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World View: My beloved Cards deal from the top of the deck

November 03, 2011|By Imran Vittachi
  • [Hall of Famer Lou Brock with Eliza Rubenstein, of Costa Mesa, at the 2011 All-Star FanFest in Anaheim.
[Hall of Famer Lou Brock with Eliza Rubenstein, of Costa… (Courtesy Julie…)

I woke up Saturday morning from a fitful sleep.

I should have slept soundly, but my body and mind hadn't yet absorbed a new reality: My beloved St. Louis Cardinals, an imperfect but tenacious bunch who embodied the spirit of team play, overcame a Mt. Everest of adversity in the 2011 season and won it all.

By winning Game 7 of the World Series, they engraved another notch in their record as the National League's most successful franchise and the sport's second most successful one behind the New York Yankees since World Series play began in 1903.

Yet overnight, as Oct. 28 turned into Oct. 29, two questions kept gnawing away in my slumbering consciousness: Did they win or lose? And who would they have to play next?

Over the course of two months, those questions had developed from habit into a psychological reflex. For about eight weeks, in a state of yo-yo-like neurosis, I had been swinging from agony to ecstasy to agony and back to ecstasy.

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I'm not even from St. Louis, but I have been pulling for the Red Birds since 1981, when I switched my allegiance away from the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees, in my view, were the only respectable team in the two-team city where I grew up. But they had become fat and complacent millionaires back in the days when free agency still hadn't reached today's grotesque proportions. The Yanks also embodied New York's swagger, an arrogance that I never cared for very much.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, were a storied but less flashy franchise from a tough, crime-ridden city in the nation's heartland. In 1981, they were a lean and hungry team who played an exciting brand of baseball. They were beginning then to return to glory after a dismal decade in the 1970s.

I also was an easily impressionable teen. I couldn't resist the mystical "StL" logo on the caps and the uniforms with the birds on the bat — the coolest in the game.

In the Cardinals I discovered Midwestern values of hard work, thrift, pragmatism, modesty and hardiness, which I've tried to adapt to my own life. I have stuck with the Cards through both good and bad times, and like most of the other faithful in Cardinal Nation, I have known my fair share of heartache in the playoffs and World Series.

Such losses have helped me to become a more resilient person. Seriously.

I even find myself applying to my own life the hawk-eyed wisdom of Tony La Russa, the Cards' now-retired and famously intense manager, who once said: "Expect the worst. Hope for the best."

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A grand game

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