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Hot Stove Cooking with the Cardinals & Bob Horner's Punch

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It's that time of year for another installment of recipes from the 1980s Cardinals "baseball wives" (as they are credited). We kick things off with a punch recipe from Cardinals short-timer, Bob Horner.

As I did last season, I thought I'd take this Hot Stove season as an opportunity to try out a few recipes from the pair of cookbooks put out by the "St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Wives" in the 1980s, both titled Cooking With the Cardinals.

Overall, the recipes show their age, with many processed ingredients that you would not find today, as well as sugar - so, so much sugar. I think that's the era more so than it is a reflection on the baseball wives themselves. Quite a few of these recipes remind me of dishes on the table at family potlucks in the 80s.

There's also some interesting examples of various international cuisines from foreign-born players and families, though often translated through the groceries they could get at Schnucks in 1987.

So whereas last year I tried out some of the most unusual recipes I could find, this year my organizing principle was "things that look like they might actually taste good." I whipped up several dishes from the book and invited a handful of local VEB writers and readers over to my house to try them out.

All of this year's recipes come from Cooking With the Cardinals Vol. II, published in 1988.

Champagne Punch

Chris Horner

Were the copyright date not imprinted on the title page, you could still pinpoint the exact time of this publication by the fact that it includes a recipe from Bob Horner's wife. Bob Horner spent one season, or more accurately, 60 games, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Following the 1987 season, the Cardinals failed to re-sign Jack Clark, through their own trademarked brand of being cheap and pissing him off. Turning desperately to the Whatever Was Left market, they set their sights on Bob Horner, who had spent the previous season playing in Japan for the Yakult Swallows.

Horner - the former Atlanta masher - signed in Japan after no MLB team would offer him what he felt he deserved. And he was justified in that opinion: Major League Baseball Owners would later be found guilty of collusion and Horner would be awarded $7 million.

The Swallows gave Horner $2 million, making him the highest-paid player in Japan, and assigned him jersey number 50, because that's how many home runs they expected him to hit. Instead, he produced about the same as he had in Atlanta: 31 homers and 73 RBI.

Whitey Herzog was an outspoken critic even before the Cardinals signed Horner, telling the Post-Dispatch that his home run totals were inflated from playing in Atlanta and he offered little value beyond that power. After Horner joined the team, Whitey's criticism didn't exactly end:

“I called him Buddha,” Herzog wrote. “He was a little on the portly side and spent a lot of quality time slouched in his chair in the clubhouse … I had a rule that everybody took infield before the game, but I didn’t see Horner out at first base, so I went to the clubhouse to find him.

“There he sat, in one of his deep trances. I said, ‘Hey, Bob, what the hell are you doing? You’re supposed to be taking infield.’ He looks up at me, blinks like an old frog on a lily pad and says, ‘I’m tired.’ A hundred-and-sixty-two games left to play and the man is gassed.”

2 cans (12 oz each) frozen lemonade concentrate

2 cans (12 oz each) frozen cranberry juice concentrate

2 quarts 7-Up

2 bottles Champagne

Combine lemonade and juice concentrates ahead of time. Add 7-Up and Champagne at serving time. Keep all ingredients refrigerated. Add ice only when ready to serve. Serve ICE COLD.

I don't know about your family, but this mix of 7-Up, champagne and frozen juice looks very much like what my parents would put out on the table before parties that I was not allowed to stay up for. (Though in later years, we would be treated to our own version, minus the champagne.)

This is a good tasting punch, but damn is it sweet. Everybody who tried it remarked that it was pretty tasty, but then after a glass or two couldn't go back for more. As a bit of a punch connoisseur myself, I'd add that in addition to being overly sweet, there's just not enough booze. It's an issue of balance. The sugar is going to knock you out well before the booze does.

But if you like things on the sweet side and want to keep the alcohol level low, I think you'll enjoy this punch. The cranberry juice also gives the drink a nice deep red color - not quite Cardinal red - but close enough.