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World Series Extravaganza 2013

In Baseball on October 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm

The St. Louis Cardinals will take on the Boston Red Sox in the 2013 World Series beginning tonight. For the next week, Cardinals fans and CDH writers (in that order) Ian Brickey and Becky Koenig will discuss their membership in Cardinal Nation, make game picks and exhibit the general classiness that defines the Cardinal Way. Today, the preview.

Ian Brickey: Becky, I’m a Cardinals fan, and I know, deep down, you are too. But, since I was initiated at birth, and you’re still learning the ropes, I figured I would give you a primer on Cardinalia. Despite all the trolling from the national media, there really is something that makes the team and its fans special. Does some of that come from the superior moral sense, down-to-earth mentality and general Norman Rockwell-esque character of Midwesterners? I don’t know. But there definitely is an element of tradition. I don’t say that as a homer — although, homer I am — it’s a certifiable fact. Let’s just look at a few examples.

1. Busch Stadium. This is the third Busch Stadium the Cardinals have called home since the 1950s. In the era of cloned retro-classic stadiums with unsuitable corporate monikers (cough Minute Maid Park cough), the Busch name is a St. Louis institution. The Busches are as close to royalty in Mound City as you can get, and the Busch name still evokes images of Gussie Busch decked out in his signature Cardinal red cowboy hat watching his beloved Birds. And even after the sale of A-B to InBev, you can still see the clydesdales make an appearance on opening day, and you can still hear “Here Comes the King” played on the stadium organ during the seventh inning stretch before the start of the eighth inning. Players come and go, but Busch Stadium will endure.

2. Continuity. In an era where owners, managers, team names and home cities seem to be ever-changing, the Cardinals have been a symbol of stability. Since the 1950s, the team has had only two owners: Anheuseur-Busch and (St. Louis-native) Bill DeWitt, and both owners have been instrumental in the sustained success of the team. Since 1995, the Cardinals have had only two managers. Tony La Russa took the team out of the doldrums of the 90s to perennial playoff contenders. And in his brief tenure as skipper, Mike Matheny, who was St. Louis’s catcher from 2000-2004, has steered the team to two-straight NLCS appearances and a National League pennant. Busch Memorial Stadium and the new Busch Stadium occupy the same footprint, and players from the past — think Schoendienst, Brock, Smith and Edmonds — are fixtures in Spring Training and the regular season.

3. Championships. The Cardinals have 11 World Series Championships, second in baseball history behind only the New York Yankees. They have 19 National League pennants, second most in NL history behind only the New York/San Francisco Giants. What else needs to be said?

4. Stan the Man. The nickname tells you all you need to know about Stanley Frank Musial.

I could go on, but those look like four pretty good reasons to root for the Redbirds. Whaddya think?

Becky Koenig: Thanks, Ian, for the Cardinals backgrounder. Having spent many hours watching games from the outfield (shout out to section 509!) this season, I have a few observations about what might distinguish the Birds on the Bat from their MLB colleagues. (The first being that tag line — who else could get away with that?) I may not know much about Cardinals history, but here’s a newbie’s take on the team.

1. Merch. Approaching Busch Stadium on foot for my first-ever game, I was taken aback by the complete redwashing of downtown: every person in my line of sight was decked n Cardinals gear. And not just, say, wearing a hat. I’m talking DECKED: jerseys, t-shirts, caps, beads, bags, earrings, sometimes all on one person. It was almost as if everyone were wearing a “Best Fans In Baseball” costume. But that would be too ironic for these good Midwestern folk. This is old-fashioned honest obsession. I’ve been to stadiums all over the country, and I have never witnessed anything like it. St. Louis doesn’t have an easily discernible dress code, but if I had to pinpoint it, I would say Cardinals gear. Here, you’re never unfashionable if you’re wearing red.

2. Carlos Beltran. I’ve stared at this man’s back for countless half-innings from the right field bleachers, and ducked out of fear of his powerful home runs. He is the most reliable guy on the field and at bat. I don’t say this with the magic of statistics to back me up, so don’t start with me about RBIs and slugging percentages. I just say it as a fan who has come to count on Beltran’s at-bats to get the Birds on the board and cross-field throws to snag the last out. Plus, his Desi Arnaz accent is beautiful. Keep being a hero, Carlos.

3. Cards in the community. In St. Louis, you run into Cardinals everywhere. Sometimes literally: I once accidentally crashed a 1982 World Series reunion party at the Lumiere Place Casino downtown. I sat one aisle behind Jack “the ripper” Clark at the St. Louis preview screening of Jackie Robinson biopic 42. For my job at a local magazine, I interviewed a nice woman about her for-sale home, which had an indoor batting cage, and only realized later I had spoken to the wife of Andy Van Slyke. A friend’s wife who works at Starbucks served coffee to Chris Carpenter.

4. Religion. This is a weird one, and I’m not sure how I feel about it, but the Cardinals seem to be very…Christian. Maybe it’s not a reason to root for or against them, but it’s certainly noticeable. They Tweet about God, talk about God and send their kids to religious schools. There’s even a book out about their righteousness, Intentional Walk, which we should probably read based on its wordplay alone. Stan Musial’s funeral procession from the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis across from my apartment to Busch Stadium downtown was supposedly the biggest deal ever for the city’s large Catholic community, second only to Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1999. I guess it relates to the much-vaunted Cardinal Way — whatever that means.

IB: Well, we’ll keep talking Cardinals for the rest of the series (and hopefully for the championship parade down Clark Street). But we’ve got to make some predictions. Tonight, St. Louis sends Cy Young Award contender Adam Wainwright to the mound. Jon Lester will start for the Red Sox. These teams are pretty evenly matched on paper, but I’ll take A.D.A.M. any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I like the Cardinals’ chances in Game 1. Final score 4-2 St. Louis.

BK: Fun fact: Did you know “wainwright” is the term for a craftsman who makes wagons? That means Adam will be wheeling us to victory. I pick the Cardinals too, and I think they’ll win the series in six.

IB: A bold prediction that I hope turns out to be true. I think the Red Sox are a dangerous team and I expect this series to be close. But I can’t overcome my St. Louis bias, so I’ll pick the Cardinals in seven, ending on some amazing play by Carlos Beltran. Now excuse me, I have to prep for the game with some Imo’s pizza and toasted ravioli.

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  1. Love this. The game did not quite work out as predicted, but everything else is spot on and a great primer to St. Louis baseball. P.S.: “Here Comes The King” is played before the 8th inning, not during the stretch. I know this only because it is my favorite part of the whole ballgame, and I sing it out loud in my best Peter Griffin voice, much to the irritation of BK.

  2. It’s one of my favorite parts, too. Ernie Hayes was the stadium organist for years. His repertoire wasn’t huge, so you knew all the greatest hits. I also love one of his lesser-known songs, “Gametime,” which you only heard if you showed up early enough before the first pitch or stayed long enough after a win. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u0otDai97g

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