They’re in this year’s World Series. They beat our home town Philadelphia Phillies, which should be reason enough to root against them. But they were my brother’s favorite team, so it’s not that easy.
Bart died of cancer (multiple myeloma) in 2006. That was the last time the Cardinals won the World Series. By October 2006, Bart wasn’t doing well. He died two months later. Bart’s friend and co-worker gave the eulogy at his funeral. In it, he said he thought it was a bad sign the Cardinals won that year, in that it would make it easier for Bart to let go of life, after seeing his team win the Series.
Bart was about four years older than I. We shared a bedroom as children for I don’t know how many years. I can remember one of the walls covered in pictures cut from Sports Illustrated. This was in the early 1970’s, during one of the better periods of Cardinal history. Joe Torre, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson were on the team and their pictures were taped to the wall.
I don’t know why Bart liked the Cardinals. We grew up in Connecticut, which is disputed territory between Red Sox and Yankees fans (I was an Orioles fan in my youth, trying to get along with every one). Then again, Bart was a Lakers fan too, obviously unafraid to go against the tide.
You might hear guys talk about how great it was for their Dads to take them to baseball games. My Dad never did, but Bart and I attended many games together. When I was 16, our family drove out to St. Louis to visit my sister (who taught special ed in an inner city Catholic middle school) and her husband (who was attending graduate school). We all went to a Cardinals game (they lost) in the now departed Busch Stadium (it was also home to the departed St. Louis Cardinals NFL team).
After I graduated college and moved back to Connecticut, and Bart moved to Boston, we saw any where from three to five Red Sox games a season for a number of years. He got me, and my future wife, tickets to see the Red Sox in a playoff game in 1988 against the Oakland A’s. I can remember sitting a few rows behind the bull pen, watching the game through the green chain link fence that separates the fans from the players.
Bart got married, had three sons, and we saw fewer games together, but we still saw our share. I have very fond memories of watching baseball with Bart. He would keep score. We’d talk about baseball, work, family.
In 2007, my wife and I went to a Red Sox game. For me, it was a memorial service. It brought back many fun memories of Bart. I could almost feel him there, in a Red Sox (or Cardinals) hat, program in hand, with a pencil to keep score. A warm, over-priced beer would be close at hand.
Baseball (especially a major league game in person) creates in me sweet and sour feelings. It brings back sweet memories of Bart, and the sour taste of sadness knowing he’s not with us (physically anyway) any longer. Bart’s life didn’t go anywhere near a complete game (he died when he was 46). Life, like baseball, is good, but it’s not always fair. Your home team may get a bad call from an umpire, or a bad bounce of the ball may result in it rolling past an outstretched glove, and the game could be lost. Bart died a death he didn’t deserve, at an age far too young. It was an end indescribably unfair for Bart, and for all those who knew and loved him.