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Tag Archive: St. Louis Cardinals

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about baseball in general: Part 9 — Legends are born in October, so are surprises. This one is about the St. Louis Cardinals and October baseball. First published October 27, 2011, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Legends are born in October, so are surprises 

“October is a fine and dangerous season in America” – Thomas Merton

October is indeed a lively month, always full of surprises and interesting fact and folklore.

Come to think of it, October could be my favorite month of the year with Halloween and quirky other holidays to celebrate such as the International Moment of Frustration Scream Day, National Cake Decorating Day and Leif Erickson Day (who was he again?).

But this particular holiday, “Squirrel Awareness Month”, is one we absolutely must talk about later in this story, and we will.

Mostly, I love the surprises that October brings whether from politics, weather changes, folklore or baseball. For example:

Politics: We know that politics can turn on a dime in the month of October, especially in presidential election years. Yet, candidates continue to surprise us with well-timed ‘October surprise’ news releases. They can rise to the top and influence the outcome of an election in a blip.

Weather: I don’t know why weather changes in October are such a surprise to me each year, but they are. Yes, I realize that the change in the seasons is coming, but on that October day when I first feel the cool, crisp fall air that feels so good, it is indeed a pleasant surprise. Watching the color change in autumn foliage likewise catches me by surprise every fall. I ask myself: “How many times have I seen this?” Still, it is breathtaking year after year.

Folklore: Did you know that October is really the eighth month of the year in the old Roman calendar that began in March instead of January (not the tenth as we know it today)? That is why October retained its name ‘octo’ meaning ‘eight’.

October’s birthstone is the opal, and legend has it that the opal will crack if it is worn by anyone who was not born in October. Actually, I once had an opal setting that cracked. I wonder?

Baseball: Remember, ‘Mr. October’ Reggie Jackson who could always be counted on to hit home runs in October during the World Series? And now, Albert Pujols is a Mr. October in his own right, tying Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson’s World Series record of hitting three home runs in a single series game.

However, the biggest surprise of all this October has to be the birth of another October legend –the Busch Rally Squirrel. I wonder if that crazy squirrel that ran all over the field at Busch Stadium during the Division series playoffs knew that October was Squirrel Awareness Month? Squirrels everywhere are no doubt cheering him on.

Here’s the back-story on ‘Rally Squirrel’ if you haven’t been keeping up on October baseball and squirrel surprises:

On October 5, 2011, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (stltoday.com) reported that a squirrel, now known as the ‘Busch Rally Squirrel’, ran across home plate while Skip Schumaker was at bat in the fifth inning during Game 4 of the National League Division Series. This series game was between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The night before in Game 3 the squirrel made a brief appearance darting across the field into foul territory along the third-base line. Cards lost. In Game 4, he came back, only much bolder this time. Cards won.

With that, legend was born, and Rally Squirrel entered baseball lore as another Mr. October surprise.

As a result, grown adults dress in Rally Squirrel costumes at baseball and football games, kids are dressing up as Rally Squirrels for Halloween, and squirrels everywhere are certainly celebrating Squirrel Awareness Month. After all, who has done more for them than Rally Squirrel?

Additionally, Rally Squirrel has his own Twitter account @BuschSquirrel, and, yes, even though I am a loyal Kansas City Royals fan, I am a proud follower.

After Game 3, the squirrel tweeted, “We need to win. I’m not ready to hibernate yet.”

In a recent interview with the Post-Dispatch, Rally Squirrel insisted that Matt Holiday, Cardinals left fielder, urged him to charge the plate. “There were sunflower seeds in it for me,” Rally Squirrel said.

What can you say? Rally Squirrel is baseball’s newest celebrity and perhaps it’s biggest October surprise ever.

Gotta love October.

Oct 28

Legends are born in October, so are surprises

“October is a fine and dangerous season in America” – Thomas Merton

October is indeed a lively month, always full of surprises and interesting fact and folklore.

Come to think of it, October could be my favorite month of the year with Halloween and quirky other holidays to celebrate such as the International Moment of Frustration Scream Day, National Cake Decorating Day and Leif Erickson Day (who was he again?).

But this particular holiday, “Squirrel Awareness Month”, is one we absolutely must talk about later in this story, and we will.

Mostly, I love the surprises that October brings whether from politics, weather changes, folklore or baseball. For example:

Politics: We know that politics can turn on a dime in the month of October, especially in presidential election years. Yet, candidates continue to surprise us with well-timed ‘October surprise’ news releases. They can rise to the top and influence the outcome of an election in a blip.

Weather: I don’t know why weather changes in October are such a surprise to me each year, but they are. Yes, I realize that the change in the seasons is coming, but on that October day when I first feel the cool, crisp fall air that feels so good, it is indeed a pleasant surprise. Watching the color change in autumn foliage likewise catches me by surprise every fall. I ask myself: “How many times have I seen this?” Still, it is breathtaking year after year.

Folklore: Did you know that October is really the eighth month of the year in the old Roman calendar that began in March instead of January (not the tenth as we know it today)? That is why October retained its name ‘octo’ meaning ‘eight’.

October’s birthstone is the opal, and legend has it that the opal will crack if it is worn by anyone who was not born in October. Actually, I once had an opal setting that cracked. I wonder?

Baseball: Remember, ‘Mr. October’ Reggie Jackson who could always be counted on to hit home runs in October during the World Series? And now, Albert Pujols is a Mr. October in his own right, tying Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson’s World Series record of hitting three home runs in a single series game.

However, the biggest surprise of all this October has to be the birth of another October legend –the Busch Rally Squirrel. I wonder if that crazy squirrel that ran all over the field at Busch Stadium during the Division series playoffs knew that October was Squirrel Awareness Month? Squirrels everywhere are no doubt cheering him on.

Here’s the back-story on ‘Rally Squirrel’ if you haven’t been keeping up on October baseball and squirrel surprises:

On October 5, 2011, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (stltoday.com) reported that a squirrel, now known as the ‘Busch Rally Squirrel’, ran across home plate while Skip Schumaker was at bat in the fifth inning during Game 4 of the National League Division Series. This series game was between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The night before in Game 3 the squirrel made a brief appearance darting across the field into foul territory along the third-base line. Cards lost. In Game 4, he came back, only much bolder this time. Cards won.

With that, legend was born, and Rally Squirrel entered baseball lore as another Mr. October surprise.

As a result, grown adults dress in Rally Squirrel costumes at baseball and football games, kids are dressing up as Rally Squirrels for Halloween, and squirrels everywhere are certainly celebrating Squirrel Awareness Month. After all, who has done more for them than Rally Squirrel?

Additionally, Rally Squirrel has his own Twitter account @BuschSquirrel, and, yes, even though I am a loyal Kansas City Royals fan, I am a proud follower.

After Game 3, the squirrel tweeted, “We need to win. I’m not ready to hibernate yet.”

In a recent interview with the Post-Dispatch, Rally Squirrel insisted that Matt Holiday, Cardinals left fielder, urged him to charge the plate. “There were sunflower seeds in it for me,” Rally Squirrel said.

What can you say? Rally Squirrel is baseball’s newest celebrity and perhaps it’s biggest October surprise ever.

Gotta love October.

Mar 03

Spring baseball training—play ball!

“In the frozen grip of winter, I’m sure you’ll agree with me. Not a day goes by without someone talking baseball to some degree.” –the late Jack Buck, St. Louis Cardinals sportscaster.

If you don’t like spring baseball training, you are sick, or so said a radio announcer recently.

Each spring, baseball does indeed make us believe all over again that all things are possible, for a few weeks at least.

But long before spring arrives, baseball junkies and even the uninterested pine for the 30 MLB teams to begin practicing and playing in the Cactus League in Arizona or the Grapefruit League in Florida.

I suppose it is a right of passage signifying that winter is finally coming to an end.

Those 30 teams are divided evenly into two practice leagues, fifteen in each, but they are not limited to playing each other. They may also hold intra-squad games or play minor league teams or even college teams.

For a lot of other reasons, preseason is not at all like the regular season, and perhaps that is the beauty of it.

Did you know that statistics are no big deal in the preseason? A no-hitter or some other record-breaking performance could receive bored yawns in pre-season and is not added to the regular season stats.

Pitchers and catchers arrive early so they can have longer practices. The rest of the team gets there eventually. And as to attire, teams typically wear practice jerseys, not breaking out their official duds until opening day.

Families plan vacations and students schedule their spring break trips to be a part of spring training. They pack a picnic, visit with the players and enjoy the sunshine in Florida or Arizona.

The atmosphere is casual, relaxed and a whole barrel of fun.

As Jack Buck noted in his on-air radio poem titled “365”, “The green grass and the fever grows. It’s time to pack a bag and take a trip to Arizona or the Sunshine State. ?Perhaps you can’t go, but there’s the radio. So, you listen-you root-you wait.”

It’s a fever, and I am catching it. I may pack a bag.

But there is more to the story. In addition to being just plain fun, spring baseball training is big business.

According to the Arizona Republic, the Cactus League generates more than $300 million a year in economic impact to the greater Phoenix metropolitan area economy. The new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick complex is the latest of eight new stadiums built in the Valley of the Sun over the past 20 years. The Arizona Republic newspaper reports that more than $500 million has been spent on “building eight new stadiums and renovating two others for the 15 teams in the Valley.”

Likewise in Florida, professional baseball means millions of dollars to the Florida economy. According to capitalsoup.com, a recent study commissioned by the Florida Sports Foundation revealed a $752-million annual impact on Florida’s economy from Major League spring training. The same study also reported spring training supported or created more than 9,200 part-time or full-time jobs.

More than the business of it all, it is our love affair with spring baseball training and with baseball itself that makes it our national sport.

Buck summed it up nicely for us: “When someone asks you your favorite sport, and you answer baseball in a blink, there are certain qualities you must possess, and you’re more attached than you think.”

And as Walt Whitman said, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game—the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, and give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

Yes, we are more attached than we think.

Play ball!