In a St. Louis state of mind: Why St. Louis fans are the best in baseball
When the Pope asked St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Joseph “Ducky” Medwick what he did for a living during a World War II visit to the Vatican, Medwick replied, “Your Holiness, I’m Joseph Medwick. I, too, used to be a Cardinal.”
While Medwick may have just been trying to get a laugh, he was not far from the truth. In St. Louis, baseball is treated like a religion. Busch Stadium is considered holy ground and manager Tony La Russa is regarded as saintly.
Nicknamed “Baseball City, U.S.A.,” St. Louis is known throughout the country as a great baseball town. Baseball America went as far as to name it the best baseball city in the country in 2000. As for why this is, one need look only at the championship parade that took place last Sunday. A crowd of nearly 500,000 people came out, most of whom were dressed in Cardinal red, and stood up for hours on end to cheer their home team’s first World Series championship since 1982. This comes after a season when every regular season and playoff game was sold out.
When asked what makes St. Louis baseball fans so special, sophomore and St. Louis native Stephen Himmel said, “We’re informed fans and we love the game and we don’t boo people unless they really deserve it.” To best characterize the St. Louis baseball fan’s mentality, Himmel pointed to the first time former Cardinals ace Matt Morris took the mound as a member of the San Francisco Giants. “The crowd actually cheered for him. We cheered for an opposing pitcher.”
The best adjective that describes St. Louis fans is friendly. They are some of the only fans in baseball that don’t boo their players. Coming from New York where mothers would boo their own sons if they were in slump, I was caught off guard. You learn quickly that negativity is not valued in this sports culture. Cards fans see more value in cheering for a player having a rough day then booing them. This is why so many players want to play in St. Louis.
For All-Stars Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen, it was the dedication and temperament of the Cards fans that drove them to forego free agency and sign long-term deals to stay with the Cards.
“This is a great city to play,” said Pujols, when asked about St. Louis. “Anywhere you go, you’re going to have great fans, but not like you have here in St. Louis. I’ve only played in St. Louis, I haven’t played anywhere else, but even when the other teams come here they tell us, ‘Man I can’t believe how nice.’”
Just ask Roger Cedeno, who played for the Cardinals in 2004 after spending two seasons with the New York Mets. In the middle of a $23 million contract, Cedeno had lost his batting stroke and the New York fans were letting him know it. Not only was Cedeno getting booed, but his wife also became the subject of New York jeering. Then, the skies parted. In the off-season, Cedeno was traded to the Cardinals and all of a sudden those boos became cheers and slowly he began to regain his confidence. While the Mets were working on their golf game and pointing fingers of blame after another disastrous season, Cedeno found himself playing in the 2004 October Classic.
To witness how great St. Louis is to its players, look no farther than Jeff Weaver, the Cards pitcher who clinched the World Series with a dominant eight-inning masterpiece last Saturday. This was a pitcher who got so messed up mentally from pitching the Yankees that he was actually demoted so his brother could take his spot in the rotation. A little hard work and a change of atmosphere and Jeff Weaver is now officially out of the baseball dog house.
“The fans here are amazing,” said sophomore Kraig Young. “They are so dedicated to their baseball. And they love their Cards no matter what happens, through thick and thin.”
Even Chicagoans, like Aaron David, hold a favorable view of Arch City baseball fans.
“The fans here are more informed and they care more about the game then fans from any other city,” said David.
The most I can say about the St. Louis baseball experience is to try it out for yourself. Independent of which state you hail from and whatever team you may root, take a friend and experience firsthand what make St. Louis “Baseball City U.S.A.”
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