The Arch-rivalry

Monday, May 14, 2012–Cardinals 4, Cubs 6

Ten minutes before first pitch, and I wasnt so sure if this rivalry was all it was cracked up to be. I mean, where were all the fans? Still in line getting a beer? I’d expect that sort of thing in Philly, and saw it first-hand in Milwaukee, but this was the Cardinals and Cubbies. I literally scheduled this entire trip around this game because I wanted to see a real rivalry game, and the place is half-empty for the national anthem? What gives? I was feeling pretty down on fans of both teams, the entire city of St. Louis, and the rivalry in general. That was until I met Taylor.

Taylor—who was seated right next to me—was certainly the loudest Cub fan in my section, and quite possibly the whole ballpark. And as the seats did eventually fill up (this time with the hometown loyalists as a clear majority), she probably became the most hated girl down the right-field line. I’m sure she couldn’t care less. Seeing how she’d get swept up in every play (and for some at-bats, every pitch) was very entertaining in the early innings as both teams squandered good scoring chances. But as the night went on, getting to see it through her eyes became a transformative experience for me. First the Cubs scored four in the 5th, and she was on top of the world. She so enjoyed seeing David Freese being thrown out at the plate in the 6th she nearly dislocated my shoulder pounding me on the back.

Despite the runner thrown out, the Cards did tie it in the 6th, and that’s when I became more aware of the Cardinal fans around me as well. Though certainly not as vocal as my neighbor, they were just as much into the game. The couple to the other side would lean in—simultaneously—for every pitch, and hold hands whenever the Cubs were threatening. Their relationship was him, her, and the Cardinals. And there were many others who were just as deeply invested. So, were there fans who were tardy to their seats? Yes. What’s more, they were probably the same ones who left after the eighth even though it was a one-run game. They’re there, but don’t really matter.  It’s the sheer number of fans of both teams who were there on time, did stay ’till the end, and truly do care that make this rivalry special.

The Cardinals let it get sloppy (or, as I was saying to Taylor, “they’re playing like the Cubs”) and gave up single runs in the 8th and 9th for the 6-4 final. Cubs starter Ryan Demptser got yet another tough-luck no-decision, his counterpart Jake Westbrook was lucky to escape with the same. Mitchell Boggs was pegged with the loss, Shawn Camp picked up the win, and Rafael Dolis caught two birds looking to get the save.

Here’s the scorecard.

Foul dealings at Shea

Monday, June 25, 2007–Mets 2, Cardinals 1 (11)

In 2007, we went out to New Jersey for a family wedding. I would’ve liked to have made it another 2-ballpark trip and see both New York teams, but the schedule only worked out to see the Mets this time round. Well, I did make it a 2-ballpark trip, in a way. Knowing that I had to see the original Yankee Stadium and doubting I’d get back to the Big Apple before the new one opened, we went on a stadium tour. We were let into the Yankee clubhouse, and got to see Derek Jeter’s mailbox. At the time, because the Yankees were out of town all the players (except Jeter) had a box full of fan mail waiting for them on the chair by their locker. Jeter, on the other hand, had so much fan mail that the locker next to his was unoccupied, and filled to overflowing with boxes of letters. So, why am I writing about Yankee Stadium on a trip to see the Mets? Well, the trip wasn’t really to see the Mets as much as it was to visit family. The Yankee Stadium tour was the only “touristy” thing we did this trip, aside from the game at Shea.

Shea was half as old as that other ballpark, but from how well the two were kept up, it might as well have been the other way around. Mom had to fly back home right after the wedding, but Dad and I stayed an extra day for the game. It was the first game the Cardinals were back in New York since the amazing game 7 of the League Championship series in ’06. This game wasn’t quite as good as that game 7, and certainly wasn’t as important, but it was plenty good enough.

From our seats towards the back of the Loge level, the overhang was so low over our heads, it was like watching the game in letterbox format. It was Mike Maroth’s first start for the Cards after he was traded from the Tigers. He was opposed by Jorge Sosa. Both were excellent, allowing a single run each, and neither got a decision. The game was a 2-1 Mets victory in the 11th, with Shawn Green providing the tiebreaker on a monstrous home run. If this description seems fairly sparse (it is), that’s because there wasn’t very much by way of drama. In fact, as far as good scoring chances went, the visitors held the edge, 2-0.

Both Mets runs scored on homers leading off an inning, but they never had a runner get to third otherwise. Aside from Green’s roundtripper, Carlos Gomez also hit a homer for the home team, in the 3rd. An odd little note about both of them (and there was a lot of chatter about this on the subway going back to our hotel, too) was that not only were they both fair by only 20 or 30 feet (Gomez to left, Green to right), but both batters had hit the preceding pitch foul but at home run distance.

Meanwhile, in the 5th, The Cardinals scored their lone run with two singles, a sacrifice and RBI groundout, they then loaded up the bases (including a hit by Maroth and an intentional walk to Albert Pujols) in the 7th, but the Mets escaped the jam with a groundout to the pitcher. What I really take away from this game, though, has nothing to do with the game itself, but the atmosphere of joy around the walk-off. I got hugs from several complete strangers and the subway was packed with good cheer. The corner grocery store on Queens Avenue where dad bought his midnight ice cream (and it really was nearly midnight) was abuzz with the news of the game, and as we were leaving, dad nonchalantly let it drop that we had just come from there.We took off the next morning from La Guardia, and no sooner than I asked myself if we’d be able to see the ballpark, there it was.

Here’s the scorecard.