Counting Down To Opening Night: 6 Days

Sure, it’s a Monday — but there are only 6 days until the Cardinals begin the 2015 regular season against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

And, for all of us as Cardinals fans, 6 means only one person.

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Stan Musial, baseball’s perfect warrior and baseball’s perfect night.

We’ve written plenty about The Man here through the years, even a Cardinal Love Letter in honor of his 92nd birthday in November 2012. So, instead of more words to honor No. 6, just pictures instead. Six more, of course.

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With President John F. Kennedy before the 1962 All-Star Game. Continue reading

Only One More Week Until Cardinals Opening Night

One week, just one more week! Yes, next Sunday night is the official start of the 2015 MLB season when the Cardinals take on the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Regardless of the Chicago forecast, which shows a high of 51 next Sunday so it will be even cooler at game time, real baseball will finally begin.

Yes, just 7 days. And while there are plenty of notable 7s in Cardinal history — the current one in Matt Holliday, of course, as well as Joe Medwick of the Gas House Gang and J.D. Drew, who Daniel wrote about at Cards Conclave today — my choice is someone who wore No. 7 for a short period of time, Ronnie Belliard.

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Belliard was acquired by the Cardinals on July 30, 2006, for the man who had been wearing No. 7 that season and the year before, Hector Luna. Belliard only played 54 regular season games and 14 of the 15 postseason games (sitting out Game Two of the World Series), yet I’ll bet every one of you can remember one specific play he made in Game One of the National League Division Series against the Padres.

As we also recall, the Cards slumped their way into October 2006 after going 13-15 in August, 12-16 in September losing the regular season finale on Oct. 1 yet clinching the NL Central on that final day when the Astros also lost.

Game One of the NLDS featured Chris Carpenter against Jake Peavy, and the Cards scored 5 off of Peavy through 5 1/3 innings. Carpenter didn’t allow a run until the bottom of the sixth, giving up a sacrifice fly to Brian Giles after Dave Roberts tripled.

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Continuing The Countdown: 8 Days

We’re getting closer and closer … it’s now 8 days until the Cardinals take on the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Opening Night. (Interested in the construction at Wrigley? Here’s an update from Thursday with photos — and remember that the bleachers aren’t going to be done until May or June anyway.)

Eight days. And No. 8 has certainly been well used by the Cardinals in recent years. So, rather than repeating my overdose of silliness regarding the current No. 8 like I did last year at this time, here’s a look at the most recent No. 8s.

Peter Bourjos, 2014-2015

Peter Bourjos, 2014 and presumably 2015

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Ryan Jackson, 2012-2013

Nick Punto, 2011

Nick Punto, 2011 (forever remembered, forever missed for those very contributions, forever the subject of one of the most popular AMF headlines … and it is definitely enjoyable to look back at that post from Sept. 10, 2011, to read the perspective as the “September to remember” was unfolding) Continue reading

Counting Down To Opening Night: 9

It’s Friday! It’s nearing the end of March! There are only 9 more days until the Cardinals begin the regular season on April 5!

Yes, single digits now. And No. 9 is retired by the Cardinals, for Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter (although today at Cards Conclave, Daniel highlighted another No. 9 also now in the Hall of Fame in Joe Torre).

Slaughter is best remembered for a play that occurred exactly 25,000 days ago today, on Oct. 15, 1946.

Cardinals Red Sox BasballHere’s more on his “mad dash” from the Cardinals website:

Slaughter dashed into baseball immortality in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. With the scored tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Slaughter led off with a single. He remained there as the next two batters were retired and then took off to steal second base with left fielder Harry Walker at the plate. Walker stroked a double into center field, and Boston’s Leon Culberson threw the ball to shortstop Johnny Pesky. While Pesky hesitated on the relay, Slaughter kept on running, ignoring third base coach Mike Gonzalez’s stop sign and scoring what proved to be the series-deciding run.

Ah, beating the Red Sox in a World Series … here’s to that happening again the next time the two teams meet up.

Here’s a Throwback Thursday post from November 2013, after the most recent Sawx-Cards World Series, that focuses on this happier time. Included is this video with the “mad dash” in all its glory, with a description by Harry Walker, who doubled to drive Slaughter in.

Just 9 days!

Continuing The Countdown: 10 Days

Ah, 10 days! Only 10 more days until we’ll get the chance to see the Cardinals playing real baseball … and hear endlessly about Joe Maddon and KRIS BRYANT!!! and how amazingly wonderful and fantastic and playoff-bound those Cubs because Theo Epstein is the biggest and bestest baseball genius who ever lived when our yes-they-went-to-the-NLCS-last-year-but-who-cares-because-they’re-not-the-CUBBIES!!! Cards face the media-adored 2015 World Series favorites at the of-course-it-will-be-ready-well-all-except-the-bleachers Wrigley Field …

Just trying to get you ready for what we’ll have to endure from ESPN on April 5.

Anyway, 10 days. And No. 10 for the Cardinals is, of course, now retired for former manager Tony La Russa, who led the team from 1996-2011 and to World Series championships in 2006 and 2011. I was planning to spotlight him today, until I received this brief email from my uncle Jim yesterday: “Tomorrow. Rex Hudler?” Since I didn’t write about one of his favorite Cardinals who wore No. 12 on Tuesday, I’ll go with Rex Hudler today … although there weren’t any photos but baseball cards available via an image search and nothing larger than this baseball card of him.

10So, yes, Rex Hudler. I’ve heard the name, know he’s a broadcaster now but don’t really know much about him. Thus, research time.

He was a Cardinal from 1990 to 1992. Here’s more on that:

Little did Cardinals fans know what they were about to see when Rex Hudler crashed into town in April, 1990.

The Arizona native quickly endeared himself to Cardinal Nation with an all-out playing style — diving, sliding, and forsaking his body, all in the name of victory and inspiring teammates.

Hudler quickly earned the nickname “Wonder Dog,” and a local columnist started a fan club in his name as a tribute to the hard-nosed and enthusiastic approach on the diamond.

“I’d be looking at the crowd and I’d see spit flying out of their mouthes,” said Hudler, who played three of his 13 big league seasons in St. Louis. “They were rabid. I told myself, ‘Wow, self, you’re an entertainer. You’re entertaining these people.’ I got an adrenaline rush on that. I couldn’t wait to get up there again. I couldn’t wait to make a play for the fans.”

Well, OK. One of those scrappy, gritty types — definitely makes sense he’d be a Cardinals fan favorite.

There’s one highlight from his career in St. Louis too, which I do recall hearing discussed during a Cards television broadcast at some point — from Ricky Horton, maybe?

Rex actually earned his “Bug-Eater” moniker in St. Louis during a game when he picked up an enormous junebug off his hat and when dared to eat it by his Cardinal teammate, Tom Pagnozzi, got the players in the dugout involved and they paid him $800 to eat the junebug.

Oh, and his Baseball Reference page, where I learn that he hit .253/.288/.379 in 251 games as a Redbird, he is wearing a Cards cap in his photo.

If you’re interested, he’s also a motivational speaker, and on his website is where I learned this fact: he is one of a very few players to have played for 10 years in the minor leagues and 10 years in the major leagues.

There you go.

And now just 10 days!

Counting Down To Opening Night: 11

It’s getting closer … and now just 11 days until Opening Night for the Cardinals at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. After yesterday’s marathon post, a quick one today.

And who else comes to mind except Jose Oquendo when you think No. 11? Other than from 1996-1998, “The Secret Weapon” has worn the number since 1986 — as a Cardinals player through 1995 and as a coach since 1999.

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His nickname was from Whitey Herzog, who first played Oquendo at every position except catcher during the 1987 season. Yes, he pitched — during a game the Cardinals were losing 12-4 when he entered the game in the eighth.

Looking at the box score on Baseball Reference, looks like Whitey was having a little fun that inning.

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When it comes to pitching, though, the Secret Weapon is unfortunately no Aaron Miles. Oquendo gave up three runs that inning on four hits with a walk and a hit batter.

The next season, the Secret Weapon pitched once again — along with playing every other position too, including catcher. He joins a very exclusive club with that achievement, and was the first National League player in 70 years to accomplish that feat. Read more from Mark Tomasik at RetroSimba.

He pitched on May 14, 1988, taking the mound in the 16th inning of a 5-5 tie game against the Braves — a game he’d entered in the ninth inning at first base. And this game went on … and on.

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Just 12 More Days, But Who To Choose?

Twelve! Only 12 more days until the Cardinals begin the 2015 season on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

This day presents a dilemma, however — or at least the No. 12 does.

There are plenty of 12s throughout Cardinals history, including one of my uncle Jim’s favorite players Bill White, who wore the number from 1959 to 1965 and later served as National League president from 1989 to 1994. He would definitely be worth writing about (and will be the topic of a future Throwback Thursday post).

As for the dilemma, take a look at the top of this page. Yes, right there at the top of each and every page of Aaron Miles’ Fastball, each and every day, is the No. 12 of Our Namesake, a Cardinal from 2006-2008 and 2010, getting ready to deliver what certainly was an amazing (or at least adequate) heater.

No problem, right? Our Namesake is Our Namesake, beyond worthy of another post extolling his virtues. Yes, but …

Remember 2011, and Game Six of the World Series (other than David Freese) in particular? Remember 2012?

Remember the Twitter hashtag #LBFanClub?

How can we overlook that mortal-enemy-turned-forever-hero Lance Berkman? Is there any way possible to overlook a man for whom a post called “How Do We Love Thee, Lance?” was written?

Can’t be done. Thus, two No. 12s.

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And there is a way to tie these two together.

Yes, for your reading pleasure with 12 days until Opening Night, 12 things that Cardinals heroes Aaron Wade Miles and William Lance Berkman have in common. Continue reading

Counting Down To Opening Night: 13

Ah, Monday, Monday … Rarely anyone’s favorite day, although it will be a good Monday three weeks from now, with the Cardinals home opener at Busch Stadium. But that’s jumping ahead.

Right now, it’s only 13 days until the beginning of the 2015 Cardinals season on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Is 13 a lucky number, or an unlucky one? Your view might just depend on the circumstance.

For me, my first trip to the current Busch Stadium in April 2006 involved that year’s No. 13. And it was both unlucky and, I suppose, lucky.

I was lucky enough (in a weird way) to see the No. 13, Sidney Ponson, get his first victory as a Cardinal on April 15, 2006. (It was not his only Cardinal victory, though I had to check Baseball Reference to be sure.) And to see Scott Spiezio (featured 13 days ago, coincidentally) hit his first Cardinals home run. (Back to Baseball Reference, which tells me it was off a Reds reliever named Mike Burns. OK, I’ll believe them.)

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It definitely was a fun game, as the Cardinals had 11 hits and scored nine runs and beat the Reds 9-3. So Taguchi doubled! Hector Luna hit a homer! Ponson had a quality start! Who cares that we didn’t have the best seats — way, way in the upper deck down the right field line with a great view of the foul pole? At least we were in Busch Stadium III during the first-ever homestand.

And so what if — now the unlucky part — I’d just missed out on seeing Chris Carpenter pitch in a 1-0 game by about 18 hours? Continue reading

Two Weeks, Just Two More Weeks …

Closer, ever closer to real baseball … Not next Sunday, but the one after that — Easter Sunday, in fact — and we’ll have games that matter for the St. Louis Cardinals, starting at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

Two weeks, or just 14 days. And 14 is an interesting number in Cardinals history. It was worn by Ken Boyer from 1955 to 1965 as a player, as well as during his Cardinals coaching career in 1971-1972 and managerial career from 1978 to 1980.

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The number also was retired by the Cardinals in 1984, following Boyer’s untimely death to lung cancer in 1982.

Unlike those who wore the other numbers retired by the Cardinals, however, Boyer is not in the Hall of Fame. Yet, anyway.

Here’s more on Boyer that I wrote for Graham Womack’s Baseball Past and Present site and the annual ranking of the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. This piece is from 2013, when Boyer ranked No. 37.

Perhaps the best measure of whether Ken Boyer belongs in the Hall of Fame comes from the St. Louis Cardinals themselves. Traditionally, the team retires numbers only for Hall of Famers – or, in the case of Tony La Russa whose No. 10 was retired in 2012, those sure to be inducted. Gracing the left field wall at Busch Stadium are the photos and numbers of the Cooperstown inductees: Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean, Red Schoendienst, Bruce Sutter, Whitey Herzog, on and on … plus Ken Boyer’s No. 14. Boyer’s number was retired in 1984, two years after his untimely death from cancer at age 51.

Boyer was the National League MVP in 1964, as well as a key contributor during that year’s Cardinals World Series championship. He was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove third baseman whose numbers for his 15-year career – .287/.349/.462 with 282 home runs, 1141 RBI, 58.7 WAR – are comparable to those of Hall of Famer Ron Santo over his 15-year career. Of course, Santo’s journey to the Hall was long and winding, but ultimately resulted in induction. And the sentiment of long-time Cardinals fans, with this being one example, is that the same should hold true for Boyer.

He was ranked No. 40 in 2014, for which I wrote a similar piece.

Cardinals fan Kevin McCann is writing a biography of Boyer — check out more info on the book’s Facebook page.

And now just 14 days!

Continuing The Countdown: 15 Days

A beautiful Saturday morning, Adam Wainwright makes his spring debut in a few hours, and another step closer to the Cardinals opening the regular season — now 15 more days!

There’s an obvious Cardinals No. 15 to choose for today: Jim Edmonds. And of course I should want to highlight another one of the MV3 from 2004, following Scott Rolen a couple weeks ago, especially with his game-winning walk-off in Game Six of the 2004 NLCS and his induction into the Cardinals Hall of Fame last year.

Or I could have done something fun on the guys still on the team now who did wear 15 for a while, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay. Maybe even something on Randal Grichuk.

Nope. Has to be Darrell Porter.

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Every die-hard baseball fan has a story — that player and that moment when the game steals their heart and changes their life forever. For my friend Michael, it was Darrell Porter in Game Seven of the 1982 World Series.

Down 3-1 in the sixth in Game Seven, the Cardinals score three times to take a 4-3 lead.

But against Milwaukee, no lead was safe. I was pacing. For the first time in my life, I was nervous, tense, all edge-of-my-seat over a baseball game. C’mon, guys. I was counting outs.

Then the moment which changed my life as much as an English teacher’s decision that school year to assign seats in alphabetcal order.

C’mon, Darrell.

Darrell Porter singles the other way to make the score 5-3; another hit, 6-3. He did, yes, he did. Darrell Porter came to the rescue — it’s not a one-run lead anymore.

We’re counting outs out loud now. Thanks, Dad, for letting me stay up and watch this on a school night. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Two outs in the ninth. Gorman Thomas keeps fouling them off. Swing, miss, Sutter fist in the air, me, two fists in the air, “Yesssss!” And who knew Darrell Porter was a country boy, talking like that in the postgame interview? MVP, who else would be?

But that’s just part of Michael’s story about Darrell Porter — take a few minutes and read the whole thing here.

There was no other real option for today and No. 15.

Because of Darrell Porter.

Just 15 more days!