Will Leitch’s love letter to the St. Louis Cardinals in last October’s Wall Street Journal is a neat little piece of revisionist history.
Larry Walker has played major league baseball since 1989, hit 378 home runs and once even volunteered to play for the Canadian national team, which is insane even though he is, in fact, Canadian. Considered one of baseball’s most respected stars, he turned down countless trade requests from contenders wanting to get him out of Colorado, citing his no-trade clause and love for Denver. Until this year, when the St. Louis Cardinals came calling. Walker, a family man, extremely popular in Colorado, reconsidered immediately. “My wife had a lot to do with it,” he said. “I told her about it, and she started crying before I even said yes.” In his first at-bat, Walker received a standing ovation. He struck out. He then received another one. “It was amazing,” Walker said.
Indeed, what could be more heartwarming or classy than Walker, earning nearly $13 million at the time, accepting a trade from the last place Rockies to the first place Cardinals.
The fans support their Cardinals no matter how they’re playing. They are not fickle; just loyal. How long do you think a tortured soul like Rick Ankiel would have survived in New York or Boston? Five wild pitches in a postseason game? A complete meltdown on the grandest scale? They would have set him on fire — at best. In St. Louis, he was never booed or blasted on talk radio. Fans were actually worried about him. After a three-year sojourn in the minor-league and rehab wilderness, Ankiel returned in September of this season. Hard feelings? Of course not. He received a deafening standing ovation in his first game back, an ovation that took so long the umpires actually stopped the game.
Had the Cardinals given the enigmatic hurler another opportunity to hit the screen above the backstop in a crucial situation — as opposed to say, a meaningless appearance long after the division race had been decided, perhaps then we’d see how forgiving the saintly fans of St. Louis really are. Of course, as well all know, Ankiel has long since retired from pitching, so we’ll never find out.
The Cardinals are everything that is right about America: modest, professional (watch Rolen when he hits a home run; he just puts his head down and runs to first, just punching in, doing his job) and based in the fundamentals of hard work and rock-solid consistency. And not a single player on the team has hair that looks like a Simpsons character.
I don’t doubt that the good people of St. Louis — the same fans that packed the joint to watch the world class fraud Mark McGwire erase Roger Maris from the record books — are a slavish, unquestioning lot who love their team to death. But does Tony La Russa really represent “everything that is right about America” nearly as much as he exemplifies self importance and self interest? Does the filthy-capped Julian Tavares (recent career highlights have included breaking his own hand, Kevin Brown-style, and the attempted murder of Mike Piazza) represent modesty and professionalism, or does he possess the sort of emotional maturity that makes Ron Artest seem reasonable by comparison?
Finally, nowhere in Leitch’s nonsensical spiel does he try to explain how America’s so-called Greatest Fans can possibly tolerate this :
Or this :
I have no serious grudge against St. Louis. Were it not for the club’s strong midwestern values, the Mets would’ve never acquired Keith Hernandez for the mere price of Neil Allen. And despite the fact that Leitch has proven to be as objective as he is talented, I’m seriously thinking of taking up a collection to fly him to St. Louis so he can witness Mike Doskocil’s number being retired.