Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Boys Of Summer

It's a deeply-held belief of mine that every 12- or 13-year-old boy deserves to have his team win the World Series.

As I write, the Cardinals are leading the Dodgers 7-2 in Game One of their five game divisional playoff series. In the regular season, my Redbirds (with a perfect balance of strong pitching and great hitting) put together a 105-win season this year on the way to compiling the best record in Major League Baseball.

The last time the Cardinals won the World Series, in October 1982, I was 13 years old. Sure, millions of Americans of all ages eat and breathe sports, but it's hard to describe the thrill of having the team you live and die with win it all when you're 13. Those who are not sports fans will gag in disgust as I say this, while those who've been there will know exactly what I mean: it's a milestone life-event for a kid.

Since 1982, the great Cardinals franchise (which has won more World Series titles and more pennants than any other team in the National League) has run into some tough luck. Not Boston Red Sox or Chicago Cubs-type tough luck, mind you, but tough luck nonetheless.

In 1985, their fastest player, Vince Coleman, was run over by a one-mile-per-hour tarp during warm-ups before Game One, and knocked out of the World Series. Then, the Cards were within two outs of their second World Series title in three years when umpire Don Denkinger blew a call at first base (judged the worst blown baseball call in history by the readers of USA Today) that allowed the Kansas City Royals to rally and win Game Six. They then trounced the demoralized 'Birds in Game Seven to win the title.

In 1987, the Cardinals again advanced to Game Seven of the World Series, this time against the Minnesota Twins. Their power-hitting MVP candidate Jack Clark was injured and couldn't play, and Ozzie Smith famously claimed that the Twins were monkeying with the air conditioning inside the Metrodome to help Twins fly balls become home runs, and to keep opposing home runs in the park. (At the time, he was dismissed as a paranoid nutcase; the Metrodome's superintendent later admitted to doing just what Ozzie had charged.) The Twins beat the Cardinals like red-headed stepchildren.

In more recent years, despite numerous divisional titles and post-season appearances, the've consistently fallen short of the pennant. But this year, they seem to have put it all together. They have hitting. They have pitching. They have a bullpen. They have defense. They have speed. If the Redbirds don't win it this year after the season they've had, I don't know when they ever will.

My own son is now 12 years old, and is a Cardinals fanatic to his bones. He'll stroll into the living room at 11:30pm, long after bedtime, to ask "Dad? Who do you think LaRussa will start in game one with Carpenter being hurt?" He wears his Cardinals cap so much that he might be bald underneath it for all I know anymore. He wonders endlessly about how Jim Edmonds can generate so much power with such a wide batting stance. He was a digital watch that plays "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" whenever a Cardinals game is about to begin. He is into it.

Every 12- or 13-year old kid deserves to have his team win the World Series. Man, I sure hope this is my son's year.

No comments: