BACK WITH MY CARDINALS IN JUPITER
JUPITER, FL, MARCH 18: Once again this year, I have flown south during the month of March and landed in Jupiter. Not the fifth planet from the sun, but this beautiful town in south Florida. I fly down here every winter, not as a snowbird, but as a Cardinal. You see, Jupiter is the “winter home” of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals, and I join them here every March for spring training.
I once played second base for the Cardinals. The Dellwood Baptist Church Cardinals of the Frayser Little League in suburban Memphis. I played on a sandlot of dreams, and my dream was to some day play for the Cardinals in Busch Stadium. But I had just a few limitations as a ball player.
First, I couldn’t hit a curve ball. I also couldn’t hit a fast ball, or even a slow pitch softball.
Second, as a fielder, I could not execute a double play or even the infield fly rule, which can be executed without even catching the ball!
But my dreams did not die on that sandlot in north Memphis. On summer nights, I would listen on my transistor as Harry Caray broadcast the Cardinals games.
On a memorable day in 1960, my father took me to old Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis to see my first MLB game. It was my Cardinals v. the Milwaukee Braves. I saw Stan the Man Musial and Henry Aaron play that day. It remains and will always be one of the best days of my life.
For the past 60 years, I have followed my boys of summer, the Cardinals, each year from April through September, and in some wonderful years (1964, 1967, 1968, and more recently 2011) in October as well.
For the past 20 years, I reported for spring training with my Cardinals here in Jupiter. I have not played second base on the beautiful diamond in Roger Dean Stadium, but I have sat in the stands in the glorious Florida sun, donning my Cardinals cap and jersey. I have been ready to take the field if my Cardinals needed me. As John Fogerty sang, “Put Me in, Coach!”
This year it appeared that neither I nor any Cardinal would take the spring training field. Before our annual flight south, our Cardinal wings were clipped by something called a “lockout.”
There was no joy in Jupiter, as it was Roger Dean Stadium that was locked, and fans like me who were locked out.
But then, thanks to that great baseball fan in the ultimate Sky Box, the billionaire owners and millionaire players somehow found the key to unlock Roger Dean Stadium and let me and my fellow Cardinals in.
And so today, I am back where the good Lord intends for me to be this time of the year. I am in Jupiter, sitting in Dizzy Dean Stadium. Well, okay, it’s Roger Dean Stadium, but I like to call it after ole Diz. I got me a hotdawg in one hand and a cold one (as ole Diz called them) in the other. But I am ready to drop my dawg and suds if the new Cardinals manager, Oliver Marmol, wants me to trot out to the diamond and play second base.
The dreams of that little boy on that sandlot in north Memphis live on.
Let’s play ball!