Finally, Opening Day — Get Ready, Relax, Enjoy

It’s been 151 days since the last St. Louis Cardinals game that counted, which was Game Six of the World Series on Oct. 30. Now, it’s 2014 and a brand-new season begins today. The proverbial slate is clear — even the Cubs, Marlins and Twins still have a chance. (Theoretically.)

Opening DayThat’s the beauty of Opening Day: new beginning, fresh start, all those cliches every sports columnist and blogger trots out every year just for today because those too are part of the baseball tradition … even though the Dodgers have already played three games, the Diamondbacks two and the Padres one. Today, though, is Opening Day for real, because the Cardinals are playing.

And that’s what we’ve been waiting for. Daydreaming and counting down to Opening Day is what got us through the very long and very awful winter with so much snow and Polar Vortex cold which all seems far in the past with the ground now clear and the temperatures warmer.

But, finally, here we are.

Our Cardinals are taking the field at last and facing off against the Reds when 3:10 p.m. Central Time arrives. Yeah, Johnny Cueto is starting and we all rightfully hate him and we’ll no doubt have to hear from Danny Mac and Al what a terrific guy Brandon Phillips is, just like they tell us every single Cards-Reds game, and they’ll have to mention August 2010 and all of that and still talk about Dusty Baker even though he’s gone — but it will be Cardinals baseball and we will be watching it again. Therefore, it’s good.

Which is why I want to remind you to enjoy it. Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Vince Coleman’s First Home Run

When you think of Vince Coleman, you likely think of stolen bases. Or maybe the word “tarp” comes to mind.

Vince ColemanRegardless, home runs are certainly not something you associate with the man who as a rookie for the Cardinals in 1985 stole more than twice as many bases as the entire 2013 team total (110 vs. 45).

Yet Coleman did occasionally hit home runs. Very occasionally, anyway — he had 15 during his six years as a Redbird. But his first was during his Rookie of the Year season, on May 21, 1985.

It was his only homer that year (and his next wouldn’t come until Aug. 26, 1987).

The Cardinals were hosting the Braves at Busch Stadium on May 21. They were up 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning when Vince stepped to the plate with one out. He hit the first pitch from Len Barker deep to right field and … watch for yourself from this TBS broadcast.

Yes, of course his first career homer would be an inside-the-parker. And a stand-up one at that.

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A New Appreciation of Baseball’s Family Ties

Most of us love baseball because of a family connection — our dad, mom, grandpa, grandma, uncle, aunt or cousin sparked our interest in the game as kids in some way, then that interest took hold and grew. For me, there are several family members: my Grandpa who taught me to play catch, my Dad who taught me to keep score and, later, my Uncle Jim who taught me about the Cardinals and their history.

For Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins, it was his grandma.

jose fernandezI will readily admit to not knowing much beyond the basics about Fernandez — his terrific stats during this rookie season, sure (especially since I picked him up for my fantasy baseball team early on), his age and that he’s Cuban. Plus I knew how he did against the Cardinals this season: he won one game (the first of the Marlins three-game June sweep in Miami) where he struck out 10, and lost at Busch Stadium as Matt Holliday homered and stole second in a rundown as Carlos Beltran stole home. Beyond that, though, there is only so much baseball I have time to keep up with, and the Cardinals rookie pitchers were my priority.

So, last week, when I heard the story of Fernandez’s surprise reunion with his grandma the day before he was named National League Rookie of the Year, I was incredibly touched. Take a look at the photo above — even that tells you at least part of the story.

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A Look Back At The Cardinals 2012

As 2012 winds down, it’s only natural to take a look back at some of the posts we wrote this year — and there were plenty to choose from since this is No. 449.

There also were plenty of you who read them, as we’ve had more than 40,800 visits from more than 24,300 people in the past 12 months. Just one thing to say to that: thank you!

So here’s a little trip down 2012 memory lane …

Remember that time in January when Roy Oswalt was going to be a Cardinal?

In addition to those magic words about pitchers and catchers reporting, February also brought a Yadier Molina contract extension and our very first Monday motivation picture post (of course featuring the new Cards manager!)

“Opening Day” are two more magic words for Cardinals fans — and this year’s home opener was extra special. Forget the rain and just focus on the great pictures … or some gushiness about the whole experience.

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Cardinal Love Letter: Stan Musial

Dear Stan,

Unlike other fans who are born a member of Cardinal Nation, I’m a relatively recent convert — joining in 2000. One of the best parts of my conversion, beyond enjoying the team’s success during the past 13 seasons, has been learning the rich and impressive history of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Which of course means learning more about you. And with your 92nd birthday coming up on Wednesday, I wanted to say thank you.

The numbers were the most obvious part to learn. Twenty-two year career, 24-time All Star. Three-time World Series champion. Three-time MVP. And 3,630 hits — with 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road. That perfect symmetry — what could be better?

Speaking of perfect, the trip to Busch Stadium in April 2000 that cemented my decision to become a Cardinals fan began — not surprisingly — at your statue. Seeing the inscription of the famous Ford Frick quote prompted me to scribble it down on a piece of paper in my purse … just in case I somehow would forget the words (which, of course, seems impossible).

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Bandits Baseball Beats The Home Run Derby

Not all chicks dig the long ball.

Given the choice of sitting on the couch watching major leaguers swinging for the fences while having my ears assaulted by Chris Berman’s contrived calls or enjoying a nice night in a riverfront ballpark while minor league Cardinals play a real game that counts, I’ll take genuine over fake. Every time.

Which is why I was at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa, Monday night to watch the Quad Cities River Bandits take on the Clinton Lumber Kings — baby Birds vs. baby Mariners.

And what a game it ended up being …

First, some background. If you’ve never been to a game at Modern Woodmen Park, add it to your to-do list. It’s a gorgeous stadium on the banks of the Mississippi River about 250 miles upstream from St. Louis. Visiting it is No. 76 of 100 Things Cardinals Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die by Derrick Goold (the original version of the book, anyway — the link is to the updated version published this year). And Goold captures one of the best parts about a game:

After dusk, in time for late innings, the Centennial Bridge lights up and the river shimmers, creating a backdrop city administrator Craig Malin wanted — a scene, he said, “so beautiful grown men will weep.”

There’s been baseball at this ballpark in the Quad Cities since 1960 — last weekend, the 7 millionth fan attended a game. The team’s had a variety of major league affiliations through the years — Angels, Cubs, Astros, Twins among them — and has been a Cardinals affiliate since 2005. Rick Ankiel played here that season, on his journey back to the majors as an outfielder. (I was there for his debut.) And other familiar Cardinals have as well — Colby Rasmus, Jaime Garcia, Jon Jay, Jason Motte, Shane Robinson, Lance Lynn, Matt Carpenter and, just two years ago, Matt Adams and Joe Kelly. Even Aaron Miles played here when this was an Astros farm team. Plus Jim Edmonds when it was Angels, Shawon Dunston when it was Cubs and Joe Mauer when it was Twins.

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Happy Birthday, Chris Carpenter!

One of our favorite 2011 post-season heroes celebrates a birthday today, while another celebrates tomorrow.

And what better way to honor the day Chris Carpenter turns 37 than by stealing the idea of our Aerys Designated Hotter Friday feature? Especially since we don’t even know when we’ll have a chance to see No. 29 back out on the pitcher’s mound again. (And although there’s not much new to report, Jenifer Langosch did provide an update about CC yesterday.)

First, let us pause and fondly remember Nick Punto’s work as a Cardinal once again … and an amazing performance in Game 5 of the NLDS.

 

(Hmmm, whatever happened to that torn jersey?)

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Thank You, Tony La Russa

Love him or hate him, Tony La Russa should at least earn respect for what he accomplished in his 33 years as a major league manager and 16 years leading the St. Louis Cardinals.

La Russa retired yesterday, adding his own personal storybook ending to the Cardinals historical World Series championship run by going out on top.

His legacy should be unquestionable. La Russa has 2,728 regular season victories, third-most in baseball history behind Connie Mack with 3,731 and John McGraw with 2,763. He’s managed 5,097 games, becoming only the second person in sports history, not just baseball, to achieve the 5,000 game milestone in June. In five years, he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

La Russa won six pennants — three National League, three American League — and World Series titles in 1989 with the A’s and 2006 and of course this year with the Cardinals. He’s only the second manager to win two championships for the Cards, with Billy Southworth the other, and he’s the winningest manager in team history with 1,408 victories.

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Yadi, U2 And Colby — Yes, Colby — Lead Cards To Win

Last night’s heroes.

There are must-win games, those crucial ones against rivals needed to stay in contention or make a statement. Then there are games that simply have to be won, since losing to a particular foe wouldn’t be acceptable on a  given night.

Last night was a perfect example of the latter. Luckily, the Cardinals prevailed in a 10-5 win over the Astros — baseball’s worst team that was swept by the Cubs over the weekend and was 35 games under .500.

It was a nice (and necessary) win, especially because of those providing the Cards offense. None of the 2011 Big Three had an RBI — Albert and Matt Holliday each hit a single and Lance Berkman didn’t play because he has a right rotator cuff strain. Instead, it was two guys continuing hot streaks they started over the weekend … plus a new field that was only a problem for the Astros.

Yadi
Yadi’s been as hot as the weather lately. Since Thursday, he’s hitting .563 (9 for 16) with two doubles, three homers and five RBI. Last night he was once again a triple shy of the cycle for the second time in three games. This is the third time this year he’s been one hit shy of the cycle — on May 22 at Kansas City, he actually had the triple and just needed a homer — so it’s got to happen this season. Right? Bengie can’t be the only Molina who hits for the cycle.

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Kyle Lohse Finally Has A Bad Night

At some point, Kyle Lohse was going to have a bad game. He did last night, and it led to the Cardinals losing to the Marlins 6-5.

His night didn’t start out that way, as he pitched extremely well for two innings — throwing only 17 pitches, with 15 of them strikes, and extending his scoreless-innings streak to 22. He even had a two-run lead, as Lance Berkman and Yadi had back-to-back RBI singles in the first. Then came the third inning.

Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad singled, then Lohse uncharacteristically walked both Chris Coghlan and Hanley Ramirez. In came Gaby Sanchez, and out went the ball thrown by Lohse. Ouch. The next batter, Mike Stanton, then singled and the ball hit Lohse in the shin. Double ouch. K-Lo stayed in the game.

(As an aside, has anyone else noticed that it says “K-Lo” on his glove? Not being a fan of nicknames like that, it seems kind of silly.)

But, never fear — LB to the rescue! In the bottom of the third, with Colby Rasmus and Matt Holliday on base, LB did what he does: launched a homer into the Cards bullpen to put the Cards back on top 5-4. He was just named National League Player of the Week for the second time yesterday afternoon, then just goes out and drives in four of the Cards five runs. Seriously, have we ever mentioned how much we love this guy? Yet today, anyway?

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