When I was a little nine-year-old, I carried around with me all summer long a baseball glove once used by that St. Louis Browns immortal, George Sisler. No, this wasn't one of those gloves with a Sisler imprint on it. It was the real thing, a well-worn fielder's glove that Sisler had given to a friend who had later given it to me. It was small, half the size of such gloves today. And there was hardly any padding. How the balls did sting!
Yes, I know that Sisler played first base. But my glove was one that the Hall of Fame great had used at one time earlier in his career. So I was told. So I believed. And it was the glove I used for years as I practiced diligently to become the successor of my boyhood idol, Frankie Frisch, who was for years the star second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.
I transferred my short-lived affection for the Browns to the Cardinals when, in 1926, the Cards, led by the player I consider the best hitter of all time (Look at the averages!), Roger Hornsby, astonished the baseball world by winning the National League pennant and then going on to beat Babe Ruth's unbeatable New York Yankees in the World Series.
That was the series when Card pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander became a legend. You've probably seen the movie. Or as one of Ring Lardner's characters would say, "You can look it up." These thoughts flow through my mind as another baseball season begins. During the baseball strike of two years ago I said I could no longer be a fan of a sport that had become so commercialized, so insensitive to its supporters. But I'm back again.
No, I don't carry that Sisler glove around with me anymore. But I am a charter member of the Stan Musial Society, our Washington, D.C., rooters group. Frank Mankiewicz, Bobby Kennedy's press secretary, and Vic Gold, Barry Goldwater's press secretary, are founders of the organization. They told us at our first meeting that they had worked for hours on our constitution and wanted us to look it over very carefully. It read in totality: "We will meet occasionally." No one objected to that.
But what would we name this august group? I suggested "The Gas House Gang," after the Frisch-led, aggressive teams that sparkled so successfully back in the 1930s. Someone else suggested we name it after another Hall of Famer, Stan Musial, who some Cards fans believe was even better than Hornsby. (Oh, I know, I'll get letters from irate fans who will say that Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Ruth, and others were better than my favorites. But who needs them?)
Our club members voted my suggested name down, but by only one vote. Stan Musial, a most-congenial fellow, comes to talk to us from time to time. He reminisces, tells how he almost "didn't make it" as a Cardinal. He said the first time up from the minors he simply couldn't hit the ball in spring training.
Whenever House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt comes to a Monitor breakfast, we talk about "our" Cardinals. He was the first one to tell me last spring that the Cards had "picked up the pitchers we need" and would win their division - which they did. George McGovern is another from-boyhood fan of the Cardinals. He'd listen to St. Louis's KNOX radio broadcasts, which came in clearly even up in South Dakota.
So spring is here and baseball is here and I'm back again as an avid fan. I didn't make it to second base on the Cards. But I can still daydream about the game and kid myself that I might have made it to the top if I could only have hit the curve.