Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Little Boy Within is Very Happy

There once was a little boy who lived on a Montana farm, about 10 miles from the Canadian Border.  He was 8 years old when he started to be interested in baseball.  In 1967 it was not easy to watch baseball on TV when you lived in such an isolated location as did he.  Only a few channels were received there and the reception was always iffy.  Radio reception was not always dependable either.  Nevertheless, this little boy was hooked.

Just before the 1967 season began he chose "his team".  It all began in March as he was reading an article in the "Weekly Reader" that talked about baseball.  He'd also been reading about St. Louis.  Around that time he'd been looking through the encyclopedia and saw cardinals (the birds).  Red birds are not something seen in Northern Montana.  He was very impressed and thought they were really cool.  And so, just like that, he made his choice.  It turns out that decision, made at age 8, was to be a lifetime choice.That little boy's name was Mike.

That first year was a great season!  The St. Louis Cardinals became World Series Champions!  Mike said he was the nerdy boy with his little transistor radio out on the playground during recess.  He had to battle wind and coal dust (the school was heated by coal and it was near the coal that he found the best signal) as he struggled to find a scratchy signal so that he could hear what was going on with his Cardinals at the World Series. 

Mike told me his first baseball card was Julian Javier.  Of course, you know that the J's in that name are pronounced as H's, right?  Well, the little boy of Norwegian/Dane/German descent did not know that so he pronounced it as it is written.  Cute, huh?

I took this photo a few years ago when we were back visiting the farm.  When Mike's Dad was doing some cement work around a granary building, Mike left his mark.



In 1982 we were married and living on the farm.  It was another great year for the Cardinals and they made it to the World Series.  Our TV reception was still pitiful.  What did we do?  We packed up baby Maria and drove about 80 miles to rent a room at Super 8 in Havre, MT.  Why?  They had cable TV!  The next day we drove on down to Great Falls, MT to stay with Mike's Mom.  Yes, she had cable as well.  Mike was a happy guy, watching his Cardinals win that World Series.  His Mom was very gracious as I don't think she cared much about baseball.  It didn't matter; she cared much about Mike.

Fast forward to 1988.  Mike was in his last year of seminary.   Our friends, Bill and Cindy, had moved to Chicago.  Although they were Cubs fans, they knew of Mike's obsession, I mean interest, in the Cardinals.  They invited us down to stay with them when the Cardinals came to Chicago to play.  What a thrill!  It was the first time Mike actually got to see his Cardinals play!  We had such a fun week-end with Bill and Cindy and to top it off with a live Cardinals-Cubs game was just priceless.  This morning I had this Facebook message from Cindy, "Bill came home and said, "Mike Struck must be in heaven," I was shocked and asked him, "did Mike die?" No, silly, the Cardinals just won the world series!!!! Congrats to Mike!" 

In 2003 we were approaching our 25th wedding anniversary and wanted to do something special.  Mike was talking about different trips we might take when I said, "I am not going anywhere with you again until you get to see St. Louis."  That was one of my best "wife" moments if I do say so myself.  He tried to resist but I was stubborn.  We had tickets for 4 games but the night we arrived we'd not planned to go as we didn't think we'd have time to get to the game.  I remember looking down into the full stadium as our plane circled to land.  I took this photo from the airplane.



Actually, we saw that view twice as our first landing attempt was suddenly aborted.  Our plane quickly rose up.  We were told we were in some other plane's path.  EEEEK!  That was scary but it was fun to look down into the stadium again.

Anyway, we got downtown to our hotel and were told that since we'd booked 5 nights they were upgrading us to a suite.  Wowza!  It was beautiful!  We'd lived in smaller apartments!  We looked around and then both agreed we should run over to the stadium and see if we could get in.  We got there and bought tickets in the cheap section.  As we entered, I looked at Mike's face.  He was seeing Busch Stadium for the first time.  He was 45 years old and had been dreaming of that moment since he was 8.  I wish I'd taken a picture of his face!  I swear I could see 8 yr old Mike!  The Cardinals hadn't been doing well in that game but right after we entered they made hit after hit.  Can you image?  It was magical.  I treasure that memory of watching Mike watch his Cardinals!

The next day in St. Louis we toured the stadium and even got to go into the dugout!  He was so happy to be there!  In case you are wondering, that is NOT Mike's purse in the background. 



We also toured the Cardinals Museum. I doubt that little kid listening to the 1967 World Series on the scratchy radio didn't dream he'd ever be this close to that 1967 World Series Trophy!  He's trying to look casual but on the inside he was doing cartwheels.



We enjoyed 5 games while we were there.  It was a lot of fun, except for maybe when they lost.  Nevertheless, we made some big memories.


We had so much fun we repeated that trip for our 27th anniversary.  At that time we were able to watch as they were building the new Busch Stadium.  I think it is time for us to go back to see the completed stadium, don't you?

If you ask Mike today who was in the line-up of that 1967 Cardinals Team, he could spout them all off to you.  Is that weird?  Maybe.  The way I see this, though, is fierce loyalty is a nice trait in a man.  Don't you agree? 

I'd probably not otherwise care one diddly about the World Series.  If I did care, I would likely always cheer for the underdogs, no matter who they were.  However, I love Mike so I care about the St. Louis Cardinals.  I care if Albert Pujols stays with the team because he is an amazing athlete.  I care that David Freese got to be a hero in his hometown.  I know who Stan the Man is, I like red, I know who Whitey Herzog is and I think Tony La Russa is amazing.  I am happy today because the man I love is happy.  You see, I have some fierce loyalty of my own.


                               



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