Deep inside the bowels of Busch Stadium, in a place where the guided tours are not allowed to go, the Cardinal pitching victory club met yet again this morning to bestow Cardinal wings upon their newest member. Despite allowing a run-scoring double in two innings of work last night, Carlos Martinez was in the right place at the right time and with his first Redbird victory became the 625th hurler to earn his membership wings. The ornately decorated Auditorium of Requirement was immaculate. There was plenty of bunting in the only part of the stadium where it normally had any value during the regular season.
Men and ghosts were gathering and reminiscing in advance of the sacred ceremony. "Look at the size of this place," Slim Sallee said to Cy Young. "When we were brought in, we had these things in a large bus."
"Or a small tavern," chimed in Grover Cleveland Alexander as he surveyed the scene through bloodshot eyes.
"That's nothing," said Silver King as he joined the group. "Back in the day, we held these in a taxi."
Everywhere there were pitchers telling stories and greeting each other. Edward Mujica and Mordecai Brown shared a three-fingered handshake.
Near the back, Cloyd Boyer and Mort Cooper were discussing their non-pitching brothers when the Benes boys interrupted.
"Did you ever hear about our 1996 season?" asked Alan excitedly. Wrapping his arm around his older brother, Andy, he continued. "70 games," he said proudly. 66 starts and 31 wins."
By this time they had caught the attention of Dizzy and Daffy, who ambled over. "31 wins?" said Dizzy. "Me 'n Paul combined for 49 in 1934. I got 30 myself."
Andy bravely stuck out his chest. "But I also got a save. Bet you guys didn't get any of those."
Diz and Daffy shook their heads as they guffawed. "Only nine," said Dizzy. "Now, Jay" admonished the younger brother. "It ain't bragging if you can do it," Dizzy retorted. "How did you two do in the World Series that year?"
Andy and Alan looked at each other. "Um, we didn't quite make it to the Series that year."
"Yeah. You'd have to ask Donovan about that. Todd, too. Did you guys win any series games that year?" The Deans both held up a pair of fingers. "Two. Each."
The pitchers began to migrate to their assigned places in anticipation of the ceremony. Alexander, Young, Brown and Dizzy headed to the Hall of Fame wing to join Jesse Haines, Steve Carlton, Burleigh Grimes, Bruce Sutter, Pud Galvin, Dennis Eckersley, and Hoyt Wilhelm. John Smoltz sidled over to join the group. Carlton stood and politely blocked his way. "Not yet," said Lefty. "Soon enough. You go sit with the Very Good for now," as he pointed to another section. The group waved him over. Smoltz took a seat at the table with Lee Smith, Chuck Finley, Mike Cuellar, Dan Quisenberry, Lew Burdette, Larry Dierker, Tom Henke, Sal Maglie, and Jim Kaat. Bobby Shantz
wandered over carrying a large and heavy sack.
"What's in the sack, Bobby?"
"My Gold Gloves. All eight of 'em"
Gibby and Kaat caught each other's eye. "Eight," grinned Gibby. "Heh. Eight," Kaat grinned right back. "That's a lot of Gold Gloves among the three of you," said Adam Wainwright admiringly. "I've got mine and Lefty got one also. Do any of the rest of us have one ?"
Gibson pointed to a little lefty. "He's got three." "Who's he ?" responded Adam."Guy they call Kitten. I call him Mr. 12 Perfect Innings."
"So that's all of us," said Wainwright. "You, me, Kitty Kaat, Bobby, Lefty, and Harvey. I can't imagine any of the rest of us having one."
"Youneverknow," came a Dominican voice from the back.
Up in the Cardinal no-hitter mezzanine, another flock of pitchers was settling in. Group leader Bob Forsch greeted the other members warmly. Jose Jiminez and Bud Smith chatted. Ray Washburn, Lon Warneke, Daffy Dean, and Ted Breitenstein waived to fellow member Jesse Haines in the luxury HOF seating. The ninth member of their group, Gibby, sat at the head table waiting patiently for the appointed time. The group began to speculate, as it often had over the past 12 years, who might be the next to join.
"Could be Kelly tonight," said one. "Could be Wagonmaker tomorrow," said another. "Could be Shelby on Friday," chimed in a third.
Bud Smith piped up. "Could be Westbrook when he comes back." The group stared at him. "Stranger things have happened," Smith shrugged.
Rick Wise selected a chair nearby and was making himself comfortable. "Hey Rick'" called out Carlton as Mark Mulder and Danny Haren swiveled their heads. "Want to trade?" Carlton cackled as he ignored the grumbling all around him and shook hands with Ernie Broglio. Broglio wiped frosting from his lips and took another bite of birthday cake. "78 candles today," he announced. "Still 27 years younger than the last Cubs World Series trophy," he said to loud laughter.
Al Hrabosky, Ricky Horton, and Rick Sutcliffe assembled in the non-functional broadcasting booth. Gibby looked them over as he reminded them, "As always, not a word out of any of you." Properly admonished, the trio meekly took their seats. "Media," Gibby swore as he caught an approving glance from Carlton.
Sergeant-at-Arms Derek Lilliquist began taking attendance. Sergeant-at-Arms Emeritus Dave Duncan checked his mail to see if there were any pitchers to contact.
As the strains of Here Comes the King began playing over the pipe organ, the Class of 2013 marched in and took their seats in the front row. Kevin Siegrist carefully carried in the sacred talisman that is maintained in the possession of the most recent honoree. "Twelve days," he muttered. "I can't believe I got to hold the thing for only 12 days."
"Quit your bitching," whispered Sam Freeman. "I was only able to keep it for two before you came along."
Siegrist and Freeman and the rest of the Class of 2013 (Edward Mujica, Seth Maness, John Gast Tyler Lyons, Randy Choate, Trevor Rosenthal, and Michael Wacha) chanted the hallowed oath as Martinez advanced down the red carpet. Gibson pried the talisman away from Siegrist and placed it reverentially into the hands of Martinez. "It is your time," Hoot intoned. "Congratulations on the first of what should be many. Remember and respect those who came before you. Mentor and guide those who will follow you."
"Once a Cardinal," Gibby began.
"Always a Cardinal," the group responded.
"I believe that concludes our ceremony," Gibson announced. "Meeting is adjo..."
"Wait," jumped up Wainwright.
"I think we should dance." Joe Kelly, who had been assiduously cleaning his spectacles with the Costco-sized bottle of glass spray perked up. Westbrook rubbed his aching back and sat up straight.
"Dance?" It was more of a statement than a question.
"Well, uh, yeah," stammered Wainwright. "I got the idea from a fan at Viva el Birdos."
"Viva el Birdos ? Cha-cha's got a fan club ?"
"Um. Sort of. Kind of. I mean.."
Dizzy stood up. "Let 'em dance if they wanna dance, Gibby. Try to remember you were young once. Let 'em have their fun."
"Very well," Gibson reluctantly acquiesced. He got up from his chair and slung his red coat over his shoulder as he made his way toward the exit. Chairs were hurriedly moved and a boom box was produced. The volume was turned to eleven. Gibson sighed as he reached the beechwood door. "Kids these days."