Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis Cardinals’

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Joe Medwick

April 13, 2017

Joe Medwick

1. Joseph Medwick was born in November 1911 in Carteret, New Jersey.

2. He was a four sport star in high school and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals to play baseball in 1930.

3. Between 1930 and 1932 he played minor league ball in Pennsylvania and Texas.

4. While in Houston, Texas he picked up the nickname “Ducky Wucky.” There are different versions of the name’s origins, but everyone agrees he hated the nickname. Later it was shortened to “Ducky.” He didn’t like that version any better.

5. He made the Cardinals in a late season call up in 1932. He hit .349 over 26 games with two home runs and 12 RBIs.

6. He remained with St. Louis for the rest of the 1930s becoming the primary left fielder for the rest of the decade.

7. In 1934, as part of the “Gas House Gang,” he won a World Series ring. He hit .379 with 11 hits, a home run, a triple, five RBIs, and scored four runs. But he’s become most famous for the aftermath of a base running play he made. In game seven of the Series, he slid hard into third base, upsetting the fielder (Marv Owen). After heading to the outfield, he was pelted with all sorts of fruit and vegetables both delaying the game and littering the field. The Commissioner, Kennesaw M. Landis, had him removed from the game so the Series could continue. Medwick was unapologetic about the slide.

8. In 1937 he won the hitting Triple Crown by hitting .374 with 31 home runs and 154 RBIs. It was his only batting title and his only homer title. He won three RBI crowns, but 1937 was his career high. All that got him the National League MVP Award. He is still the last National Leaguer to win a hitting Triple Crown.

9. With his numbers falling off after 1937, he was traded to Brooklyn in 1940. While with the Dodgers he helped lead them to the 1941 World Series, where he made a famous catch off Joe DiMaggio above the rail in game one. Despite the catch, the Dodgers lost both the game and the Series. Medwick hit .235 in the Series.

10. He played through 1948, becoming something of a nomad in the last four years of his career. He finished his career with a triple slash line of .324/.362/.505/.867, 2471 hits, 205 homers, 1382 RBIs, an OPS+ of 134 and 55.6 WAR.

11. He made the Hall of Fame in 1968.

12. Joe Medwick died in St. Petersburg, Florida on 21 March 1975 while performing duties as a Cardinals batting instructor. He is buried in Sunset Hills, Missouri.

Games in April

October 10, 2016
Cards logo

Cards logo

How many times have you heard some idiot talking sports head on TV or the radio or the internet tell you “It’s only April. The games don’t matter until August” or at least heard words to that effect? I’ve heard it a lot. Unfortunately I have to admit I’ve probably even said it. We all like the comfort of it, but if you think about it, we al so all know it’s utter nonsense. A case in point–the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals.

In case you didn’t notice the Cardinals didn’t make the playoffs although they won the last game of their season. They lost the final playoff spot to the San Francisco Giants (of course they did, it’s an even numbered year) by one, count ’em, one game.  On 5 April 2016 the Cards played the Pittsburgh Pirates and lost 6-5. On that same date the Giants played the Milwaukee Brewers and won 2-1. There it is, team, the critical game of the season. Had St. Louis won that one game, then they would have been in a one game playoff to see who got to face the New York Mets in the wildcard game. But, nope, they lost and in doing so lost the chance to tie the Giants and go on toward a possible pennant and World Series date.

Now I know you’re going “wait a minute, they lost a bunch of games, most of them after 5 April.” And you’re right. Any one single win by St. Louis would change the nature of the playoffs in the National League. My point isn’t so much that they lost on 5 April, but that the idea that early season games don’t count as much is just plain silly. So the next time you hear someone say it (and you undoubtedly will in April 2017) remind yourself that this particular so-called expert is an idiot (even if it’s me you hear say it–or type it).

And now on to the playoffs. Congrats to all the winners (and to you, Bloggess, on your Orioles). And Go Dodgers.

First in St. Louis

March 3, 2016
Johnny Mize with the Cardinals

Johnny Mize with the Cardinals

Did you ever notice how certain teams breed players at particular positions? The Yankees do it at Second Base, in Center Field, and Catching. The Red Sox produce great left fielders. The Dodgers and Giants come up with superior pitchers. St. Louis is one of those. As the title of this little excursion should alert you, for the Cards it’s First Base.

The Cardinals began business in the 1880s as part of the fledgling American Association. They were then called the Browns and were immediately successful and began with an excellent first baseman. Charles Comiskey started at first for the Browns for most of the 1880s. He wasn’t that great a hitter, but he was considered a good fielder (for his era), an innovator in first base play, and spent much of the decade as the team manager. The team won four pennants with him as player-manager.

The team moved to the National League in 1892 and slipped back toward the bottom of the field. They got very little out of their first baseman until Jake Beckley joined the team in 1904. He had one great season, winning a number of league titles, but wasn’t much beyond that. He was followed by Ed Konetchy and Dots Miller as first basemen for the rest of the Deadball Era. They weren’t bad (Konetchy hit over .300 a couple of times), but weren’t particularly notable either and the Cards floundered.

That changed in the 1920s. St. Louis began a long drive toward the top of the standing that culminated in the 1926 National League pennant. Most of the glory had to go to Rogers Hornsby, but the Cards found a pretty fair first baseman to help the Rajah along. He was Jim Bottomley and he was good enough to enter the Hall of Fame, although some think he’s one of those guys who shouldn’t be there. Bottomley won a home run crown and a couple of RBI titles. He lasted through the championship seasons of 1926, 1928, 1930, and 1931 before being replaced by Rip Collins. Collins was a power hitter who fit in quite nicely with the raucous Cardinals team of the 1930s. He hit well, won a home run title, drove in a lot of runs, and became a mainstay of the “Gas House Gang.”

But by 1936 St. Louis had found another power hitting first baseman. His name was Johnny Mize and he became the dominant first baseman in the NL for several years. (I’ve never done anything on him and I need to remedy that). He won a batting title, and RBI title, and a couple of home run titles before being traded to the Giants. He did well there and later helped the Yankees to a couple of championships. But he left just as the Cardinals found the promised land again. The 1942 through 1946 Cards won three championships and four pennants. Ray Sanders did most of the work at first (with Johnny Hopp holding down first in 1942). He was no Mize, but he played well enough. His departure led to a long series of Cardinal first basemen that didn’t last long nor did they provide a lot of thrills. But in some ways it didn’t matter. If all else failed, St. Louis could always bring Stan Musial in from the outfield to play first. He did it a lot and no one cared if he could field or not. He was pretty good with the glove, but his forte was the use of the bat.

Things got back to normal for St. Louis at first with the arrival of Bill White in 1957. He would hold down the position through 1965 and become a major factor in the Cardinals championship run of 1964. He was good with the bat, good with the leather. He was one of the men who constituted an all-St. Louis infield in the All Star game of 1963 (Julian Javier, Dick Groat, and Ken Boyer were the others). White hung around until replaced in 1966 by Orlando Cepeda. Cepeda had been, with Willie McCovey, part of a terrible fielding left field combination at San Francisco. One of them could go to first, but the other would have to stay in left and leak runs or be traded. McCovey was younger, so he got to go to first and Cepeda was traded. The trade was to St. Louis where he ended up at first also. It worked. He won an MVP in 1967 and was part of two pennant winning teams in 1967 and 1968, the ’67 team winning the World Series.

But Cha Cha was getting old and was never much at first, so by 1969 the team was looking for a new first baseman. They tried a couple of different options, but finally settled on ex-catcher, ex-third baseman Joe Torre. He lasted a couple of years before moving on for Keith Hernandez.

Hernandez was the great fielding first sacker of his day. He was universally touted for his defensive skills, so much so that people forgot he could also hit. He won an MVP in 1979 (a tie with Willie Stargell of Pittsburgh), then joined in a championship season in 1982, before moving on to the Mets. And that was it for a while for St. Louis at first base. True they had Jack Clark for a while (and picked up a couple of pennants with him at first) and Pedro Guerrero but neither was a satisfactory answer to their woes at first. That changed with the arrival of Mark McGwire in 1992.

McGwire was the power hitting machine that eventually set a single season home run title. We’ve come to see that record as dubious because of the steroid issue, but for St. Louis it provided a boost in attendance and in winning. By 2001, after a couple of playoff appearances, injuries, questions about steroids, and age took McGwire to the showers. But St. Louis had one throw left at first.

Albert Pujols came to the Cards in 2001. He was rookie of the year and a heck of a hitter. But he had no set position. They tried him in the outfield, then at third. Finally they decided to move him to first. He wasn’t very good at first, at least not for a while. But he got better with the leather and there was never anything wrong with the way he swung the lumber. The team won a pennant, then two World Series’ with Pujols at first. He picked up a ton of hardware including three MVP awards. In 2012 he left for Southern California. St. Louis has yet to replace him.

Although there have been periods when St. Louis first basemen were pedestrian, it’s not all that common. Throughout most of their history they’ve managed to find excellent, if not truly great, first basemen. There’s no Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle handoff nor a Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski baton pass, but over a century and a half, the Cardinals have produced an excellent first base tree.

 

A Bum by Fluke

December 17, 2014
our radio looked a lot like this.

our radio looked a lot like this.

As most people who actually take time to sit and read the things I write know, I’m a Dodgers fan; have been since I was a little kid. Glen asked me a couple of times how, in a house and area full of Cardinals fans, I became a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I’d like to say it was some kind of grand epiphany or a youthful show of wisdom. Well, it wasn’t. Actually it was something of a fluke.

When I was little my grandfather and I listened to baseball on a radio, either the one at home, or on weekends at the local barber shop. He was a diehard Cardinals fan who lived and died with the Cards and the stats of Stan Musial. I knew this and appreciated it, but something changed at World Series time. He began to root for the Dodgers. In 1952 he died a little when they lost to New York, then died a little more when they lost in 1953. He was up front about rooting for the Dodgers, so I figured it was OK too. I wasn’t quite sure why you changed teams at World Series time, but that was the way of the world, at least my little part of it. Because when you went to the barber shop at World Series time everyone was rooting for the Dodgers.

In 1954 the Giants went to the World Series along with the Indians. My grandfather listened and commented, but there was no real rooting going on. If the Indians won, fine; if the Giants won, better (it was a National League town). Then in 1955 we got a television. It was  small, black and white, the reception went in an out and I remember my grandfather standing outside holding the antenna pole while my grandmother would shout, “A little more to the right” until the picture cleared up. When World Series time came the Dodgers were back in and this time they won. There was rejoicing in my home and at the barber shop. And there was equal sadness when they lost again in 1956.

By then I was a dyed-in-the-wool Dodgers fan. Everyone seemed to think the Cardinals was the team to support, but the Dodgers were a close second. So I figured that “well, heck, if the Cardinals have number one support and the Dodgers are OK too, maybe someone should help out by making the Dodgers the number one team with the Cards in second place.” So I decided that would be me.

Then came 1957 and the Braves made the World Series. My grandfather rooted for them as hard as he’d rooted for the Dodgers. The guys at the barber shop rooted for them as hard as they’d rooted for the Dodgers. Something was wrong and it took a while to figure it out. The common denominator in all the World Series matchups, except the “who cares?” Series of 1954 was the New York Yankees. My grandfather and his cronies weren’t Dodgers fans at all; they hated the Yankees, and anyone playing the Yanks in the Series was to be supported. When the same thing happened in 1958 I was sure I was right.

But by then it was too late. I was a Dodgers fan with a willingness to root for St. Louis if necessary (sort of the opposite of my grandfather). So that, little children, is how a person from a Cardinals family and Cardinals town becomes a Dodgers fan. Maybe someday I’ll tell you why my son supports the Twins.

28 June 1914: the NL

June 27, 2014
Heinie Groh, complete with "bottle bat"

Heinie Groh, complete with “bottle bat”

And now concluding a look at where all three Major Leagues stood on 28 June 1914 (100 years ago tomorrow), the day that the assassination in Sarajevo set off the spark that led to World War I, here’s a view of what was going on in the National League.

The National League had the most games on Sunday, 28 June 1914. Both of the other leagues had three games, a double-header and a single game. The NL went with twin double-headers. In one set Pittsburgh played two in Cincinnati and in the other the Cubs took on the Cardinals in St. Louis.

the Reds managed to sweep both games from the Pirates. In game one they rallied late to take a 7-6 victory. Pittsburgh scored a run in each of the first three innings, got three more in the seventh, and led 6-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. Joe Conzelman, in relief of Babe Adams started the ninth, couldn’t get anyone out, and left the job to George McQuillan. McQuillan got two outs, but never got the last, as Cincinnati plated five runs, all earned, to win the game. Heinie Groh of “bottle bat” fame had two hits, scored a run, and drove in one.  But the big hero was center fielder Howard Lohr who had three hits (all singles) scored two runs, and drove in three.

In game two the teams went the other way. In the second, Groh singled, then came home on another single by left fielder Harry LaRoss. It was the only run that starter Marty O’Toole gave up, but Cincinnati starter Pete Schneider picked up his first win of the season by throwing a complete game shutout. For the day Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner went one for seven with an RBI, while fellow Hall of Fame player Max Carey went one for seven and scored a run.

In St. Louis, the two teams split the double-header. In game one the Cards routed Chicago 6-0. The hitting stars were Lee Magee and Dots Miller. Magee scored two runs and had an RBI while going two for two with two walks. Miller went two for four, but drove in three runs. Pitcher Bill Doak threw a complete game shutout.

In the nightcap, with the scored tied 2-2, the Cubs erupts for six runs in the fifth. Tommy Leach two runs, Vic Saier had three RBIs, and Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan had both a run and an RBI from the eight hole. With the score 8-2, St. Louis rallied for two runs in the eighth before Cubs ace Hippo Vaughn entered the game. He gave up one more run, but then shut down St. Louis to record his only save of the season and see Chicago pull off an 8-5 victory.  Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem had the plate for both games.

At the end of the day, Cincy stood in second place, five games behind the Giants, while the Pirates held down fifth place (and were the highest placed team with a losing record). The Cubs were in third and the Cards in fourth. By the end of the season the Cards had risen to third, the Cubs were fourth, the Reds had slipped to last, nine games below seventh place Pittsburgh.

One major trade occurred that day. The last place Braves sent Hub Perdue, a 2-5 pitcher to St. Louis. They got back first baseman Possum Whitted and utility outfielder Ted Cather. Whitted moved into the clean up spot for the Braves and Cather became part of an outfield platoon. Both men were instrumental in the “Miracle Braves” run to the NL pennant and the World Series triumph in 1914. The run began 6 July when Boston ran off seven of eight wins to start the climb to the top.

 

 

 

 

Some Thoughts on the 2013 World Series

November 4, 2013

A few random thoughts in no particular order:

1. Congrats to the Red Sox.

2. Both teams had the best record in their league so we finally got to see the two best, not two hottest, teams play each other.

3, Can we knock off with this dynasty stuff? Three wins in 10 years, none of them consecutive, doesn’t make for a dynasty. If you think it does, then the Cards are also a dynasty having two wins in six years (2006 and 2011). It’s a nice team, but not a dynasty.

4. It wasn’t a particularly well-played Series. Lots of errors and bone head plays.

5. Isn’t it interesting that David Ortiz is finally getting his due. The other victories (although Ortiz was instrumental in 2004’s ALCS) seemed to hold up other players as the rock of the Red Sox. There was Schilling, there was Ramirez, there was Damon and Pedroia. There was always someone other than Ortiz getting the most credit for the victories (again leaving aside the 2004 ALCS). Now finally Ortiz gets to step front and center. Having just said all that, I still don’t consider him a Hall of Famer at this point.

6. It will be interesting to see how both teams do in the offseason. The Cards have to decide on Beltran and find out if Chris Carpenter can still pitch. The BoSox have to figure out what to do with Drew and Ellsbury. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see St. Louis go after both? Ellsbury leading off in St. Louis (with current leadoff man Carpenter hitting 2nd) would add a new dimension to the Cards lineup and Drew hits better than Kozma. I have no idea where Ellsbury will go, if anywhere, but Detroit could certainly use an infusion of speed in that lineup. Frankly, I think the loss of Ellsbury and Drew will hurt Boston more than losing Beltran will hurt St. Louis. But then maybe all of them will stay where they are. These things are impossible to predict (Heck, maybe my Dodgers will end up with a couple of them).

7. Finally, I don’t expect to see a repeat next year.

A Review: “The Gashouse Gang”

June 6, 2013

Well, I’m back from high school graduation. She made it through. We made it there and back. Along the way I picked up a book to read in down time. It’s called “The Gashouse Gang”, it’s by John Heidenry, and here’s a quick review of it.

The book is a look at the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, who won the World Series that year with one of the more colorful teams ever. The book concentrates more on the players than on the games. It centers around Dizzy Dean (naturally) and occasionally you forget that there were other players on the team. Heidenry sees Dean as intelligent and manipulative, a classic con man who can pitch. There are a dozen or so episodes in the book centering on Dean that make him come alive as a person. There are also sketches of general manager Branch Rickey, of manager Frankie Frisch, and of a handful of the players. The sections are uneven in that the comments on Joe Medwick are more in-depth than the comments on Ernie Orsatti. The same is true of other players. The players Heidenry finds most fascinating (or maybe that he can find the most info on) range over several pages. These include players like Paul Dean (who apparently hated being called “Daffy”), Pepper Martin, Medwick, and Leo Durocher while other players like Rip Collins, Spud Chandler, and the non-Dean pitchers get only passing reference. Jack Rothrock is almost invisible. There is also a nice, but short, sketch on Sam Breaden, the owner.

Heidenry spends the better part of a chapter trying to determine where the moniker “Gashouse Gang” came from. He finally decides that the New York papers came up with it in 1935, the year after the Cards won the Series. He also spends a couple of chapters on the 1934 World Series (against Detroit) with a nice character sketch of Mickey Cochrane thrown in as a welcome bonus.

All in all it’s a good book and worth the read if you’re a fan of 1930s baseball. It’s even better if you’re a fan of the Cardinals. The book was published in 2007 and is available in paperback at Barnes and Noble. It retails for $17.99.

Bob Gibson Gets Me a Car

October 25, 2010

Viet Nam Military Payment Certificate (MPC), 1967

I got “in-country” Viet Nam in very late September 1967. That’s the way we described Viet Nam. When you were there, you were “in-country.” Everywhere else was “the world.” I recognize the built in bias of that statement, but that’s the way we looked at it then.  When you talked about going anywhere else, you talked about going back to “the world.” R and R (Rest and Recreation, a five day break from the war in some nearby place–in my case Bangkok) was in “the world.” Going home was back to “the world.” But even when you were “in-country” who were never far away from American sports (which were happening back in “the world”). October was the World Series and I was “in-country” with a bunch of other baseball fans.

This was the year of the Boston “Impossible Dream” Red Sox. For the first time since 1946, the BoSox were pennant winners and had home field in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. For some reason that I never quite understood, most of the guys I knew were Red Sox supporters. That’s to say they were rooting for the Sox, not that they were lifelong fans. Only one guy was from New England and a  lifelong fan. The rest were from all over the country and were fans of various teams. But for some reason most of them were pulling for Boston.

Now I grew up in  a home where Stan Musial was something just short of God himself (and the order of precedence got kind of fuzzy sometimes), so I was inclined to root for the Cardinals, and might have been read out of the family if I hadn’t. I’m  a Dodgers fan, but the Cards were my  second choice (as, apparently, Boston was most everyone else’s second choice). So I found myself in a minority around a bunch of  Boston rooters.

I kept telling them Bob Gibson wasn’t going to let Boston win. Their response was that Carl Yastrzemski would crush Gibson and that Boston would win in five. It was almost always five because everyone accepted that Gibson would probably win one. I kept disagreeing, which led finally to that classic American sports rejoiner, “Wanna bet?” Well, it was Viet Nam, there weren’t a lot of places to spend your money  and the money looked funny (MPC replaced dollars “in-country”), and I had some that I’d brought with me, so the answer was “sure.” I ended up putting up about $100 at 2-1 with a number of guys, then went out and agonized every time Boston won a game. I was wrong about Yaz, he hit Gibson and everybody else well. But I was right about Gibson. He won three games, including game 7 (hitting a home run in the process) and the Cards won the World Series. It seems Boston’s “Impossible Dream” really was impossible.

We met the next day at the enlisted club. Being basically honest types, everybody paid up, so I bought a round for all the losers. I sent almost all the rest of the money home and it made a nice start on the purchase of a used car when I got back to “the world.” For years I called the car “Gibby.” Damned thing ran pretty well.

1910: Cardinals Postmortem

September 3, 2010

By 1910 there was nothing to indicate how important the St. Louis Cardinals would be to the 20th Century National League. The Cardinals in the first decade of the century were terrible. There was no change in 1910.

For the entire period of the Deadball Era (1900-20) the Cardinals  finished with the worst record in the National League. At least in 1910 they weren’t last. The Cards finished seventh with a 63-90 record, 40.5 games out of first.

Manager Roger Bresnahan simply didn’t have a lot to work with at St. Louis, installing himself as the backup catcher and even pitching one inning of one game. He hit .273, stole 13 bases, had 15 doubles, scored 35 runs, and was easily the best player on a woeful bench. The entire bench failed to hit a home run (the Cards finished last in homers) and no one other than Bresnahan had double figure runs scored.

Which brings me to the starters. Most of them were at least a bit better than the bench. First baseman Ed Konetchy hit .302, slugged .425, and led the team with 78 RBIs. Outfielder Rube Ellis hit all of four home runs to lead the team. Miller Huggins, future Hall of Fame manager, led the NL in walks, stole a team high 34 bases, and his 101 runs scored led the team and was good for second in the NL. The team as a whole finished fifth in runs, sixth in average and slugging, and first in walks.

The problem  with the hitting was nothing compared to the pitching. The team finished last in ERA, strikeouts, shutouts, and first in hits allowed.  Twenty-four year old lefty Johnny Lush ( please tell me he wasn’t a drinker) led the team with 14 wins and was the only pitcher with a winning record (14-13). Unfortunately he had more walks than strikeouts and more hits than innings pitched. Of  the six Cardinals pitchers who pitched in 10 or more games, four gave up both more hits than innings pitched and had more walks than strikeouts. Bob Harmon managed to lead the NL with 133 walks while striking out only 87. His ERA was 4.46, a gigantic ERA for a Deadball pitcher with 33 starts.

All in all, St. Louis didn’t look good in 1910 and didn’t look like it could compete for a pennant in 1911 (they moved up to fifth in 1911). The hitting wasn’t all that bad, although it wasn’t all that good either (Can you say “mediocre”?). But if the pitching didn’t improve the team would continue to flounder. The pitching didn’t, and the team did.

Opening Saturday

April 24, 2010

When I was a kid, Opening Day meant nothing to me. Heck, I was in school when the baseball season started. My teacher insisted I sit and learn something instead of go home and listen to the radio. For instance, she wanted me to learn history (there was a lot less of it back then) and English, and penmanship. Then there was homework (Any of you remember homework?). By the time I was done, the games were over and all I got was the scores on the evening sportscast. Big deal.

But, Opening Saturday was different. I lived with my grandparents and Granddad was a baseball fan. He loved the Cardinals and I was a Dodgers fan (don’t ask).  He was absolutely certain that Stan Musial was the greatest player since Alexander Cartwright invented the game.  “That fella in Boston is OK, but Musial can do anything and do it well,” he’d say. And me? I loved Jackie Robinson. By the mid-1950s he was no longer the best Brooklyn player (both Duke Snider and Roy Campanella were better), but he still made the team go and I wanted to be him. Somebody finally reminded me that he had a much deeper tan than I, so I decided I’d become the light Jackie Robinson. Turns out I didn’t.

The centerpiece of the day was the afternoon game of the week. There were two on Saturday afternoon, one on CBS and the other on NBC. We’d turn on the TV, see who was playing, pick the game we wanted, then settle down to watch the magic box in the corner. I think there was a rule back then that TV’s had to be in the corner of the room.  I didn’t know anyone whose TV was anywhere else.

We had a couple of rules. First, Grandma had to leave us alone. She would fuss around the house telling us we were lazy louts, then go off to sew, or read, or go next door and visit with another baseball widow. We could have cared less because we had two games to watch. That was the second rule. When the commercial breaks came on, we could change the channel and see how the other game was going. This was back when TV’s had knobs (You remember knobs?) and Granddad would leap up at “And now a word from our sponsors”, flip the channel, and God help the network if the other game was also in commercial (I didn’t know Granddad knew those kinds of words.). The third rule was that you couldn’t change channel if either the Cardinals or the Dodgers were playing, especially if they were playing each other. I wasn’t sure, but I had the feeling that changing the channel in this circumstance somehow involved sin and hell and damnation.

When the game ended, Granddad would cut off the TV then start telling me about baseball when he was younger. He’d seen Walter Johnson in an exhibition game somewhere along the line and listened to Babe Ruth on the radio.  He never bought off on that geezer idea that somehow the players were all better when he was a kid. He liked and admired the old-time players, but he recognized the greatness of the new generation. “That Mays kid looks like he’s gonna be real good,” he’d tell me, “but that kid pitcher, Drysdale, your Dodgers got seems a little wild.”  And what he thought about Koufax’s wildness was not to be repeated around Grandma. Of course none of them was Musial and that was all there was to it.

About five Grandma would call us for dinner. We always had leftovers on Saturday night. She called it cleaning out the fridge for the new week. Grandma claimed not to like baseball and knew we were lazy louts, but there was fried chicken. Every Opening Saturday there was fried chicken, every time. Granddad would always ask “What’s for dinner?” and her reply was always “We had some extra chicken so I just fried it up for tonight.” He’d wink at me as we went into the kitchen. It took a few years to catch the joke.