WHITTLE: Fabled Cardinal Baseball Best In Mid-West
DAN WHITTLE, Courier Columnist
Sunday, April 29, 2012 6:24 am
The “Field of Dreams” is not some mystical cornfield in Iowa.
The real fabled field is the baseball diamond within the walls of St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium.
Ask former Bell Buckle and MTSU pitching great Chuck Taylor, today a resident of Murfreesboro who climbed the heights of baseball immortality in the 1960s when his pitching arm launched him to the Major Leagues, when he first donned the Redbirds on the Bat uniform.
It may be just one Dan’s opinion, but the Cardinals’ uniform remains not only the most distinctive, but prettiest in the National Pasttime.
First time I heard the name Chuck Taylor was on the back of a John Deere tractor, cultivating soybeans at night, while trying to hear the game between St. Louis and Cincinnati on a static-filled portable radio older brother had improvised on the tractor.
Cards’ broadcaster Jack Buck christened the kid from Tennessee, by pointing out at the start of the game: “Anyone named Chuck Taylor from Bell Buckle, Tenn., has to be a winner.”
The late great Buck was a prophet that night, for Taylor, normally a relief pitcher, started and defeated the Reds 3-1. That was in 1969.
My Cards’ fandom goes back much farther, back to the glory days when the late great Enos Slaughter and forever-All Star Stan “The Man” Musial prowled old Sportsman’s Park’s outfield grass in the 1940s.
How deep did our Missouri farm roots go in Cards’ support?
When the team swapped the fabled Slaughter in the early 1950s, the Whittle clan decreed we’d never ever listen to another Cardinal baseball game over KSIM AM Radio 1400 in Sikeston, Mo.
That’s how much we loved “Country Boy” Slaughter.
And our loyalty to Slaughter lasted until spring training, when the Cards next took to the field.
That’s when our resolve to “never ever listen” again melted.
As “country boys” ourselves in Southeast Missouri farming country, we loved Slaughter, who made himself “immortal” in the 1946 World Series, when he won a game by scampering all the way home from first base on a single.
During that era as farm boys, we knew the batting average of every Cardinal player. And most batting averages of players on all eight National League teams of the 1950s.
Countless hours during Dog Days of summers in the torturous hot cotton fields passed more easily as we held endless arguments about who were the best players and teams in the National League.
One thing we all agreed on: We hated the damn Yankees over in the uppity American League.
I was reminded of those long ago memories on recent 2012’s “Opening Day” game recently, when Cardinal owners made certain that Stan Musial was one of the main focus of respect and adulation.
In St. Louis, 91-year-old Stan “The Man” is taller in stature than the Gateway Arch that overlooks Busch Stadium III.
What’s not to love about “Opening Day” in St. Louis, where the Cardinals reign supreme in all things’ sports.
The majestic Budweiser Clydesdales traditionally usher in the season by taking a circle around Busch Stadium’s outfield. Those enormous immaculately groomed horses know they’re “stars” and strut accordingly.
It’s time to play ball!
Writer’s Note: Local legend has it that Chuck Taylor struck out Christiana High ‘s Tommy Wheeler a record four times in a double-header.
Can’t verify that as fact, but I will help spread the tale!!