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spirit of '64

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those of you who expressed interest in a red VEB t-shirt, my vendor is ready to accept orders --- more info at this diary.

ironic, isn't it, that the day after izzy's season (career?) gets kaibashed, the hall-of-fame closer's tribute day likewise gets called off . . . . i took a look back at sutter's 1982 season, when he "became a cardinal" and the franchise last won it all; did anyone remember that sutter not only finished 3d in the cy young voting that year but also came in 5th in the mvp voting? or that 2 of the 24 voters actually named sutter 1st on their mvp ballots? (lonnie smith got 8 1st-place votes and finished 2d in the mvp race that year; i didn't remember that, either.) sutter had 8 losses that year, same number izzy picked up this season. different era for closers back then, of course; sutter was usually asked to get more than 3 outs, and he often came in with men already on base, whereas today's closers (izzy included) generally come in at the start of the 9th and just have to get 3 outs. given that larger sphere of responsibility, sutter's 8 losses aren't as bad as izzy's . . . . but consider this -- he easily could have had 12 losses that year. on four different occasions in 1982, sutter failed to preserve a late-inning tie and yielded the go-ahead runs to the other team, only to have the cards rally in their final at-bat and get him off the hook.

sutter missed the all-star game that year for the first time since his rookie season. know why? his era at the break was 4.33 -- and that was down from the 4.96 it swelled to on june 20. by my count he blew 7 saves that year in 43 opportunities -- not so much better than izzy's conversion rate this year (10 blown in the same number of chances). and sutter blew two critical saves on successive nights at san francisco in early september -- the 3d and the 4th. he took the loss in both games, and philadelphia won both nights to pull within a game and a half in the standings.

my intention here (i hope this is obvious) is not to knock bruce sutter but rather to illustrate that all closers are fallible, even the best. sutter's got a cy young award and a plaque in the hall of fame and above all a championship ring, the last of which in particular renders all of his failures moot. izzy lacks that form of indemnity, and now may never get the chance to earn it. a number of commenters here have expressed over the last few days the hope that when the players are introduced during the cards' first home playoff game, st louisans will take the opportunity -- perhaps their last -- to give him a little overdue respect. to which i say, amen. isringhausen is never going to have his own "day" at busch, like sutter, but he still merits a valedictory moment -- and i think the st louis fans will give it to him.

by the way, the diaspora has an exclusive: an interview with izzy's hip. informative.

as long as we're likening past to present, there was a very thoughtful post in yesterday's thread from a longtime fan named JayS reflecting on the 1964 season. if you haven't read it yet, do. Jay recalls that st louisans were at least as down on the team in '64 as they are this season -- the mood was so foul that the general manager (bing devine) got fired in august and the manager (johnny keane) left the organization after 1964, despite the team's miraculous rally to win the pennant and upset the yankees in the world series. i was only 1 year old in 1964 and hence don't remember what the fans' mood was like as the cardinals bumbled along at or below .500 through the first four months of the season. but i have a sense, just from what i've read, that the owner himself -- gussie busch -- helped stir up whatever bile was in circulation among the rooting public. busch was far from a perfect owner, and he never could have succeeded in today's age of broad player empowerment. his imperiousness cost the cardinals at least one hall of fame career (steve carlton's) and a few playoff appearances as a result. but busch did have one virtue: he wanted to win as badly as the fans did. he knew that st louisans expected a winner and that it was his job to deliver it. when he bought the team in 1953, the cardinals had posted 26 winning seasons in the previous 28 years and finished either 1st or 2d in 17 of those campaigns. right after busch bought the franchise, the cardinals slumped -- only 1 winning season between '54 and '59 -- but they started to put it back together in 1960, posting four consecutive .500+ records. the '63 team raised expectations by finishing 2d with 93 wins --- the first 90+ win output since 1949.

so the 1964 team, much like this year's, was charged with ending roughly 20 years of frustration for the franchise, which hadn't made a postseason appearance -- and in those days, the world series was the postseason -- since 1946. but as late as july 25 they were at .500, mired in 6th place and 9 games back; can't blame the fans or owner for being disappointed. mr busch, never known for his equanimity or patience, took his frustrations out on devine and was planning to fire keane at season's end; he may also have had wholesale roster changes in mind, and that -- ie, denigration of his players -- might have offended keane even more than any slight against him personally.

was busch acting on his own impulses, or responding to his fans' demands? i'd love to hear from anybody who remembers that season (old bird?); how does the mood among the fans this year compare to '64?

i appreciate Jay's post quite a bit and don't wish to start an argument. his points about the abuse directed at players and tony and walt this season are well taken. but it's only fair to point out that the fans have been subjected to abuse this season as well -- and i firmly believe that's one of the (perhaps the) primary explanations for the uncharacteristic surliness in cardinaldom. from the less accessible new radio station to the more expensive new stadium to the (now) request for public funds for the ballpark village, this organization has demanded more and more of its public while providing less and less in return. the unforgiving mood at busch iii and on the talk stations and, at times, here at VEB is a mood that the ownership helped to create. it's a shame that particular players or management figures end up as scapegoats for what is an organizational problem. but i cannot blame fans for being angry at this franchise. the fans give. the fans support.

they have a right to expect something back.