Cardinals fan with debilitating bone condition takes love and passion for baseball to a unique level
By BEN FREDERICKSON FS Midwest
LA MONTE, Mo. — Clintster's Cave is ready for Opening Day.
The St. Louis
Cardinals memorabilia — a wall-sized photo of players spilling toward the mound after the 2011 World Series win, the framed photo of Stan Musial, the pillowcase with stitched birds — is proudly on display. A 70-inch LCD TV screen is locked on MLB Network. And the newest scorebook, still wrapped in plastic, patiently waits to be filled with red ink.
"I just get excited this time of year," Clint Perriguey said from inside his baseball shrine. "It's supposed to be spring, warm weather … baseball."
Some say the Cards have the best fans in baseball. They can be found from the big cities on the coasts to the tiniest towns in the Show-Me State. The latter describes La Monte, a blip of just more than a thousand people along U.S. Route 50 between Sedalia and Warrensburg.
Four miles off 50, down a blacktop road that rolls through harvested corn fields, past grazing cows and over two one-lane bridges, lives a 38-year-old man who has as much passion for the Cardinals as anyone you can find.
Come to Clintster's Cave to see a true Cardinals fan.
But first, a heads up.
The best view comes from the floor.
Perriguey refuses to let this story be a sad one.
"I don't dwell on my physical condition," he said.
The small man has a big motto: You live with the hand you're dealt, no matter how tough the draw.
He has a severe case of a crippling disease called osteogenesis imperfecta. Since birth, the rare condition has stunted his growth and brittled his underdeveloped bones. The result is a perfectly healthy mind trapped inside an extremely limited body.
He has never walked, and must use a wheelchair when he's outside of his home. He estimates he's had as many as 10 fractures in his arms and wrists alone — problems caused by seemingly minor events like tumbling out of a wagon and squeezing a water gun too hard.
To survive, he has learned his limits. Often, staying safe means missing out. But Perriguey isn't looking for sympathy. Instead, he talks about what he has: two loving parents who have lived with him all his life, a strong faith in God and a diehard allegiance to the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I've been a Cardinals fan since I can remember," he said. "I feel like I'm a part of St. Louis, even though I'm not. I love the history and tradition."
It passed down through generations.
His grandmother would let him stay up late when her transistor radio could pick up the broadcast of St. Louis road games.
His father, Rick Perriguey, was also a fan. Before he started working for the family's heating and air conditioning company, he had dreams of playing for the Cards. Instead, he settled for telling stories to his son. He spoke of the group that won the 1967 World Series, and cursed the
Detroit Tigers for storming back and ruining the chance of a back-to-back finish the following year.
Clint Perriguey took that foundation and expanded. He would never be able to be a third baseman — his favorite position. But he could dedicate a lifetime to studying the game.
He learned the players. He read of Musial and adored Ozzie Smith. When a teacher from his school took him to his first game in St. Louis in the late 1980s, speedster Vince Coleman handed him a pair of pine-tar-stained gloves.
He experienced the ups and downs. He still bristles at the mention of umpire Don Denkinger's blown calls in the 1985 World Series. The 2006 and 2011 wins made that a little better, though.
He fell more and more in love. The pace that is too slow for some is just right for him. He enjoyed the strategy, the smaller, unnoticed competitions — pitching matchups, base running, lineup changes — that play out in the span of nine innings.
After a while, he started keeping score. He filled book after book while watching games on TV. He only used red for the Cards.
"Clint lives and breathes the Cardinals," Naomi Perriguey said of her son. "If he can't watch them, or listen to them, then he's lost."
Even when a car accident threatened his life, Clint Perriguey kept up.
The driver crossed two lanes of traffic and hit the Perrigueys head-on.
"They didn't see me," Naomi Perriguey said. "And I didn't see them."
It happened in August of 2003, when her son was 29. The mother had a sore back and bruises. The son, despite wearing a seatbelt and sitting in the back, had two broken legs and a fractured pelvis.
"I've dealt with a lot of pain in my life," Clint Perriguey said. "It's no picnic. But that was excruciating."
He was helicoptered to a Kansas hospital for a two-week stay. He returned home, but was forced to stay in bed for the better part of four months. Fragile bones take a long time to heal. The painful waiting period was the hardest part of his life.
"Did I have those moments where I thought, 'What the hell is going to happen to me? What the hell am I going to do?'" Clint Perriguey said. "Sure. But I just waited it out. I knew I was going to get better. I wanted to get better."
He turned to the Cardinals for a needed distraction. Those games on TV were an escape.
"I watched baseball," he said. "I've got to follow baseball, and I was missing my Cardinal games."
Things are better for Clint Perriguey these days.
Some pain from the accident still flares at times, but not often. He hasn't had a new break in more than a year.
He and his parents were able to move into a new house in 2010. The one-story home is suited for his needs. Sinks are lower, furniture is easy to move and doorways are extra-wide.
But the best is reserved for Clintster's Cave, a special wing of the house that got its name when a family friend provided a Cardinals banner, complete with the phrase, to hang on a wall already adorned with St. Louis gear.
Here, a reverse ramp stretches down into the floor so he can easily dismount from his wheelchair. From there, he can travel how he prefers: using his arms to quickly scoot his body across the floor. His wing also has an accessible bathroom and bed that sits flush with the carpet.
"It's made me more independent," Clint Perriguey said of the house his dad designed.
And then there's the impressive contraption right in the middle of it all. The command center, as Clint Perriguey calls it, is a low desk (the drawers have Cardinal buttons) that faces the room's massive TV. With plenty of space for his laptop computer and scorebook, it's the ideal place to catch a game.
This is where Clint Perriguey will be when St. Louis takes the field to play the
Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday, the first game of a brand new season.
The plastic will be off the scorebook by then.
Red pen in hand, one of the truest Cards fans will continue to track his team.
You can follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter @Ben_Fred or email him at email@example.com