Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Mandatory Mustache's Midwest correspondent, Mike, was in St. Louis for opening day 2007. Here's what he had to report...
In the middle of the 1983 season, the St. Louis Cardinals acquired two pitchers, Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey, from the New York Mets. These names mean very little, if anything, to most casual baseball fans. However, to many New Yorkers, these names represent the greatest trade in Mets history. In return for the two previously mentioned unknowns, the Mets picked up eleven-time Golden Glove Winner, 1979 National League MVP, five-time All-Star, and future Just For Men spokesman, Keith Hernandez. The most astonishing component to this story is that Cardinals manager, Whitey Herzog, continues to stand by his decision to trade Hernandez, claiming he was a “cancer” to the team.
The Great Hernandez Acquisition of 1983 seems especially relevant today, as I sit in the outfield bleachers of the new Busch Stadium, eagerly awaiting the first pitch of the season. I have no idea what washed up hometown slugger they’ve chosen to do the honor, nor do I really care. All I know is that everybody who’s anybody is here tonight. But to be honest, I’m much more concerned with teenwolfing a $9 Budweiser, and avoiding the barrage of peanuts and colorful language thrown at me.
Nine dollars and a few “F” bombs later, I return to my seat to hear the last announcement I ever thought I would hear--“Ladies and Gentlemen, from the 1982 World Series Cardinals, first baseman Keith Hernandez”.
“You have got to be shitting me,” I think (and probably say out loud). “He’s a Met!”
What’s worse is that he’s sharing the field with none other than Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog, “Whitey” for short. Un-“F”ing-believable. I can’t really blame Keith because I like him (and I’m focused on ridiculing the Cardinals), but I’m shocked to say the least. This team never ceases to aggravate me!
Tonight’s opening pitch is actually opening pitches. Each World Series pitcher from the last three Championship teams is to pitch to the manager of that team. It’s melodramatic to say the least, but it brings us to the only genuinely entertaining part of the pre-game festivities—the National Anthem.
The National Anthem is often overlooked as one of the more entertaining/unpredictable parts of a baseball game…especially when it is a special event such as this. Will it be Aerosmith frontman and Boston native Steven Tyler bebopping and scatting all over Francis Scott Key’s masterpiece? Or perhaps one of those American Idols no one has heard of. Either way, it’s always a treat. St. Louis has a pretty rich musical tradition, so who knows what’s in store. There’s Tina Turner and Chuck Berry, but this crowd has more of a frat party feel to it…so probably not. Sheryl Crow is from rural Missouri…seems reasonable, but no, she’s not coming. Well then, it has to be Scott Spiezio’s modern rocking former band, SandFrog. Nope. Unfortunately, they didn’t make the trip, either.
How about REO Speedwagon? They’re from Champaign...that’s pretty close...I bet they could free up a slot in their busy schedule to make an appearance on Opening Night. I mean, the state fair circuit doesn’t start back up for a few months. Turns out, REO Speedwagon have nothing better to do tonight! They’ll do it for 80 bucks and a free t-shirt!! And so it is...“The Star Spangled Banner” is sung a cappella by one of the most irritating rock groups of the seventies. Count it!
This brings us to the exciting part--the game. I’m not going to reenact it with a play-by-play, as you all know what happened…but I will say that certain moments reminded me of the old days…the triumphant Met teams of a more regal and elegant past. On this night, one player in particular stands out--second baseman Jose Valentin.
Jose should serve as an example to the rest of the team. He’s solid at the plate, impressive in the field, and currently sporting the only mustache in the starting lineup. We’ve seen what the mustache has done for him. It has elevated a role player to a solid starter in the most potent lineup in the league. The class his mustache brings to the clubhouse is easily good for 6 to 7 runs per week.
My opening day experience has shown me that there is a lot to look forward to this season. The team is strong, Glavine has something left in the tank, and REO Speedwagon are still a force to be reckoned with. But more that anything today, the presence of Keith Hernandez has made it startlingly clear—we are in dire need of mustache reinforcements. Valentin is our only link to this important part of our team's heritage. Who will step up next? Wright? Reyes? Come on Beltran, I know you’ve still got it in you!
Well, here’s to a great 2007 season, and to recapturing some of that '86 championship magic.