Note: As I said last week, I’m not planning on writing much here anymore. But today I’m posting an article I wrote for the United Cardinal Bloggers 2013 season in review publication, which is still available for purchase. Like last week’s from the 2012 UCB publication, it’s also on Chris Carpenter.
Chris Carpenter: A Warrior’s Final Stand
It can’t be how he expected his career to end.
The final pitch of Chris Carpenter’s career came on Oct. 4, 2013, fittingly on the Busch Stadium pitcher’s mound. Fall sunshine bathed the ballpark with a golden glow as more than 40,000 Cardinals fans stood and cheered.
Unfortunately, that final pitch was of no consequence. His last was a ceremonial one delivered just before Game Two of the National League Division Series between the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Touchingly, he was accompanied to the mound by his daughter, Ava, and tossed the baseball to his son, Sam, behind home plate.
Perhaps surprisingly, the emotion of the moment was visible on Carpenter’s face as he tipped his Cardinals cap to the crowd and, moments later, embraced his children as they all walked off the mound.
Then again, emotion from Chris Carpenter on a pitcher’s mound – though of a different sort – was never a surprise. It was expected. Emotion defined Chris Carpenter’s career nearly as much as his signature curveball.
And nearly as much as injuries.
Injury definitely defined the final two years of Carpenter’s career, 2012 and 2013. Yet it also defined how he became a Cardinal, when the Toronto Blue Jays – the team that chose him in the first round of the 1993 draft – removed him from their 40-man roster after the 2002 season ended, and after he’d had shoulder surgery. The Jays wanted him to sign a minor-league contract with incentives.
He instead chose to become a free agent, signing with St. Louis in December. He missed the entire 2003 season, finally making his Cardinals debut on April 9, 2004, at Arizona. His 2004 season was better than any he’d ever had as a Blue Jay, as he went 15-5 with a 3.46 ERA. But he didn’t pitch after Sept. 18, as a right biceps strain kept him from the mound. Tests later revealed a nerve irritation to his upper arm, a condition we would become all too familiar with in the future.