Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Cardinal Allergy

One of my loyal readers was a devoted St. Louis fan in her childhood years and has chided me about my harsh treatment of the Cardinals in recent posts. I suppose I have been unduly rough on the red bird boys. There is a reason for my animosity towards the Cardinals, and it's rooted in the mists of history. I suppose the time has come to share it with all my readers.

Once upon a time, very long ago--when I was a school girl, to be exact--I was a rabid NY Yankee fan. The first MLB game I ever attended was in the old Yankee Stadium, and I still remember the awestruck breath I took at my first glimpse of the brilliant green playing field. In 1964, the Yankees had a team for the ages. I still remember it:

1B - Joe Pepitone
2B - Bobby Richardson (I had a manic crush on him)
3B - Clete Boyer
SS - Tony Kubek
LF - Tom Tresh
CF - Mickey Mantle
RF - Roger Maris

The legendary pitcher Whitey Ford and catcher Elston Howard completed these superheroes of summer. As they so often did, the Yanks went to the World Series in 1964. And the St. Louis Cardinals beat them. I've never liked the Cards since.

So my dislike may not be rational, but baseball loyalties rarely are. As the years passed, all my favorite players left the Yankees, one by one. Then a highly talented but insufferably conceited upstart named Reggie Jackson dominated the Yankee team news. It was during the Reggie era that I began my summer job at Shea Stadium and found myself developing an allegiance to the NY Mets. The arrival of George Steinbrenner as the Yankees owner sealed my defection from the rolls of Yankee fans. The combination of big business baseball and runaway player egos convinced me that "my Yankees" had forever disappeared into the mists of time. The soul of the team was gone, and it is still to this day, in my sad opinion. But for love of the game itself, I thought I should fill you in on the ancient source of my Cardinal allergy.

After moving to San Diego in 1979, I became a terminally heartbroken but religiously devoted Padres fan; so did my reader who once loved the St. Louis Cardinals. We suffer together now with a baseball angst more piercing than anything we had endured with our previous loyalties.

Baseball is like that. If you think the famous definition of insanity applies to baseball, you're wrong. You can keep routing for the same team year after year, expecting a positive result despite uncounted failures, and one post season you will be blissfully right. Just ask any Red Sox fan. When you love a team, although you know they will break your heart almost every time, you can't stop yourself. You keep going back every season, hoping that this year it will be different. This year, it will be better. This year, we'll win.

To every baseball lover, I'm sure this makes perfect sense.