveted “clubhouse presence” that was missing for the past few years. Just for kicks, he also picked up two NL Player of the Week awards. Take that!

5. Why not round out our top 5 with a little bit of silly? Every playoff run needs a theme, and this one appeared to be all about the squirrel and Torty Craig and Happy Flight. It gave fans something silly to smile about, fake Twitter accounts to interact with, merchandise flew off the shelves, and despite all the silliness the Cardinals still found a way to win.

Also, we didn’t have to deal with that ridiculous “Beast Mode” theme. So there’s that.

Make sure to check out the United Cardinal Bloggers site to catch all of this year’s top 5 countdowns.

Happy New Year Cardinal fans!

Pujols’ Presser Giveaway Contest Winner

Sometimes a contest doesn’t go the way you planned it to…

When Erika and I decided on how to give away our copies of the World Series DVD, I doubt that either of us really considered how weird it would feel if the Pujols’ press conference announcing his new contract would really be for another team. That said, we do have a winner! While we didn’t hit the exact date, Dan got about as close as possible. He picked December 9, at 11:00AM. Considering the contract broke a day before and the presser was a day after, that’s about as close as you can get without hitting the bulls-eye. Congrats Dan!

For me, it was weird watching the DVD. I felt the same thing in 2006 watching that DVD, because I was seeing names like Jeff Weaver and Preston Wilson being interviewed. Those guys were names that I expected to go away. In fact, when I watched the DVD a couple years later on a cold snowy day I had actually forgotten about those names completely.

Watching this DVD, it would be impossible to forget about Pujols playing on this team. I almost felt like a knife was being turned in my stomach. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a stunning movie, and it gave me butterflies watching it over and over. Seeing the joy of the players, hearing that crack of the bat again after going several weeks without any baseball, and listening to those familiar voices and sounds of the game I love… it was incredible. I didn’t even jump into the bonus features and see the extra goodies like game 5 of the NLDS and bonus material from This Week in Baseball, among others. It truly is a treasure, and if you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, seriously, what are you waiting for?

Be on the lookout for our next big giveaway. We’ll be filling a few more Christmas stockings with some copies of the 8 disc set – yippee! :)

The UCB’s “Too Soon” Attempt at Pujols Nostalgia

Pujols is gone. We saw magic for 11 years, and now we will find new players to find that spark.

Oh ugh. It is way too soon to be sunshine-y about this one. Just shut it.

I know. Too soon. Who tries to spin some silver lining when every Cardinal fan everywhere feels like we were just collectively spit on by a man we once compared to “The Man,” a man who we felt could one day be as incredible as Stan… a lifer with the Cardinals. A legend.

He won’t be. Not anymore.

But dangit, I drew the crazy straw and landed on today for the annual United Cardinal Bloggers roundtable discussion. My options were to:

1) Mope, whine, and complain. Let everyone vent.

2) Go for the “Okay, what do we do now?” tactic.

or 3) Attempt to put a bow on the career he did have here.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I tried. I am trying. Earlier in the day yesterday I was able to be more okay with it. I was able to be Erika, if you want to spin it like that. I was okay. Then I read this. Now, if I wrote like Hooks, I would have written a piece closer to the one that Hooks posted yesterday (not suitable for my family – don’t click that mom! :)).

But here it is… the UCB’s attempt at nostalgia, including my original question out to the team:

Here’s your chance to not talk about the contract, the money, the betrayal (the venom!) that we have seen all over the internets today. Here is your chance to be nostalgic.

What is your favorite Pujols memory? The Lidge bomb? The MVP awards? A specific game or meet-and-greet or whatever you choose. What specific memory will you tell your kids and grandkids about when you talk about Albert Pujols. The fact that he’s gone stings, but it doesn’t negate how we felt when he was here.

I was not let down. I absolutely understand that many could not bring themselves to answer this one. The state I’m in currently… I’m not sure I could have either. But the news broke while I was at work, and I like my job, so I wasn’t upset about it all really until later in the afternoon/evening.

For me, my favorite Pujols memory has to be the Lidge homerun. I was in college, watching the game with 1 Cards fan and approximately 200 Astros fan. Okay, maybe only 15-20 of them. Texas kids all over the place. They were shaking hands, poking fun, having a good time, making World Series plans.

Boom. Bang. Pow.

Their jaws were on the floor. I was screaming and hugging a girl I barely knew, knowing that not only did the Cardinals have life, the also had the opportunity to go back to Busch II for at least one more game. It was beautiful. But that’s my thought… what did the rest of the UCB think?

Bill Ivie: i70 Baseball

I’m going to have to go “nostalgic” a few months ago.
Three home runs in one World Series game, no matter how far out of reach, was impressive.  I seriously do not think anyone in the crowd thought that last at bat would go differently.  It was a flash back to the Pujols of old seeing him step in and do exactly what we expected him to do.  It was a moment that I will tell my kids about, the way my dad told me that he watched Reggie do it.

Daniel Solzman: @dsolzman

Like many of us, I was in the first step of denial when I started thinking about 2005 NLCS Game 5.  I’m starting to sob as I type this because of all that I associate with that memory.  I will be forever grateful for Albert bringing the series game to Busch for one final farewell.  Even though we lost, it was one final way to say goodbye.

In May 2006, I was at a rare game.  Rolen was out with the flu.  Pujols was at the hotel with back spasms or something.  Jimmy?  Well, he had the day off.  It was the first time since the MV3 started that none of them were starting.
Game 5 stands out as a special memory as does the 3 home run game during this past World Series.  I know exactly where I was when it happened.

Daniel Shoptaw: C70 at the Bat

Favorite moment?  Wow, that’s tough.

Besides the obvious, the Lidge homer, the big game in Texas this year, I think one of my favorite memories is going to be a mid-season game in Colorado.  Pujols is on third and a ground ball is hit to the third baseman, I believe.  As soon as it was hit, I was sure what was going to happen and, sure enough, Pujols rounded third and came home, scoring the winning run.

It was pure Pujols.  Doing the little things, the heads-up things, to win a ball game.  Something we’ll sorely miss.

Aaron Hooks: Cards Diaspora

Too soon, Angela. Too soon. I’m still ready to hammer that backstabbing, St. Louis hating, money chasing, double play machine, former Cardinal.

Jesus. Former Cardinal. That sounds so weird.

Favorite Pujols Moment? I really did think hard about this. And even though it’s pretty obvious, that HR in 2005 against the Astros was so incredible. Not only was it a go-ahead homerun to put the Cards on top of a game they had no business winning, but it was sooooo top tank.

On the road, nevertheless. And it also melted a dominant closer down for years and provided us with the classic Andy Pettite “OH MY GOD” clip from the dugout. I can still watch that specific play 20 times in a row and find something new to love every time. Just wish Gus Johnson could have somehow been on the call.

Kevin Reynolds: Cards ‘n Stuff

For me, it was a couple years ago…when Albert was on his grand slam tear…a buddy (@dmbfan81 actually) and myself had gone up like a week before my wife was due to have our daughter for two games against the Cubs in Busch. We were in the right field bleachers…Albert hit a grand slam to LF so hard we never saw the ball…just heard the crowd’s reaction and saw Soriano turn and watch it go…and we started screaming and jumping up and down in the bleachers so hard that half our beer ended up all over the other bleacher goers (who were doing the same) and my buddy fell and nearly broke his ankle (swelled up the size of a softball on the way home). Was amazing to actually be present when he hit that.

Erika Lynn: You know her!

For the glory story, I’m going with being in the stands at Arlington to see Albert hit those three homeruns in Game 3 of the World Series AND at Busch Stadium for Game 7 to witness (what we didn’t know at the time would be) his final at bat as a Cardinal.  (Future grandkids may be impressed by that in a few decades.)  I have Hubby to thank for those memories.  He had to convince me to spend the money, said it was a bucket list kinda thing.  I’m so glad he did.  It was our chance to witness history.

For the personal story:  We’ve watched Albert at Spring Training for the past few years and in 2009 I remember being surprised and struck by Albert’s camaraderie with players and staff from the OTHER teams.  It was one of the final Spring Training games, against the Mets, and both before the game and after, Pujols was greeting the Mets players, coaches and managers like long lost buddies.  I was taken aback at first, but then it hit me: Pujols wasn’t just a Cardinal, he was a Major League baseball player and these were his peers.  The meaning of baseball family got bigger for me that day.

Tom Knuppel: Cardinals GM

2001- Vonachen Stadium- Peoria Illinois- Pujols hit his first home run. The scorboard flashed Jose Pujols…. he told the local sports guys, “I prefer to be called Albert” ………..from then on, he was Albert.

Ray DeRousse: Stl Cardinal Baseball

My favorite Pujols memory was Easter Sunday of 2005. Pujols ripped three home runs that gorgeous afternoon while I got completely drunk and screamed my head off with my friends. Afterwards, driving home down highway 55, the wrecked hood of my car flipped up and smashed my windshield. I was forced to drive like Ace Ventura while hoping the police never saw me. They didn’t, which only makes the memory even sweeter.

Malcolm Pierce: The Redbirds Menace

July 20, 2004.  The Chicago Cubs put up seven runs against Matt Morris and the Cardinals in the second inning in Wrigley Field.  Cal Eldred comes into pick up the pieces.

The wind is blowing out, but even the most optimistic Cards fan doubts the team can come back from this one.  This isn’t your usual sadsack Cubs squad.  This is the team that prompted Sports Illustrated to announce “Hell Freezes Over”, handing the league championship to the Northsiders before the season even began.  They’re several games back but the national media wants us to believe they’re just biding their time.  Glendon Rusch, the Cubs starter, is having a career year and the Cardinals always seemed to struggle against his wily left-handed ways.  It’s almost enough to make you turn off the game.  Almost.

In the top of the third inning, Pujols turns on a pitch to tack on a run.  7-1 becomes 7-2.  Still need to bat around to take the lead.  Still looks like a struggle, but at least the team has life.  At least you got to see a Pujols home run.  It almost looks pointless, as Eldred immediately gives the run back in the bottom of the inning when Aramis Ramirez makes a bad pitch disappear.  8-2.

Three more innings pass.  Rusch is doing what Rusch did best, changing speeds and making you wonder if Jim Edmonds should start switch-hitting to get a better look.  But there’s Albert again.  Leads off the sixth inning with a single.  Doesn’t seem like much at the time, but it’s the start of something.  Rolen and Edmonds follow him up with singles of their own.  Rusch is out, replaced by Francis Beltran who treats the strike zone like it has the plague.  He can’t touch it.  Walk.  Bases loaded walk.  Single by So Taguchi.  Giving up a critical hit to Taguchi is unacceptable.  Beltran is out, replaced by old friend Kent Merker to face Ray Lankford.  Sacrifice fly.  8-6.  The rally Pujols started made it a game, but the good guys were still losing.

Pujols smashes another solo home run, second of the day, to lead off the seventh.  Cardinals fans everywhere bemoan what Cardinals fans have been bemoaning for eleven years now: why aren’t there hitters with better OBPs in front of Pujols?  But it’s a one run game now.  Later, So Taguchi’s second most unlikely HR of his career ties the game.  The Cardinals have battled back from oblivion.  It’s a new start.  Bullpen versus bullpen, but who will give?

In the ninth, Edgar Renteria leads off the inning with a single against Latroy Hawkins, bringing Pujols to the plate.  Do I know what’s going to happen next?  Is it that obvious?  Is Pujols that amazing?  Or do I just dare to hope so much that I convince myself of such a glorious inevitability?  the ball jumps off Albert’s bat.  It sails through the sky and it doesn’t land until the Cardinals finally have the lead. Third home run of the day.  Fifth hit.  Fifth RBI.   Comeback complete.

Even Isringhausen’s bases-loaded tightrope act to get the save in the ninth can’t kill the high.

JE Powell: Stl Fear the Red

My fondest memory of Pujols wasn’t historic, but personal in a lot of ways. In September of 2009 my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Milwaukee for a three game series against the Brewers. I had never been to a full series before and it was definitely memorable. The Cardinals swept the Brew Crew and Pujols went 7-12 with 3 home runs and 6 RBI. The final game the Cardinals won 5-1 and Pujols hit two homers. We had very good seats for the series (Miller Park is a very good stadium) and it was was great to seem him hit so well and put on a power display.

Chris Reed: Bird Brained

I’m going to have to take the easy route for my memory, and then tell a little story about this year.

The Lidge Home Run in the 2005 NLCS stands out for me because I remember all the circumstances surrounding the moment so perfectly. When the game got to the 9th inning and the Cards got a couple outs, my roommate turned the channel to the Rams game (Monday Night Football, if I remember correctly) because the game was “over.” I went downstairs to our other TV and flipped the Cards back on, because I’ve learned time and again never to give up on baseball early. When Eckstein got on with his seeing-eye single, I ran back upstairs and told my roomie “Turn the baseball game back on; they’re not done yet!” He did, and we watched Edmonds also get on in front of Albert. We both scooted to the edge of our seats. And when he connected, we both yelled and jumped high enough to damn near hit our heads on the ceiling. It was such a pure baseball scene: two buddies sitting around watching the ballgame, and it turns into an iconic moment which causes them to act like kids celebrating a little league win. And I will never forget the home run or our reaction.

OK, story time. I split season tickets to Busch with three other people so my girlfriend and I go to about 20 games per year. At the beginning of each season, we “draft” our games for the year. My first pick is usually the last home game, because 1) it could have playoff ramifications; and 2) you get a voucher for a free ticket the following year. This season was no different, and in March I thought it could be an even bigger deal because who knew what would happen with La Russa, Pujols and Carpenter, let alone the team. So we were there 09/25 vs. the Cubs and did the Standing O for Pujols and everything. Then, of course, they make the playoffs. Time to draft tickets again. As luck would have it, we drew #1 for the playoff series tickets so we got the extra game (maximum possible 5 games at Busch between the NLDS and NLCS). My first pick was NLCS Game 5 on the off chance it might be a clincher/last game. The game that was left after everyone else picked was NLDS Game 4…also a possible clincher/last game. When it came time to pick for the World Series, we each got tickets to one game (maximum possible 4 games at Busch). But I drew the shortest straw this time, and we got “stuck with” Game 7. So I was present for what could have been the absolute last possible AB for Albert Pujols as a Cardinal at Busch Stadium four times this season. But each game was a winner, eventually leading to them moving on. And it turns out I did see his final AB as a Cardinal, in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. I did think about it each time, too…”Wonder if this is the last one.” My intuition turned out to be correct, but my timing isn’t as strong as my luck. That seems so long ago now…

Nick: Pitchers Hit Eighth

The photo in this post – that’s how I choose to remember Pujols.  For all his accomplishments and notable events – that’s what I want to see when I think of Pujols and his time with the Redbirds.

Thanks for all of your thoughts!

2011 UCB Awards

Every year the United Cardinal Bloggers have what is known as the UCB Awards – a way to not only recognize what the team has done in the past year, but also recognize the fact that the UCB is one group of people that are all here together writing about this crazy team we love. This year we have even had the joy of following our boys all the way to the top! But now that the champagne has all been sprayed, the confetti cleaned up and the championship swag all hitting the shelves, it is time to look back and recognize the year that was.

As an added bonus, this year everyone is invited to check out the ballot and vote for their favorites! If you are so inclined, you can head over here to see what’s what and have your say in the awards. As for our team, we decided that we would make one collective vote, so our thoughts are all sprinkled throughout.

On to the ballot!

1 – Cardinal Player of the Year: Lance Berkman. This was a unanimous decision, and Erika said it best, “Berkman won me over early, picked up a clubhouse leadership roll, slugged and walked his way on base and hit in more than his fair share of baserunners.  When the Cardinals signed Berkman, I was warned I would love him – and I do.” Make that we do! :)

2 – Cardinal Pitcher of the Year: Chris Carpenter, without a doubt! His horrific start to the year left us all scratching our heads and wringing our hands, trying to figure out what was left of our co-Ace since Adam Wainwright went down for the year and we had no one else to turn to. He then buckled down and became the bulldog starter we all hoped he still could be. After several shut down performances – shutouts, out-dueling aces, big game wins and locker room speeches – he was the leader the boys needed on the mound.

3 – Regular Season Game of the Year: September 7 – Cards vs. Brewers. Carp throws a shutout, Nyjer Morgan throws a temper tantrum, the Cardinals gain momentum and scribes and fans everywhere go into a frenzy. What more could a die-hard fan ask for?

4 – Postseason Game of the Year: Diane summed it up when she called game 6 of the World Series a game for the ages. What else could happen? The boys were down to their last strike twice. The hometown hero – David Freese – came through, and we all found ourselves cheering and hugging our loved ones to the bitter end.

5 – Surprise Player of the Year: Lance Berkman. Why? Umm… did you see his 2010? It was ugly, to put it gently. He was an absolute wildcard signing. It could be great or it could be a bust, but most of us were just kind of hoping for a shade above mediocrity. Lance turned us all into believers and even worked his way into some chatter for MVP awards. We’re excited to see the Puma again next year!

6 – Disappointing Player of the Year: It’s a tie that I’m not going to break between Ryan Franklin and Colby Rasmus. Franklin just had to go. Had. To. Go. Where he went we honestly didn’t care, but as long as no one let him in to the bullpen where he could try to sneak on to the field and snatch another defeat from the jaws of victory, we were not sad to see him go. As for Colby… he had been built up for such great things, but just could not overcome daddy drama, TLR issues and streakiness to be the effective centerfielder the team needed. Enjoy Canada, Colby!

7 – Cardinal Rookie of the Year: Daniel Descalso. HOW could you argue against Dirty Danny D here? For awhile he was Mr. Clutch, coming up with timely hits over and over. Despite a relatively low batting average, you cannot argue with the facts: he appeared in more games than just about any other Cardinal this year, despite having fewer than normal innings for a regular third baseman his glovework earned him a finalist nod for a Gold Glove, and he became the first ever relief third baseman, inexplicably coming in game after game in roughly the 7th or 8th inning to relieve Freese. There’s just something about this kid you have to love!

8 – Pre-Season Acquisition of the Year: Lance Berkman (What, like you thought were were going to say Ryan Theriot?!). Diane notes that the Cards got him for a bargain.  He was the leadership spark the team needed.

9 – Mid-Season Acquisition of the Year: I was kind of leaning towards Marc Rzepczynski, if for no other reason than because he has an awesome name, and TLR still can’t pronounce it (never mind how poor Mike Shannon bungled the thing repeatedly). However, the girls outvoted me and went with Rafael Furcal!  Erika? “Finally, I love our shortstop again.  Diving, spinning, range — and a bat (just not a postseason bat.)  ;)”

10 – Most Anticipated Cardinal: Shelby Miller.  A lot of hype has been built up for this kid, and he honestly didn’t help his cause by getting himself suspended from the Springfield Cardinals (AA) for a time this year. Our hope is that he takes the winter to grow up enough to handle the pressure that he’s going to face in the next few years.

11 – Best Individual Blog: On the Outside Corner is informative, historical, and always timely. Bob will find a way to relate something that happened in 1967 to the random obscure play we witnessed last night that left us all scratching our heads and you will suddenly realize that you know absolutely NOTHING about the history of the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re always thankful for his Twitter tales too!

12 – Best Team Blog: i70 Baseball might be about those blue clad baseball players on the other side of the state too, but they never fail to bring new content about our Redbirds. Their hard work does not go unnoticed!

13 – Best Professional Blog: Obviously, You’re Not a Golfer from Matthew Leach is always informative, usually the first to report the news, and written by a writer that is always 100% classy, no matter what venom is being thrown around the twitterverse. Bravo, Mr. Leach.

14 – Best Rookie Cardinal Blog: El Maquino is one of many new kids on the block for this year. He’s a good writer, aspiring sportswriter, and we might not always agree with him, but he is always informative.

15 – Post of the Year: We had a split vote here… If Backyard Dreams by Bill Ivie over at i70 Baseball doesn’t either bring a tear to your eye or a wistful smile to your face, there is seriously something wrong with you. SERIOUSLY. Erika sent her vote over to Pip at Fungoes for his post called Why the Cardinals Will Still Beat the Brewers, and Diane tipped a nod my direction (with a note that she might be biased) by selecting my post commemorating Darryl Kile’s death entitled 9 Years Later. It is obvious to see that there were some incredible posts out there this year (and I wasn’t about to choose my own post or break the tie on this one – there were a lot of great ones to choose from!).

16 – Best UCB Project: The roundtables are a great way to not only clog up our email inboxes for a month and a half, but also hear a lot of thoughts and opinions getting floated around the various sites. If you haven’t been catching them all head over to the UCB site to check out the list!

17 – Most Optimistic Cardinal Blog: That one is easy for us – Bob with On the Outside Corner takes this one as well. No matter what happens, Bob always knows that a) it could always get worse, b) “Remember that one time in 196<fill in the blank> when this happened? Yeah, we could have that.” and c) tomorrow is a new game. Thanks for reminding us Bob!

18 – Best UCB Podcast: UCB Radio Hour takes the cake here. All of the unique voices and opinions bring us back every week. We enjoy hearing all of them!

19 – Best UCB Twitter-er(-er-er-er): Erika and Diane left this one to me, so I’ll say it: @gr33nazn. Do you laugh every day? Do you want to? Follow Dennis. Learn about sporks, 8 lb. chalupas, the Sing Off, brain bleach, and random other topics… oh yeah, and baseball. He does that too.

20 – Best Fake Twitter Account: @TortyCraig might have retired from the scene, but we still had a blast hearing what he had to say about Master Allen, sprinkles and the like. I’m told he will now graze off during the sunset from Allen Craig’s backyard. Enjoy retirement Torty.

Euphoria

World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Roll that around for a bit in your mind. See how it feels on the tip of your tongue.

Who-da-thunk.

I haven’t been around lately. Since the last time you saw me here, I have moved across state lines, started a new job, coached my way through a volleyball season, and lived and died with the Cards. I cheered for them, I cried for them, I laughed with them. I just wasn’t here.

That’s okay, the Cardinals almost weren’t here either.

I live in Missouri now. My coworkers and I daily chatter about baseball. I’ve watched games with family and friends that I haven’t been able to watch games with in years. For the first time since the 2004 World Series, I watched a playoff game while living in the state of Missouri (Okay, I was at game 3 of the 2009 NLDS. That shouldn’t count. It was pathetic).

I almost quit this team. I actually had a thought one day about what I would do with all my free time in October. That day was in August. I couldn’t fathom what else could happen to this team – random injuries, snatching losses from the jaws of victory, drama with the manager and a team that I felt was listless.

I couldn’t quit this team. Most of you couldn’t either. Suddenly I felt a shift. Games started falling the other way. Call it regression to the mean or getting breaks to fall your way or whatever you want to call it, this team looked different. They almost had… wait for it… swagger. Not in the Phillies’ pitching staff of doooooooom. Not in the Brewers’ “Beast Mode.” Not in the Rangers antler clash. The just had this childlike, sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar determination that they were just going to do this. It was going to happen.

They did it. Allen Craig randomly appeared here and there to hit home runs like they were no big deal. David Freese found a way to have every big hit. Chris Carpenter pitched with a bulldog mentality on short rest. Jason Motte closed the door. Tony LaRussa smiled.

Cardinal fans rejoiced. I sit here, a full 14 hours since the game ended, still feeling speechless as to how to describe this game.

But these pictures say it better than I ever could. Enjoy it Cardinal fans – especially those of you that couldn’t quit.

Game 6 Winner

Game 7 Winner

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