Editor’s note: As we know, the Cardinals made it back to the NLCS this year. Back in 2012, Trevor Kraus, author of Ticketless, experienced something that not many of can truthfully say we have. In the spirit of the postseason, Trevor reached out to VEB with a unique story idea. I think you all will enjoy it! - J.C.
I had to sneak into the graveyard to see my dad.
He was there because his intensity became insanity. I was there, terrified of becoming him.
He had been dead for a year. The cemetery had been closed for fifteen minutes, but the Cardinals were going to win the pennant that night. The Cards had been the bedrock of our relationship. And I’ll visit my father’s tombstone whenever I want.
I was on my way to the ballpark when I passed the cemetery. Its fence was twice my height, with anti-climb spikes on top. But no fence is unclimbable if you’re willing to bleed.
Under an overcast sky on a windy October afternoon, I clutched one of the vertical bars and wiggled my foot onto a horizontal one. I pulled myself up and stepped on the spikes with the rubber soles of my shoes. I jumped the fence, landed on my feet, and looked over my shoulder. I was alone and unseen.
I found his tombstone. Engraved were words that could have saved his life: Let It Be.
He should have been alive to see the ballgame. He would’ve left work early and called me four or five times while pacing his apartment: “I have a bad feeling about this one, Trev. I don’t care for this lineup. Not one bit.”
Then, suddenly, he would have become another person. “By the way, Albert’s gonna hit three dingers tonight.”
“You say that every night, Dad,” I would sigh.
Those calls annoyed me. I never knew whether to expect Charming Dad, Crazy Dad, or some combination of the two.
But as I stood beside his grave and told myself I wasn’t one of those people who talked to tombstones, as if the person beneath could hear me, I would have given anything for my phone to ring.
Albert Pujols wasn’t even on the team anymore, but before I left, I whispered, “Albert’s gonna hit three tonight.”
I climbed back over the fence as cars rolled by, and I smirked at the drivers who looked at me, wondering what the hell I was doing. I got in my car and picked up my friend, Patrick. We were both seniors in college. We drove to the ballpark.
I had previously snuck into Busch Stadium — and 10 other sports venues. I called the process a “spin-move.”
I knew the glass, exit-only, double doors near the third-base gate would be lightly guarded; I had spin-moved those doors a year earlier for Game 7 of the World Series.
“How does this go?” Patrick asked as we approached the doors. They only opened from the inside.
“We wait. Whenever those doors open, we sprint past the usher. By the time he realizes what’s happening, we’ll be on that.” I pointed at the staircase immediately inside. “Then we haul ass to the upper deck.”
Before previous spin-moves, I told friends, “Size up the second line of defense, not just the first. Visualize how the concourse will look in five seconds, in seven, in 10. Know your escape routes and get to the top of the stadium as fast as possible.” But Patrick’s hands were shaking with nerves. He didn’t need technical instruction; he needed moral support.
I put my hand on his shoulder. “Harness the adrenaline. Trust your instincts. Follow me. This game is ours.” We stood next to the doors with our backs to the usher and phones in our hands, pretending to wait for a friend. Fifty feet to our left, fans lined up at the turnstiles to have their tickets scanned.
A minute later, a stadium custodian, carrying a broom and dustpan, approached from the sidewalk. He waved to the usher through the glass and pointed at the door handle. The usher nodded and pushed the door open. The custodian grabbed the handle and pulled it the rest of the way. He walked through.
I moved in as the door swung closed, flung it open, and sprinted inside. The custodian was blocking the usher’s view; I don’t think either of them saw me until I was on the staircase.
I tore up the stairs two at a time, running close to the inside rail. I thought of nothing but the efficiency of my strides. I turned around on the fourth flight, when Patrick panted, “Trev, I gotta stop. Been smokin’ too much for this.” Our sprint slowed to a walk. I looked down over the banister. No one was chasing us.
“That guy with the broom moved out of the way after you went. And ... ” Patrick took a deep breath. “And the usher saw me coming. He stuck his leg out to trip me, so I jumped over him.”
“He say anything?”
“I think he said, ‘Hey!’ when you went, but then he got distracted by me. Couldn’t tell you for sure. I kinda blacked out.” We ducked into a bathroom. I took off my black jacket; I was wearing a red Cardinals shirt underneath. I took the never-washed, sweat-and-dirt-stained, Steve-Kline-inspired Cardinals hat from my back pocket, put it on, adjusted it in the mirror, and grinned at Patrick.
“Damn Trev, your eyes are blood-red. You been smoking too?”
“Not even a little bit.”
Planning a spin-move, assessing security, and sneaking into a stadium — willpowering over the rules and getting away with it — was my drug. The adrenaline made me feel like the strongest and smartest person who ever lived. Like I could do anything. And a spin-move always made the game to follow more meaningful.
Patrick and I walked out to the concourse and looked over our shoulders. We were in, clean. I pumped my fists over my head and galloped aimlessly through the crowd. I patted other fans on the back and shouted, “Let’s go Redbirds, baby! Wooo-hoo-hooo!” Patrick jogged behind, making eye contact with everyone, trying to convey, I know he’s nuts, I’m sorry.
We found a standing-room-only area, and I paced while rubbing my hands together and looking at the scoreboard, waiting to see how the manager had screwed up the batting order. I said to Patrick in a jittery voice, “Doesn’t it feel like something historic is gonna happen, just for us? We wanted to get in, we made it happen, and now, watch: We’re gonna see something special.”
“How about a perfect game?”
“I’d take that. But I think Albert’s gonna hit three.”
This is an excerpt from the newly released best-seller Ticketless: How Sneaking Into The Super Bowl And Everything Else (Almost) Held My Life Together. If you’re interested in reading more excerpts, visit this link and leave your email address