One Day More …

It’s Saturday, which obviously means tomorrow is Sunday — and tomorrow is Cardinals baseball. Yes, we’re down to one day.

And everyone knows who No. 1 for the Cardinals is.

SMITH

Ozzie Smith, of course. The favorite player of many who began their Cards fandom back in the 1980s, like Daniel of C70 At The Bat. Known for his incredible defense at shortstop and an unlikely home run that prompted one of the most famous calls in Cardinals history.

Oh, and this …

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Yes, we’ll all be doing backflips (figuratively, at least) tomorrow when the Cardinals begin the 2015 season at long last.

One day more! (Of course I keep thinking of Les Miserables when I use those words.)

Just one day!

Countdown To Opening Night: Two

The Grapefruit League is finished, and the regular season is now only two days away. Yes, the day after tomorrow — or really the evening after tomorrow night — the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright will face the Cubs and Jon Lester on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

The No. 2 , obviously, signifies just one Cardinal: Red Schoendienst.

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Yes, the Hall of Famer and beloved Cardinal has been in baseball for 70-plus years now, with the great majority of those as a Cards player, coach, manager and special assistant to the general manager. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989, his No. 2 was retired in 1996 and he was part of the inaugural class in the Cardinals Hall of Fame last year.

He was, however, not exclusively a Cardinal. Red was traded to the New York Giants in June 1956, and then by the Giants to the Milwaukee Braves in June 1957. The Braves won the World Series that season, beating the Yankees, then lost the Series to the Yankees the following year.

Red Schoendienst  June 6, 1960 X 6662 credit:  John G. Zimmerman - staff

During the 1958-1959 off-season, Red was diagnosed with tuberculosis and underwent surgery to remove a portion of a lung in February 1959. He was told he would never play again, yet returned for five games late in 1959 and played in 1960 (making the cover of Sports Illustrated in June, in a truly awesome photo).

Next week, Red will be recognized for those contributions as a Brave when he becomes the 14th member of the Milwaukee Braves Honor Roll during a ceremony at Miller Park. The Brewers announced the news on Wednesday. Continue reading

Countdown Now At Three …

Regular season baseball is clearly in sight on this Thursday morning, as it’s only three days away now.

The Cardinals final game at Roger Dean Stadium is today before the team heads to Memphis to take on the Redbirds tomorrow. Wrigley Field now has its gigantic new video board installed in left field (see why the rooftop owners across Waveland Avenue were a little ticked? Never mind that they’ve been profiting from the Cubs for years anyway as the rooftops turned into a big-dollar industry).

And, speaking of the Cubs, there is a No. 3 connection in recent Cardinals history. Actually, there have been a lot of No. 3s in recent Cardinals history. The last player to wear the number for longer than two seasons? Edgar Renteria, from 1999 to 2004.

So, with 3 more days to go, here’s a look at the three latest No. 3s.

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Ah, Mark Ellis. Years ago I liked him when he was an Oakland A in the Big 3/Moneyball era. I was excited when the Cards signed him for 2014, thinking he could be a valuable bench addition. So it goes. Most fans have probably already forgotten his 73 games, 202 plate appearances and .180/.253/.213 line. Thanks for the 32 hits, Mark! And happy retirement.

APTOPIX NLCS Dodgers Cardinals Baseball

Better memories here, much better …

Carlos Beltran followed Lance Berkman in right field as a past enemy turned hero once he donned the Birds on the Bat. (Here’s to Jason Heyward continuing that tradition this year and beyond, although he was never quite the Card-killer Beltran and Berkman were.) Carlos hit .282/.343/.493 in his two-year Cardinal career, with 56 homers and 181 RBI during the regular season. And, for the first time in his then-16-year major league career, he made it to the World Series in 2013. Continue reading

Just Four More Days …

Ah, April at last! And while a year ago today, we already had an opening day win to savor, we now have 4 more days to wait for this year’s first regular season game. The current No. 4, however, certainly provides us with much to talk about, doesn’t he?

Then again, what is there to say about Yadier Molina that hasn’t been written here before? There’s been a love letter, there have been not just one, but two “Molina Monday” posts, he was our BAMF for the 2012 season (and, though unwritten, for 2013 and 2014 — and probably 2015 too), click the link in the first paragraph to read about his heroics last March 31 against the Reds … he’s likely the most written about Cardinal in AMF’s four-plus year history.

And why not? Yadi is the heart and soul of the Cardinals team, taking charge when he’s on the field and, just as likely, when he’s at the plate. What Cardinal fan doesn’t love him?

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He’s also rather svelte this spring too. (You can probably get a smaller size uniform pants now, Yadi …)

4-1We’ve watched him in action many times during games, taking that walk to the mound to calm and console a pitcher. It certainly appears to be a role he takes seriously — even during spring training, as the photo from this spring with now-fifth-starter Carlos Martinez shows. Continue reading

Continuing The Opening Night Countdown: 5

It’s the final day of March, with 5 days now until the regular season begins for the Cardinals on Sunday night.

The No. 5 brings only one person to mind, of course.

Philadelphia Phillies v St Louis Cardinals - Game 4

Yes, Albert Pujols, or That Guy Who Used to Play First Base. Although now, going into his fourth season with the Los Angeles, California, Angels of Anaheim in Orange County, USA, the bad feelings over his departure have waned (for me at least). And I’m still glad, as I was at the time, that John Mozeliak didn’t sign him to a ridiculously expensive contract.

Albert’s best years were as a Cardinal, as he was a three-time National League MVP during his 11 seasons and compiled numbers of .328/.420/.617. Plus he gave us some incredible memories in the postseason.

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Such as in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS against the Astros … Continue reading

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 knight.

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.

Continue reading

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!