A Requiem for Cardinals Legend George Kottaras

For all of the dozens of St. Louis Cardinals games I have attended, for the hundreds and thousands of St. Louis Cardinals games I have watched on television, for the countless hours I spent as a child in my backyard tossing a wiffle ball up with my left hand and quickly switching my left hand back to the bat I was holding with my right hand and hoping to crank it into my neighbor’s yard so I could feel like I had brought St. Louis its tenth World Series title with my heroics, for all of those things—I have zero plate appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals. And the same applies to most of you, as well.

But George Kottaras is part of a reasonably exclusive list of people to have plate appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals. Perhaps he is not Stan Musial or Rogers Hornsby or Albert Pujols or Lou Brock but he is George Kottaras, owner of six plate appearances for the franchise with the second-most World Series titles ever. George Kottaras, who has tied such fellow sporting heroes as Gene Stechschulte, Josh Pearce, and even this year’s Joey Butler, is no longer a St. Louis Cardinal. Lost amidst last night’s plentiful hot takes about whether or not A.J. Pierzynski is a malcontent (who knows) or a viable MLB player (probably not) was that Kottaras will now not be able to chase Keith McDonald (11), Luis Saturria (11), Rick Wilkins (13), Erik Komatsu (21), or even optimistically Timo Perez (35) or Russell Branyan (39) on the list of the most experienced members of this storied club. But while Kottaras’s tenure with the Cardinals was regrettably brief, we will always have the memories.

The George Kottaras era began on July 12, 2014—thirteen days before its premature end. It began in a game in which the Cardinals scored ten runs and trounced the Milwaukee Brewers to take a marginal lead in the NL Central. In the eighth inning, with the game already in hand, George Kottaras came into the game as a pinch hitter for Jhonny Peralta, who per Jon Heyman of CBS has been a disappointment in 2014. And Kottaras ripped a liner to deep center field which was unfortunately roped in by Carlos Gomez. Perhaps a lesser fielder doesn’t get it. Perhaps a lesser defensive outfielder allows for this to be a hit and allows for the George Kottaras era to last a full two weeks. But this isn’t about what could have been—this is about what was, and what we should be thankful happened.

The next day was a terrible day for the Cardinals as a whole, as they lost 11-2, but for Kottaras aficionados such as myself, treasured memories which shall serve us during darker days emerged. This silver lining is what baseball is about—sometimes your team will lose but you can still enjoy yourself. And in the top of the ninth, with the Cardinals down by ten, George Kottaras arrived to the plate as a pinch hitter for Nick Greenwood, who summed up the Cardinals game as a whole by pitching two innings. And after hitting a scorching grounder to Scooter Gennett, which he was unable to cleanly field, Kottaras reached first base as Peter Bourjos scored a run and Matt Adams reached second base. George had earned his first RBI for the Cardinals.

We had to wait until the next Saturday for more George Kottaras. But this time, we got Kottaras in the full glory with which he was meant to be enjoyed—as a starter. The experience of starter George Kottaras cannot be compared to the experience of pinch-hitter George Kottaras—from a perspective of sheer production and indescribable aesthetics. You might as well compare seeing a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performance from the Darkness on the Edge of Town Tour (this analogy brought to you by my desire to be regarded as a serious sportswriter) to hearing "Glory Days" in a Wal-Mart. It was to be George’s only start for the Cardinals but he performed as we true believers felt he was always capable of performing: In the middle of a first inning rally, he drew a walk and, after an unfortunate third inning strikeout (there is no shame in occasional bewilderment against Zack Greinke), he led off the sixth inning with a single, a hard grounder hit between the first and second basemen. Jon Jay followed with a single, though unfortunately Kottaras was doubled off of second base after an ill-advised bunt attempt by Joe Kelly went awry. Strangely, Mark Ellis pinch hit for him in the eighth, but Kottaras’s contributions were enough to secure a 4-2 victory for the Cardinals.

And last Wednesday, George Kottaras had his Cardinals encore. It was a regrettable ending, as he struck out in a pinch-hitting appearance, but then again, The Beatles followed up Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, and Abbey Road with Let It Be. Nobody’s perfect but Kottaras at least came close.

You will be missed, George. While your Cardinal career may be over, may you live forever in our hearts. May our memories of you burn for as long as the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball.

And I’ll take with me the memories to be my sunshine after the rain. It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.