The View from Jupiter: A fan’s notesMarch 14, 2014
In this final posting from the Grapefruit League, blood, dirt & angels roving correspondent Jack Schnedler reflects on his 65 years of St. Louis Cardinals’ fandom that dates back to Stan Musial’s heyday. After a week of soaking up spring training on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, he headed back to Arkansas on Friday. The next ballgame he attends will be at Dickey-Stephens Park.
JUPITER, Fla — Were I tempted to heckle Marcia about the amount of time she spends playing solitaire online, she could respond with wifely accuracy that I willfully devote hundreds of hours each year to watching baseball games. Heaven only knows how many thousands of hours of such spectating I’ve done in all.
Most of my viewing is done these days via television, which pumps sports incessantly into receptive homes. But I do make it to St. Louis a couple of times each summer to see the Cardinals live. I also take in a few Arkansas Travelers’ games at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.
And every so often Marcia indulges me with a spring-training fling in Florida, where I’ve just finished attending seven Redbird games in seven days — a veritable feast of fandom.
As the team I’ve rooted for since age 6 — a span of 65 years — pounded the Atlanta Braves 11-0 on Thursday, there was time to muse about why baseball has this lifetime grip on me and a lot of other Americans (even if it no longer qualifies as Our National Pastime).
One factor is surely baseball’s continuity over time. That year-after-year consistency came to mind Thursday as Stan Musial was honored at Roger Dean Stadium by saluting a flock of his family members who were at the game. The greatest Cardinal ever, Musial died 14 months ago at age 92.
Stan the Man was in the lineup on the evening in 1949 when Aunt Kate and Uncle Wayne took me to old Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis for my first big-league game. A bit of calculating shows an overlapping of Cardinal stalwarts that requires only six more degrees of linkage in the 65 seasons since I first saw Musial in his distinctive corkscrew batting stance.
This is my rolling Redbird roll call (and I could have devised others, involving the likes of Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Ted Simmons and Willie McGee):
Stan Musial: 1941 (2 years before my birth) to 1963
Bob Gibson: 1959 to 1975
Bob Forsch: 1974 to 1987
Ozzie Smith: 1982 to 1996
Ray Lankford: 1993 to 2001
Albert Pujols: 2001 to 2011
Adam Wainwright: 2005 until today
Free agency since the 1970s has produced more player churn from team to team. But it’s amazing how a solid franchise like the Cardinals gives its faithful a chance to develop player loyalty for decade after decade.
Another source of true fans’ sustaining fidelity to major-league baseball is the sheer quantity of games each team plays and the addictive statistics that accumulate as play unfolds. The action continues almost daily from the start of the exhibition season at the end of February until the end of the regular season as October arrives. And a successful squad like the Cardinals often battles in post-season until nearly November.
The National Football League, which now evidently reigns supreme among U.S. professional sports, pulls in the humongous TV ratings. But playing once a week leaves a lot of empty time for the pigskin audience, while fans of Stan the Man and his progeny get a competitive charge virtually every day of the week.