Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Season of Reminiscing

Bleacher girls at Paddy O's
Twelve years of game watching in the bleachers at Busch stadium has afforded me many experiences, some of which have been life-changing. Early on, the faction of folks who made up the bleacher faithful became not only my friends but also my family. We have shared the milestones of life while sharing our love for Cardinal baseball: marriages, divorces, new babies, 21st birthdays, graduations and even death. The Cardinal family has been more to us than the people who make up the formal organization. It has been the people who have cheered with us and booed with us and heckled right fielders with us.

Leigha & Don in section 509 at old Busch
Today, June 17th, the St. Louis Cardinals remember two great men who served among the ranks of the organization but departed this world ten years ago. Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck died after a lengthy illness just one week before the unexpected loss of Darryl Kile Cardinals starting pitcher from 2000-2002.

My memories of Jack Buck are seemingly endless as he served as the first voice of Cardinal baseball for me. In 1999, Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL booked me to sing the national anthem for the opening game of Spring Training. A parade of Hall of Famers walked onto the field and Jack Buck approached me where I waited to sing and introduced himself. We shook hands and I laughed nervously. I was floored by his kindness and willingness to take a moment to greet me.

Hanging with Skip & Toni
Darryl Kile offered a different kind of memory. My interactions with him were in passing but his sincerity in the dealings with his fans never went unnoticed. As a fan, I adored him, admired him and respected him.

The deaths of Buck and Kile unified our bleacher family. We came together to support one another in the losses. And the determination of the team flowed into the stands. It was contagious.

Jim, me & Phil Williams at old Busch
This season has been a season of reminiscing for those of us in the bleachers so remembering Buck and Kile on the 10th anniversary of their deaths has come to pass appropriately. We have spent much of the season "remembering when" because this is the first season that many of our family members relinquished their season tickets. We have a skeleton crew left in section 505.

We have recalled our road trips to Milwaukee and Cincinnati and beyond. We have relived World Series wins and losses. We have enjoyed stories of wild nights in the old Busch, friends who frequently got tossed from the games, the best fights and meeting players for the first time.  Many of our shared stories include those who have passed on, like Buck and Kile. Since their passing, the bleacher squad has lost a couple of mates as well. In 2005, Paula Weinmann died. I last saw her under the tent at Paddy O's. And in 2008, Phil Williams left us after nine years of entertaining me with his unique taunting abilities and constant laughter.

As we remember Buck and Kile and think back on the last ten years, let us remember Paula and Phil too. Let's cherish and live in the moment because it could be a life-long memory in the making. And let's keep reminiscing and telling the stories of the Cardinal family.