'Fair' time had by all
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[JULY 12, 2004]
over a year ago at this time, the Chicago Cubs and their fans had
quite a lot of fun at the expense of the St. Louis Cardinals and
their fans. A late-season crucial series in Chi-town saw the Birds
capture the first contest but lose the rest and eventually the
division title as well. The Cubs outplayed, outworked them,
out-hustled them and out-managed them. They deserved to win the
title in every way and probably should have won the world title as
When it comes to taking care of that
kind of business, I agree with Illini basketball coach Bruce Weber.
Weber contends that you must take advantage of an opportunity when
it swims by. Never mind what players you have on your roster for
NEXT season or how NEXT year's schedule almost guarantees a
championship. Could Weber have been more prophetic when it comes to
the 2004 Central Division race?
Before this season started, everyone
(including many fans in Third World countries who don't know all
that much about baseball) felt the Cubs were the odds-on favorite to
win the World Series going away. And they STILL could, but they have
a mountain to climb first if that is going to happen.
I remember sitting with Greg Taylor and
our friend Terry Martin, a former Lincoln resident, when he picked
up his Sports Illustrated baseball edition with the Cubs on the
front cover. I downplayed the jinx factor as I read the issue and
agreed that the Cubs would be hard to beat. And after watching the
Astros' offseason moves and the Cardinals' lack thereof, I
emotionally distanced myself from any hopes that the Cardinals would
be whiffing playoff baseball this campaign.
With a job that doesn't lend itself
much to a sports schedule anymore and a young family that I would
much rather spend time with, I have ventured to Busch Memorial
Stadium only about twice a year over the last decade (compared with
slightly more than that the decade before). One of those rare
opportunities came my way last week.
From a purely baseball standpoint I was
thinking that it might not be the best idea to go down for that
game. The Cards had won a few in a row and were due for a loss.
Instead, they took a game in which they were not all that strong and
came away with another improbable victory.
[to top of second column in
As I sat in the perch otherwise known
as a terrace box seat (a pretty nice view), I was enthralled by what
St. Louis Cardinal baseball has become. Even better defense than
before. Starting pitchers given gutty, quality starts of six to
seven innings night after night. A bullpen by committee that even
Whitey Herzog could be proud of for the new millennium. An everyday
lineup that you would not want to pitch to. A bench full of quality
role players that conjures up great Cardinal names from the past who
each did their part to bring St. Louis championships. The greatest
fans of any pro sport, bar none. It is fun and easy to watch.
I trust that members of the Illini
football program were there taking notes! All of that makes you want
to stand up and applaud like a wild man. It makes you want to call
every baseball fan you know and ask them if they have seen any good
But, there is one thing that so many
fans forget. Eighty-one games does not a season make... even if you
were one of the first to 50 victories. It is a long season. A lot
can happen between now and Oct. 1.
But what a difference a year makes. If
I hadn't seen it myself, I would've NEVER believed it. No matter
what happens, it has been magical and something that rarely happens.
Now it's on to the All-Star game to
root for our favorite players, and then next weekend itís back to
the Central Division trenches to see if the Cubs, Astros, Reds,
Brewers or Pirates want to make a run at the Redbirds. Thanks to the
schedule-makers, that road may likely NOT run through St. Louis but
through some of those other cities.
now many Cardinal fans are reprising that great old musical
depicting the 1904 World's Fair, "Meet me in St. Louie"... and are
having a pretty "fair" time while they are there!