The Gospel Truth

The Mission for Red October in St. Louis | October 19, 2011

Every fall as the Cards try to play their way into another post-season, the banners pop up all over town, heralding the team’s Hunt for Red October.

The term, which has become somewhat hackneyed in St. Louis at play-off time, refers to the eponymous 1984  novel by Tom Clancy.

The story follows the intertwined adventures of Soviet submarine captain Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius and CIA analyst Jack Ryan.

There is no such international intrigue going on in St. Louis.

Only baseball–which is another way of saying real life.

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Was his Capt. Rasimus an omen or a misspelling?

Baseball is an important part of what vitality remains in a city that has seen its population shrink by 70% since 1960.

There have been other teams and a few other championships but baseball has ruled supreme since 1926 when the Cardinals upset the prima donna Yankees in the world series.

Since then there have been nine more WS banners that have flown atop their ballparks, the last one  from the not too-distant 2006.

Part of this overall sense of malaise resulted from the fact that the team lost it best pitcher in spring training, a month before the season even opened.

Then its second #1 starter, the always reliable and highly competitive Chris Carpenter gave up a bucket-load of hits that found him with just a single win by the middle of the season.

Then there was their temperamental center-fielder, a mercurial player, named Corby Rasmus–no relation to the Clancy character above–who always played as if he were missing a suffix.

The distant Rasmus usually ignored the avuncular advice of his batting coaches for the stern wisdom of his father, much to the chagrin of long-time manager and future Hall of Famer, Tony La Russa, who has been at the Cardinals’ helm since 1996.

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His trade was a catalyst

Illness also dampened the season.  La Russa had the worst case of shingles that the baseball world had ever seen.

Just one of his many challenges in 2011

As his face continued to swell into a deformed mass of tissue as he preserved to hit fungoes before each game, the fans looked as if they wanted to ask for a do-over for the entire season.

It was complicated by the six-week loss of his alter ego, his pitching coach, who had stood shoulder to shoulder with his manager for over 30 years, due to his wife’s brain tumor.

There was no way they could win with all these issues, averting their needed attention from the field.

So why aren’t the Cardinals in their usual hunt mode?

This year is different.

There is an uncanny, intangible spirit that has permeated the team, the stadium and the city since late July when the team transformed itself from a mediocre band of individual players more worried about whether or not their superstar, of the last 11 seasons, Albert Pujos would even be on the team next year.

I think George Will got it wrong many years ago in his book Men at Work when he called La Russa a genius.  

The New York Times calls him celebrated and cerebral.

He’s a magician who can pull victories out of a hat of defeat with a flick of his wrist to the bullpen.

The chemical brew gave their manager all he needed to work his magic.

Tony LaRussa Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals - Game Three

Will was wrong!

No, this team is not on a hunt.

It is on a mission–a mission that can only come from above.

A mission is something that one is sent on or called to do.

That’s what is happening in St. Louis.

I know that sounds a bit farfetched.

Though I am not quite the kind of guy that wants the separation of  church and baseball, I think that the celestial finger-pointing is overdone.

I am reminded of a story former catcher for the Cardinals and Hall of Fame broadcaster, Joe Garagiola told me in 1973 during an interview.

He had been regaling me with many of his Yogi stories all afternoon when he started talking about religion and baseball.

He thought Latin players, who continually blessed themselves before each at bat were making a novena, instead of just trying to hit the ball.

One story included Jimmy Piersall, the outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, who fought mental illness his entire life.

I highly recommend his biographical movie, Fear Strikes Out, though one must suspend belief in watching Tony Perkins try to copy the right-handed Piersall in the field.

A Catholic, like Yogi, Piersall had the habit of drawing a sign of the cross in the dirt before stepping in the batter’s box.

Yogi got up and rubbed it out, saying why don’t you just let God watch the game?

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Asked for God's neutrality

Do I really think God cares about who wins a baseball game?

Maybe God would rather just watch the game but sometimes I really believe he uses these  games to humble, challenge, elate, and inspire His creatures.

I think this is one of those times.

The institution of the rally squirrel might just be a marketing tool but I was there for the night when they first showed up in a Cardinal loss.


A divine intervention?

Were they messengers from God?

Whatever the case I can feel the something special emanating from the ball park.

It started with the strange way that they backed into the play-offs.

The only way they could make it was if they kept winning and the Atlanta Braves were into a horrendous slump.

Well the improbable happened and on the last day they were the last team to make the cut.

Then came the best team in the National League–the Philadelphia Phillies, who were a better team than the Cardinals.

Five game later, they were going on a winter’s vacation.

I knew something was going on when Carpenter pitched the game of his life in beating Doc Halladay, arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

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The game of his life?

He had pitched the game of his life—last season.

Next up was the rival, Milwaukee Brewers, whom the Cardinals had actually beaten a few times near the end of the season.  They were almost unbeatable at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

Six games later after the Wild Cards‘ booming bats and a shut-down bullpen that won two games in Milwaukee the Brewers were yodeling the tune wait until next year.

Now it is the upstart Texas Rangers who taste the world series atmosphere last year and are back for the main course this year.

Can the Cardinals win and accomplish their mission?

Are they the most recent team of destiny?

I don’t know but I am taking my wife to her very first world series game tonight and she just knows they will prevail.

Only Michael Young and company stand in their way.

And when it is finally over this weekend or next week in St. Louis, she is convinced that their manager will can say in his special way: mission accomplished!

I don’t know she is usually right about these things!



  1. […] Mission for Red October in St. Louis « The Gospel Truth 18 de outubro de 2011 Origem: The Mission for Red October in St. Louis | October 19, 2011. Every fall as the Cards try to play […]

    Pingback by The Mission for Red October in St. Louis « The Gospel Truth | Gospel Feeds — October 19, 2011 @ 3:29 am

  2. Today’s Post-Dispatch had a column from Bill McClellan entitled “A last hurrah for a great sport”. I tend to agree. The owner of the Cardinals, Bill DeWitt, lives in Cincinnati. Everyone respected Augie Busch and the Brewery as a legacy of German Catholicism with the Cardinals as an extension. There is no doubt of the symbolism of greed in baseball among other sports. Poujols wants 300K for 10 yrs at the age of 32. He came to the U.S. at 16 and may have really been 18. He wants to be the number 1 paid player in baseball. When he does sign, he will be for 1 day until Cecil Fielder signs the next for 1 dollar more.

    Comment by jbq2 — October 19, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  3. A great post, Pop. Very enjoyable. Look for me and my friend, Jamie, in the left field bleachers for Game Three in Arlington. Viva El Birdos!

    Comment by Matt — October 19, 2011 @ 8:53 pm

  4. Knowing absolutely nothing about baseball, may the best man win. I mean, may the best team win. My brother, who was 80, died of lung cancer yesterday. I loved him and miss him. He lived in Kentucky. Our priest who resides here and had mass for us every Saturday and Sunday is in hospice dying. God seems to be calling them in before the world shaking event. Amen

    Comment by Mary B — October 20, 2011 @ 1:37 am

    • Mary:

      Sorry to hear about your brother. I will put him in my prayers. Judy loved her first time in the big show but Michelle Obuma’s appearance was a downer. I was nearly strip-searched just to get to my seats. BB

      Comment by bbprof — October 20, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  5. Bill,
    Please take a cold shower. Yeah, as a Cardinals fan for more than 50 seasons, I hope they win the Series and expect they will (I predicted a Cardinals win in six games before the start of last night’s first game). However, this Cardinals team has been given a shot that none of the other second-place Cardinals teams (1927, 1935, 1936, 1939, 1941, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1957, 1963, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1981, 1991, 2010) ever had — to be the dreaded wild card. There’s something very wrong with a second-place team playing in the World Series, and if they expand to a second wild-card team next year you’ll someday have the two leagues’ second wild cards (fifth-best records) playing in the World Series. No wonder TV viewership is down. LaRussa is no magician. He got his team to finish second, not first, which should be the goal. Because of a quirk in the rules since 1995, the second-place team with the best record gets yet another chance to do in October what it couldn’t do in the previous six months. Some of us put up with it in hopes that sanity — both in baseball, in Washington, and in the world beyond — will someday return.

    Comment by Jim Rygelski — October 20, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

    • Jimmy:

      As a puriist with the heart of a realist, I agree with your sentiments but, let’s face it—TV rules and there were only 16 teams when we made our baseball bones. Now there are 30 teams–almost double. There are also 315 million people—adding teams is a logical and maybe a necessary thing. And with the convoluted schedules thanks to inter-league play they don’t play their own division as much as there needs rto be a safety valve for good teams that happen to be in a more competitive division. I got my shower at the game and have come back to earth. BB

      Comment by bbprof — October 20, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at







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