Growing up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Cardinal Culture is part of the fabric of our DNA.
What a legacy. It can be said that the Cardinals are the Yankees of the National League, with 11 World Championships, 18 World Series appearances, 39 former players in the Hall of Fame, and four Ford Frick winners (local sons Joe Garagiola and my grandfather Harry Caray, Jack Buck and Milo Hamilton).
From Branch Rickey (the creator of the modern farm system), Rogers Hornsby (two-time Triple Crown winner), the Gas House Gang, Stan the Man, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, Gussie Busch, Whitey Herzog, Bruce Sutter, Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, and Tony La Russa (whose number will be retired Friday night), the Cardinals, like the Gateway Arch, have proudly served as a tall, shining example of sporting excellence.
Why bring this up?
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Tonight’s game marks the first meeting of these clubs since the fateful days of late August and September of last season. And while all the inevitable questions will surely come from the St. Louis media, 2011 really IS history. This Braves club is healthier, harder hitting, and frankly, better battle-tested than the injury-plagued team that was swept here last season. While there is no substitute for winning, the ability to learn from defeat is almost as valuable. I know I don’t want to feel like I did in September again … and I’m betting the Braves feel the same way.
The Braves are playing good baseball. While in the middle of a stretch of 16 road games out of 20, and 33 games in 34 days, the Braves are a game behind the Nationals. Their 11 road wins are second in the league. Michael Bourn and Freddie Freeman have been spectacular. Craig Kimbrel has 10 saves. Dan Uggla has been steady and productive. The shortstop tandem of Tyler Pastornicky and Jack Wilson has combined for only 2 errors. And Chipper. What else needs saying?
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has a favorite saying: “It takes courage to have patience.”
And while it hurts to tip your cap to the Cardinals’ remarkable run last year, don’t forget to tip yours to Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez for this season’s start.
Sometimes the wisest course is to stay the course. It’s worked for over 100 years for these two great baseball institutions. And we will celebrate another installment of this great rivalry tonight.