My story is paradoxically fairly unusual and, in all likelihood, fairly similar to many of yours. I was born in Oklahoma and have lived in Texas since I was 2. I’m not from St. Louis and, until 2006, had never been to St. Louis or even Missouri. I inherited my Cards’ fandom from my father who, in turn, inherited it from his. When he grew up, there was no TBS or WGN or ESPN. You couldn’t buy MLB’s Extra Innings package and watch your favorite team 130 times a year. The games weren’t televised and, on the radio, you took what you got.
In Oklahoma in the 50’s and 60’s, there was 1 team – the Cardinals. Everyone used to gather around the family radio at night and listen to the Cards’ game on the radio. I get asked often, since I live in the Houston area, why I’m a Cards’ fan. I suppose they expect me to be an Astros’ fan (yuck!). There were no Astros when my dad was growing up. As he got older they were the Buffs and then the Colt 45’s. Hell, they were a farm team in the Cards’ farm system. They’ll always be that farm team to me!
Anyway, there were no Astros or Rangers to listen to on the radio so they all listened to Harry Caray, and then Jack Buck, call the Cards’ games on the radio. When I was growing up, his fandom was passed down to me. I went to see the Cards play the Astros in the Astrodome a couple of times when I was growing up and I remember our trip out west to Disneyland. We took in a 3 game series – Cards vs. Dodgers in Chavez Ravine. The Cards were a very mediocre team in 1977 and 1978 (not sure which year it was) and the Dodgers were the best team in the NL. Miraculously, the Cards won 2 out of 3 and I ended up owing my dad 2 boxes of popcorn as a result. It was worth it. (I paid him back by being scared out of my mind on the f-ing Matterhorn!)
So I’ve been hooked for more than 30 years simply by inheriting this gene from my dad. I’m passing it down to my kids as well. My son’s a big Chris Duncan fan. Not sure why. Maybe b/c it’s the baseball card he had out when he came to the plate one night. I don’t really have the heart to tell him, "Sean, Chris Duncan stinks and hasn’t hit a loud foul in about a year and half." Either Duncan will play better or my son will move on. It’s funny. He thinks that I only think that Pujols is so great b/c he’s a Cardinal. He doesn’t realize I’m serious when I tell him he’s the best player in the game.
It’s true that I had never been to a Cards’ home game until 2006. The Cards opened their new stadium and my wife and I took in a 3 game series against the Braves. The first game was Jeff Weaver’s first w/ the club. He got abused on ESPN’s game of the night and I got a sunburn w/ that 6 pm start. Jorge Sosa hit a homer for the Braves. In the second game, Jason Marquis managed to hold the Braves to 12 runs in 5 innings and I began to think, "they’ll never win the World Series this year if we can’t hold a team to less than 12!"
The third game saw Carp come to the mound … but not until about 10 pm. Those of you in the city remember this game. It was "the tornado game" where the tornado swept through the city just before game time. It was a late night but I came all the way from Houston, dammit!, to see the Cards win a game and they were going to win one! Win one they did, 8-3 and I could almost forget the shellacking they took in the first two games.
In any case, those are the only 3 Cards’ home games I’ve ever seen live. It’s strange, probably, to have such an avid fan of a team have such a limited exposure to the team’s city but, for the Cards, it’s probably not that uncommon at all. I’m sure there are a lot of people like me, from Iowa or Arkansas, Tennessee or Louisiana, who grew up Cards’ fans despite not having a direct link to the city. Because the Cards have always been such a regional team, having a link to the region makes the city of St. Louis, at least as it applies to the team’s fanbase, that much bigger.
So what’s your Cards’ story? Don’t be shy just b/c you’re from the city