Just three weeks — yes, 21 short days now — until the 2015 Major League Baseball season begins with the Cardinals taking on the Cubs at Wrigley Field for Opening Night on ESPN. Considering what the bleachers at Wrigley look like right now and the delays the renovations have encountered due to Chicago’s winter, Wrigley will look a little different than we’re all used to seeing that night.
And looking different than we were all used to seeing is a good way to describe today’s featured Cardinal. (How’s that for a transition?) Yes, let’s all remember — if just for a brief moment — the Cardinals career of No. 21, Tino Martinez.
Tino, of course, is best known as a Yankee (he even received a plaque in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park last year) and was a member of the four World Series champion teams in 1996 and 1998-2000. Yet the Yankees did not re-sign him after the 2001 World Series, and he signed with the Cardinals to play first following Mark McGwire’s retirement.
At the Cards Conclave today, Daniel has a great description of Tino’s joining the team
Never be the guy that replaces The Guy. Tino Martinez found that out first hand in 2002. It’s tough to replace anyone that has captured the hearts and minds of a city, but to replace a true legend (at least, at the time) of the game? That’s almost impossible.
The rest of it is definitely worth a read too. In summary: Tino’s time with the Cards was never really that good for him or the fans.
In fact, this photo might be one of the highlights of Tino’s Cardinals career.
Yes, that’s one-time AMF favorite Miguel Batista (ah, Poet, dear Poet …) who Tino is punching, as the two got into a brawl on Easter Sunday in 2003 — read all about it from Mark Tomasik at RetroSimba.
The players who have worn No. 21 since Tino are certainly an interesting mix: Jason Marquis (2004-2006), Kip Wells (2007), Jason LaRue (2008-2010 — Johnny Cueto, we still hate you) and Allen Craig (2011-2014).
Ah, well, not every number can be retired for a Cardinals Hall of Famer (which is a tease for tomorrow) …
Just 21 days until Opening Night!
Curt Flood was the center fielder and the soul of the Cardinals championship teams in 1964 and 1967. He made it as an All-Star despite harsh racism on his way up and given everything to his city, and had made a life there. Then in 1969, Gussie Busch traded Flood to the Philadelphia Phillies. He was crushed. But instead of merely accepting the trade as generations of players before him would have done, he shocked baseball by suing the sport over its unfair reserve system which bound a player for life to the whims and vagaries of the owner of the team who first signed him. That player couldn’t demand a trade, or refuse a trade, couldn’t play out his contract and seek employment elsewhere, or even ask seriously for a raise. If Curt wanted to play baseball, he had no choice but to go to the Phillies. He refused. He demanded his right as a free man in a free country to work for whoever he pleased. He put it well:
“A well paid slave,” Curt Flood once said, “was still a slave.”
Flood’s courageous case went to the Supreme Court, where he lost. He sacrificed his career, but ultimately paved the way for free agency, a major advance in players’ rights that changed the face of the game forever.
And Curt Flood wore number 21.