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October 6, 2006

Cardinal Crush

Tomorrow I am going to a Cardinal baseball game with my favorite baseball buddy who happens to be my daughter. I am not sure exactly how this came to be but it is a gift from God. It probably also managed to prevent insanity in one or both of us during her teenage years.

Cardinal CrushMy love of Cardinal baseball goes back to my boyhood. When I was growing up in Louisiana the Cards were the southernmost team and there were many fans in the northern part of the state helped along by the ability to hear the games on KMOX. My Sunday School teacher made a yearly pilgrimage by train to old Sportsman’s Park and would come back and enthrall us with tales of our heroes. Dizzy Dean was doing the game of the week (he “slud” into second) while singing the Wabash Cannonball and giving Pee Wee Reese fits. Of course we all knew Dizzy was a Cardinal. When I was about eight, my mother took me to the green stamp store to get my first real glove. It was a Red Schoendienst (try spelling that when you are eight years old) model made of red leather, not bright red, but more of a deep burgundy. It was an infielder’s glove, and I became a third baseman. I was at that time a pretty big kid, able to stop line drives in the chest and had a strong but inaccurate throwing arm, perfect for Little League (or Dixie Youth baseball in my town). My one man fantasy baseball games played by throwing a ball against a wall were always between the Cardinals and the Yankees. The Cardinals always won. I disliked the Yankees so much that when someone brought me a ball from New York signed by the 1961 Yankees I played with it until the signatures wore off. I still have the ball. I never warmed up to the Braves or Astros or Rangers (even after living in Ft. Worth for five years). Moving to St. Louis was a baseball dream come true.

I am not sure how my daughter’s love for the game developed. I think it started with a crush on one of the players. But by the time she was eleven she could tell you all the player’s names and positions. By the time she was twelve she was keeping a scorebook. About that same time our television or radio was always tuned to the game. By the time she was 13 she was questioning La Russa’s moves, discussing the hit and run, and distinguishing a curve from a slider. Her sweet sixteen birthday party was a trip to a game replete with her name on the scoreboard. Her license plate on her Cardinal red car read DREW FN (Drew fan).

Anyone who has had teenage daughters knows what I am talking about when I say either the father or the daughter should be locked up for about five years. It is not an option for mothers. My strategy was to try to remain quiet though even that does not always work. I can remember times when I said nothing, did not make eye contact (above all never make eye contact), and still wound up being the target of the mother/daughter wrath.

But there was always baseball…opening days, last game in Busch Stadium, first game in the new Busch stadium, heart crushing defeat in the third game of the World Series, number 62. There are so many memories and so many good times that we have shared around baseball.

My daughter is now a beautiful, poised young lady, one of my favorite people, and still my best baseball buddy. We have a brick outside the stadium. It says Alton, Brenna-Father, Daughter-Fans Forever. Every dad should be as fortunate.