Thomas Howard anyone?
Even after being reminded that this journeyman utility player got nearly 150 at bats for the Y2K Cardinals I have no recollection of this man whatsoever. But he played on a Cardinals team this decade. (Also members of the Birds that season? Eric Davis! Shawon Dunston!! Jesse Orosco!!!)
The past 10 years have gone quickly and to feel like a fully credentialed member of the media it’s time to mail in a “Best Of the Decade” column and watch the page view counter fly.
The Top 10 What the Fuck Moments of the Cardinals 2000’s (in no particular order…)
10) October 2004: Fallon & Barrymore ruin baseball in St. Louis.
Losing the first World Series the Cardinals had participated in since 1987 wasn’t the real indignity that October. Nor was giving the Rex Sox their first title in over 80 years.
No, it was definitely having the final scene of the feature film “Fever Pitch” starring Jim Fallon and Drew Barrymore be filmed in Busch Stadium on the field as thousand of bandwagon Bostonites cheered on their climatic make-out session.
I looked to see just how bad this movie tanked at the box office to make you feel better about this 6 years later… and got more bad news. It made money. 50 million to be exact.
09) June 2002: Death in the family.
I’ll never forget June 22 2002. I was in a buddies yard helping him remove a stump from his mom’s yard when my cell phone started blowing up.
I ignored it several times, wanting to get the stump grinded down before the Cards/Cubs game, which had a late start for national TV.
Once I answered, the news was delivered: game cancelled, Darryl Kile was dead.
An autopsy later revealed that he died of heart failure. But the lunacy of trying to figure out how the Cardinals ace, in the prime of his career, could just die in a hotel room on a road trip without something else factoring in was mind-numbing. This also came a mere 4 days after legendary broadcaster Jack Buck passed away from a myriad of ailments. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it wouldn’t be the only teammate’s death they endured in the decade.
08) October 2006: Endy Chavez, somehow, doesn’t change the course of history for the Cardinals.
My guttural reaction to one of the greatest post-season catches ever was simple: It’s over.
No way a Mets team that was dominant in 2006, at home, with a more talented team doesn’t win Game 7 with that sort of momentum on its side. No fucking way. Right?
Not so fast… we’ve got the bat of Yadier Molina? The three plus hours it took to play Game 7 of the NLCS were most likely in the top 50 most memorable hours of any Cardinal fans life. The drama was thick. And when Adam Wainwright buckled Cardinal Killer Carlos Beltran’s knees with a 12 to 6 curve ball to send the team to the World Series, I think we all peed our pants. At least a little.
07) October 2001: Kerry Robinson is sent in to pinch hit for Mark McGwire in a deciding playoff game in Arizona.
A month later Big Mac retires (and still hasn’t been seen from!)
Tony LaRussa called it the low-point in his career. Kerry Robinson didn’t want to do it. But there we were, winding down a tough series with the Diamondbacks and the balance of a season hanging on the line. But McGwire, knees ravaged, couldn’t answer the bell and the slap-hitting speedster Robinson unwittingly became a part of history, ending a career.
Mr. McGwire had a substantial offer on the table from the Cardinals for the next 2 years, under the assumption that some rest and rehab would at least bring him some semblance the old Big Mac in ’02 and ’03. But never shy from sticking to his guns, McGwire stayed retired. It’s odd in retrospect to see how some of the national media that thrashes him now, reacted to the news then. LINK HERE
06) October 2009: Matt Holliday fields a ball of his.
The Cardinals, down 1-0 to the LA Dodgers were one inning away from taking the series back to St. Louis squared at one and prepared for a run deep into the playoffs. A pop fly into left turned Matt Holliday into an instant internet meme as he took the fly ball off his scrotum.
The Cardinals blow the lead, the game and eventually the series in 3 and Cardinals fans are left thinking one thing: just what the fuck happened there?
Obviously this story hasn’t been completely written yet. Matt Holliday can atone for his gaffe. But Cardinal fans will never forget the nut shot heard round St. Louis.
05) June 2008: McClellan debuts the motor cooler.
Soon it became a bullpen tradition to ride this thing before every game, in and around the bullpen. Surprisingly, the Cardinals weren’t very good in 2008 and the bullpen was one of the worst in the teams long history.
04) March 2007: LaRussa asleep at the wheel.
A harbinger of things to come for the 2007 Cardinals, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa had a little too much vino and fell asleep behind the wheel at a Florida stoplight. Unfortunately for LaRussa, Nick Notle DUI photos were too easily photoshopped. VIDEO HERE PIC HERE
A month later, Josh Hancock was over-served and killed himself in a drunk driving accident.
Soon a team that was built by a brewery was banning liquor from the clubhouse and planes to avoid further embarrassment. All in all, a terrible spring for the Cardinals that carried over into a terrible title defense.
03) December 2008: DeWitt announces ‘new’ Ballpark Village plans: parking lot and softball field?
The much ballyhooed downtown development is now literally a parking lot and a softball field that has never really been used.
Talk about a misfire- this has to be one of the all time civic blunders in modern city development! But fear not STL residents, they’ve got everything under control. Just a few more months and everything will be back on track.
02) April 2001 to ???: Albert Pujols.
He only belongs on this list for making people think: WTF for almost 10 years. I love him.
01) October 2000 and August 2007: Ankiel lost it. Ankiel got it back.
At the beginning of this decade Rick Ankiel was the Cardinals top stud pitching prospect with a killer curve ball and a Cy Young in his crosshairs. At the end of this decade he was a washed up power hitter with a tendency to swing at too many change ups and sliders and is looking for outfield work as a free agent slugger.
Perhaps we’ve got a handle on what a strange, strange story this guy is now. But I have a feeling that when baseball historians look back at the Cardinals a 100 years from now this transition from pitcher to hitter will be one of the most obvious WTF moments in franchise history.
That’s my list… if you’ve got more, feel free to add them in the comments below.