Final Cardinals thoughts (for now)

On the drive to Manhattan today, which took longer than normal because of extensive road construction, the St. Louis Cardinals crossed my mind once or twice.

On Friday night, the Cardinals won their 11th world championship and their fifth since I’ve been alive. In order, I’ve celebrated in: 1964 (I was 9, so the celebrating probably wasn’t very intense); 1967, 1982, 2006 and 2011. I didn’t do a lot of celebrating last night, either. I stayed up with my wife, Debbie, and we watched all the post-game stuff on Fox. Then we turned over to Fox Sports Midwest and watched more Cardinals coverage.

I didn’t even have a drink.

It was important to soak it in. So that’s what I did. I didn’t go crazy. On the last out of the game, I sat still in my chair and watched everything I could watch on the television. I soaked it in.

Last night, on Facebook, I posted about how much the Cardinals have meant to me in my life. They have been a constant for me since I was eight. I became a St. Louis fan during Stan Musial’s final season with the Cardinals and I have been a Cardinals fan ever since.

I will be a Cardinals fan on the day I die. It’s as much a part of me as my hair – what little I have left.

It’s because of my late father, Ray. He was a Cardinals fan, to the point of listening to many games on his transistor radio. His love for the Cardinals rubbed off. It was our biggest bond. My father was like so many fathers, I believe. He wasn’t always sure what being a dad was all about. He was almost 44 when I was born and I was his only kid.

So when we talked, we talked about sports. When we interacted, we interacted around sports. The times we felt most comfortable around one another were the times we discussed sports.

That changed as I got older. My dad and I developed a great relationship in all facets of life. He struggled to share his emotions when I was a kid, but as I got past college and into the work force my dad had no trouble expressing his pride in me. We even used the word “love” quite often when we talked to one another.

I’m just sorry I was only 30 when my father died in 1986. My last visual image of him is of being in his car, a Renault, with my son, Jeff, standing in the passenger seat. Yeah, I know, it was dangerous. I’m not sure there were car seats in those days.

I’m so happy that my son was born before my father died. Jeff was only three when that happened, but he was one of the joys of my father’s life. And it’s through my father’s love of baseball that my son was also taken by the game. It has been passed down through three generations, at least – I’m not sure whether my grandfather paid much attention to baseball; I don’t remember my dad ever talking about that.

Every Cardinals game I watch – and I watch a bunch – is three hours spent with my dad. That, as much as anything else, explains why they mean so much to me. And why they always will.