WATCHING KOREAN BASEBALL UNTIL MY CARDINALS FLY HOME
I can tell you exactly where I was when I fell in love with baseball. Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.
It was the summer of 1960, and I was just 8 years old. My father took me to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play the Milwaukee Braves. Dad taught me that day how to keep a score card, something all real baseball fans do.
On that sunlit day I saw Stan Musial play first base for the Redbirds. I saw Hank Aaron play outfield for the Braves.
I even remember the Cardinals’ starting pitcher, Ernie Broglio. Just a few summers later, he would be traded to the Cubs for Lou Brock. It would be the greatest trade in Cardinals baseball history, and the dumbest trade ever for the Cubs.
The game that day had a storybook finish. The Cardinals won 8-7 on a winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning.
On that memorable day in St. Louis 60 years ago, I became a life-long baseball fan and a devoted fan of the St. Louis Cardinals.
When I got back home to Memphis I began to spend my summer evenings listening to Cardinals baseball on a small transistor radio. Through my earphones I could hear Harry Caray scream, “It might be! It could be! It is! A home run! Holy cow!”
And that’s how I spent so many of my spring and summer and occasionally fall evenings over the past 60 years, hearing the voices of summer from Harry Caray to Jack Buck to Mike Shannon bringing me the play-by-play of Cardinals baseball.
I see baseball as well as hear it. I make an annual trip to Jupiter, Florida in March to watch the Cardinals in spring training. I make an occasional trip to Busch Stadium in St. Louis, re-enacting the visit my dad and I made to Sportsman’s Park 60 years ago. I go to Auto Zone Park in downtown Memphis to see the Redbirds down on the farm. And I sometimes watch the Cardinals on TV, particularly when my all-time favorite Cardinal and fellow Memphian, Tim McCarver, is providing the color commentary, and the color is red!
But this spring, the only time since the strike-shortened season of ’94, I am not able to either see or hear my beloved Birds. The pandemic has at least postponed the start of the 2020 season. A spring without baseball? Say it ain’t so!
Classic games are being re-played on TV and even radio, and I have watched a few of them. But when you already know the outcome of the game, there is no excitement even when you see David Freese once again hit that winning homer in Game Six of the 2011 series. Great memories, yes, but none of the thrill of baseball in the present tense.
In a desperate attempt to see live baseball I have started watching the Korean League games telecast on ESPN. They come on in the middle of the night, but being an old baseball man, I get up in the middle of the night to … well, you know. So after a brief pickup, I often park myself on the sofa in my den and tune in to the sight of Korean ballplayers playing in empty stadiums. Well, the stands aren’t completely empty. Believe it or not, they’ve actually placed teddy bears in some of the seats in the Korean ballparks. They are probably all Cubs fans.
I’ve even found my favorite Korean team, the Busan Lotte Giants, although the team’s name sounds like a drink I might order at Starbucks. I’ll have a Busan Lotte Giant!
I am also trying to locate a Stratomatic Baseball boardgame so I can play some virtual games against my wife. I played Stratomatic Baseball on a regular basis when I was in high school and even college, and I have the academic transcript to prove it.
But I’m afraid my Stratomatic board diamond and player cards were tossed out along with my Topps baseball card collection back in the 70s when I myself was called out at home after I graduated from college.
There being no Stratomatic baseball games for me to manage, I must now get my baseball fix in the middle of the night live from Korea.
I am hoping and dreaming that in just a few weeks I will be able to see and hear Cardinals baseball from empty ballparks in Disney World or at spring training parks (Jupiter, yes!) or whenever they let the quarantined ballplayers play.
Mike Shannon can do the play-by-play on remote from his kitchen back in St. Louis.
Until then, I will be awake at 3:00 a.m., clutching my teddy bear, as I watch Busan play the NC Dinos!
Go Lotte Giants!