From the Birdhouse Archives, Rex Duncan gives us his take on Cardinal Nation, in his 2004 Birdhouse…
It has been said that "a diamond is a girl's best friend." I won't say that statement to be false, but I think a lot of women may have a little bit of a different spin. Give me season tickets, nice weather and a great baseball game over a piece of jewelry any day.
I was a lucky type of girl. My dad took me to Busch Stadium whenever he could afford it. He was a great father. He taught my two sisters and me to be responsible, respectful, generous and Cardinal fans. I can remember going to games as very young girl. There were moments when I was more interested in the cotton candy than the action on the field, but I was experiencing Busch Stadium. I can't even tell you how many times my mom tells the story of her leaning over me to protect her pregnant belly and my small body from a foul ball. The bruise on her backside is still laughed about in our family today. (I still wonder why Mom wound up with a bruised butt and Dad didn't catch the foul ball.)
While most of my girlfriends were learning to read Nancy Drew, I was taught ERAs, RBIs, and slugging percentages. I knew the meaning of a fielder's choice and a sacrifice fly. My dad taught me the beauty of a stolen base, the poetry of a squeeze play and the brilliance of a bunt.
During the teen years, human beings experience a lot of changes. Girls, go through a myriad of emotions and this is a crucial time for female Cardinal fans. An adolescent girl can actually make some very important decisions during a Cardinal game. Is she going to grow up to be a fan of the long ball? Hit it out of the park. There will be no questions about this girl's opinion. Will she like a game of multiple hits and lots of base running? Will her life unfold as somewhat hectic, with things happening so fast her friends can't keep up? Or, will she love a pitcher's duel?
I remember spending one summer while I was in high school, trying to set my work schedule around the Cardinal day games. My girlfriends and I would arrive at Busch early to wait in line for the front row of the Bleachers. (It was first come, first serve in those days.) We talked with George Hendrick and Andy Van Slyke from the bleachers often getting them to flip us souvenir baseballs. That was the life. Baking in the St. Louis summer heat, watching a baseball game and just enjoying the carefree days of our youth.
In 1985, I was in Springfield, Mo for college. The great I-70 series was upon us. I put red lights around my dorm room window. I wrote "Go StL" on my window with shoe polish and hung up red Go Cards signs everywhere. The girls I lived with thought I was nuts. They told me I was ruining the "décor" of our dorm suite, and mumbled something about red not being a dominant or accent color. I couldn't understand. Didn't they share the same devotion to my beloved Cardinals?
It was then, I began to realize that I belonged to a special group; a Cardinal Cult if you will. I belong to a group of Cardinal fans—truly knowledgeable of the game and female. We are out there. We make up a portion of Cardinal Nation that is not always acknowledged. We're wives, mothers, and even grandmothers.
I have noticed in the past few years, the sportscasters making reference to their audience as "fans" and not as "guys" anymore. I think we are beginning to be recognized as a legitimate class of fan. Women, all ages, all shapes, all sizes, are more than just cheerleaders. We are true fans. We don't just attend the games to talk to our friends or to look at the cute players. We don't mind looking at the cute players as long as they are hitting above .300, can field a ball on a nasty hop, or pull off an over the shoulder catch with some regularity.
Last year, my daughters were so excited for me to open my Mother's Day gift. "You're going to REALLY like what we got you this year!" they exclaimed. They were right. It wasn't jewelry or a day at the spa. It was a brilliant, white Scott Rolen jersey. They were right. I REALLY liked it. My husband has taken some grief in the past. Some of his colleagues just can't believe that he gets away with giving me gifts like season tickets, a trip to Chicago for the Cubs series, or a jersey. I say, keep them coming!
I just hope that years from now, I'm still sitting in my seats, cheering the players, figuring strategies and watching stats. I can only imagine the number of female fans that will follow the game in the future. I know I'm doing my best to add my two daughters to the group. For now, I'll just be content to be in this great minority. And, I hope that my husband will always remember that a diamond really is his girl's best friend.