Today, April 11th, marks the home opener for the Springfield Cardinals minor league baseball team. This year’s lovable birds enter their home debut with a less than lovable 0-7 record, making me wonder what the “magic” number is (already) for them to be mathematically eliminated in the first half of the two-part season. I will be there tonight with my dad and my step-brother who graciously hooked me up with the opportunity. 🙂 (Thanks, man!)
Flash back to 1982, the year the upstart Cardinals’ major league team, on the heels of a 13-year playoff drought, shook it off and rubbed some dirt on it…and marched to the World Series and a match-up with the then AL-Champion Milwaukee Brewers (a.k.a. Harvey’s Wallbangers) . Two blue collar teams, minus a lot of the big names (at the time) of the ever-covered East and West coast teams, fought for the “Suds Series”trophy, the Cardinals winning in 7 games. I had already been a fan of the Cardinals for about 8 years consciously by 1982 although I may have had Cardinals diaper covers as well.
The stories of the characters that made up this team were many:
Lonnie Smith, at the top of the lineup, finished second in 1982 for MVP and was an NL All-star. He hit over .300 and nearly stole 70 bases. Despite immense talent, Smith had the inglorious nickname of “Skates” not for his rollerskating grace, but for his tendency to be a less-than-graceful fielder.
Or there was “Silent” George Hendrick batting 5th. Hendrick was one of my absolute favorites. Hendrick was 14th in the MVP race and easily outpaced the rest of the Punch and Judy team (power-wise) with his 19 home runs. Yet George was silent because he stopped talking to reporters after a falling out with one. Misunderstood, George was a great guy who wouldn’t have seemed so by the casual observer. Click here for a wonderful piece about him.
The team was full of interesting players who were statistically unimpressive, but as a team were champions.
They remind me a tad of the Sweet 17. Walk around and just surface look at and listen to them and you may either become stressed or sad. Dig in and talk to them and you find out that they were farmers, Jayhawks, police, teachers, mothers, grandmas, great-grandmas, plumber’s wives and print-setters. They have quirks, to be sure:
Mrs. J walks around like an absolute drill sergeant these days demanding still full plates from damsels she deems too slow eating, only to be followed by staff who rescue the plates.
Mrs. N, seemingly the “Skates” of the group, is talented, sweet, and falls like a Weeble pretty often, but without the bounce-back. This wonderful woman, though, is MVP caliber in my book….or at least the runner up. 😉
Then there is Mrs. W, triple-whacked by Parkinson’s, Lewy Body Dementia and Alzheimer’s symptoms. This princess doesn’t talk a lot (not loudly enough you can hear her much at least) but what she does do is love her fellow teammates and whisper sweet comments to even me if I get close enough to hear her pearls of wisdom.
Then there is mom, my team MVP in a team of unlikely champions. Mom helps as best she can, she plays the piano when she can, and she smiles and laughs, lightening up the tense clubhouse in the process. I cannot say enough what she means to me.
Mom had a bad start to the day today, getting violently sick potentially from taking meds on an empty stomach. (Future topic to be sure…) Her speech lately has been much better albeit still largely word salad. Daily roller coaster riding makes for a never-a-dull-moment reality.
I had a wonderful visit with her yesterday, laughing and joking around a lot. She said several very cogent things between the mixed up phrasing. She played the piano the day before, but was too tired from sundowners to do an encore for me. No worries…the 1983 Cardinals couldn’t do an encore either.
What a bunch of people in the memory unit! I love them all. 🙂