Pay attention, Cardinals in the World Series
I have a trunkload of St. Louis hats that I have purchased over the past 45 years or so. Don’t believe me, ask the ex-cheerleader I live with.
I will also have to admit that I am what you call a “fair weather fan,” which means, when they go to the World Series, I pay attention. When they don’t, not so much.
I’m just not near as big a baseball fan as I used to be. Games way to slow, especially if you’re not playing.
However, the reason I am a St. Louis fan is for one reason— Bob Gibson.
The Hall of Fame pitcher with the competitive edge second to none.
I actually got to meet my idol when I was 12 years old and it was under such incredible circumstances, that I don’t know if I dreamed it, or it really took place.
My father was in the media and had access to media passes which got us on the field and in the lockerroom.
I once got Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale’s autographs when they were laying on the massage table.
So in August of 1970, Gibson is set to pitch the closer on Sunday and we’re there front and center.
Again, my father was able to get us in the lockeroom and on the field before the game.
Now I didn’t know this at the time and in my ignorance I don’t know if it would have mattered or not, but Mr. Gibson doesn’t like to be bothered nor conversed with on the day that he pitches.
A more competitive person you will not meet and one of the reasons he is my hero.
So, as my father and I make our way through the locker room, we begin milling around out on the Astroturf field, which to this 12-year old, is like walking on the moon.
I see No. 45 in the bullpen warming up and I watch every pitch.
He finishes his warmups, outs on his jacket and finds a seat on the back of the bench in the corner of the dugout.
My father tells me, “If you want his autograph, you better get it now.”
Foolishly, I slowly stepped towards him, ball in hand. As I do he is rocking back and forth and manicuring his fingernails with his teeth. His right leg is gyrating up and down. His eyes are glazed over and focused on nothing.
As I approach him, I stick the ball out in front of me, stiff-armed.
When the ball gets about two feet from his head, I turn my head away.
After what seems like an eternity, I turn back around and he is staring at this ball as if it is from Mars.
He looks at me, he looks at the ball. He looks at me again, he looks at the ball.
As I held the ball in his face, he noticed that another Cardinal great Dizzy Dean had signed it, who was his hero.
He snatched the ball and pen from my steely grasp and signed it.
“I’m only signing this because Dizzy’s on here.”
I have this fantasy that someday our paths will cross and I’ll tell him this story and he’ll reply, “That was you?”