Another Great Baseball

In keeping with yesterday’s trend I will showcase another baseball in my collection. Ball #189 was obtained from a shop at the new Busch Stadium the day after my birthday. I was just killing time since I had gotten to the stadium early when I saw a game used memoribilia shop in center field. I walked in and was awed by the signed baseballs in the case. I really wanted a Stan Musial ball, but it was $175, and even that is a little salty to a sports junkie. Just down from the signed balls were actual balls used in a game. They happened to have two from my birthday, and I asked to see them. They came in a cube, and I took the ball that had a little scuff from the redish dirt on the infield. Just last week I looked up the number on the ball on the Major League Website. Here is what I found when I looked it up:
TOP OF 1ST INNING PITCHER JOHN SMOLTZ BATTER PETE ORR SINGLE
Did I just really pick up a ball that John Smoltz put into play that was recorded as a hit? I think that I did. This is the next best thing to actually fielding the ball in my opinion. Right now this may be the jewel of my collection until I actually get a game used ball myself. That should be any day now.

More Pictures From the First Cardinals – Nats Game

While getting the pictures from the weekend off of my camera I realized that I had a few decent pictures that I could post on here. Here are the pictures from Friday.

Tom Henke signing a ball for me pregame. He was even nice enough to inscribe Happy Birthday on it.
Molina, Smoltz, and Duncan come from the bullpen pregame. This is always one of my favorite parts of the game. It always reminds me off the old cowboys walking to meet the bad guys at high noon.

Did Ryan Ludwick swing this early, or is the ball levitating? I love this picture.

Molina swinging hard

Hey, its Willie Harris! Remember the guy who scored the World Series winning run? Here he is getting out of the box.

John Smoltz sending a ball to the warning track in center. The place would have gone down had the ball gone out.

Pujols about to make contact. I took many pics of this man. He may be the best ever.
Pujols watching it fly

Pujols with a big follow through on another at bat. Matt Holliday looking on thanking the heavens that he gets to bat behind this man.

Holliday and Rasmus Send Me Off with a Win

Last night I was at the Cardinals game for the second night in a row. On Friday Albert ended the game in dramatic fashion. Such heroics were not needed last night. Matt Holliday hit a three run homer in the third to put the Cardinals up, and they kept going after that. The picture to the left was taken just before contact on the homer. They put up four more in the 5th thanks to an error followed by a Colby Rasmus three run homer. Mitchell Boggs was effective in getting the win, but I don’t think that they will be able to ride this guy in the playoffs. He was up and down, and was close to letting the game get away from him a couple of times. Once again Albert did not disappoint. He went 2-3 on the night with two walks and two runs scored. He hit two doubles, the second of which was off the wall in straightaway center that scored a run. If I was the manager of the other team I would walk him every time. The road trip ended with two Cardinal wins. Both games were very exciting to be at. It is nice to be at a stadium when a team is performing as they should. I had great seats just behind home plate, and I had good people around me. Two Cubs fans that sat directly behind me were even decent. When he started giving the Cardinals season ticket holders flack because the Cubs sell out every game and the Cardinals don’t, she simply pointed to the eleven championships and said “I’d rather have those.” That seemed to do the trick. The new Busch Stadium was simply beautiful, and I see no reason why I will not make my way back soon. Hopefully the Sox will get to have a series there soon. I would love to spend three more days in St. Louis. During the two games that I saw I was able to see every Cardinal position player as well as all but two of the Nationals players. I also saw the three main powers hitters (Pujols, Holliday, and Adam Dunn) all hit one out. Pujols of course hit the most dramatic dinger. The only thing that would have made the trip even better was seeing Smoltz get a win. It was still cool seeing him pitch though.

Neither team took batting practice yesterday because it was photo day. When I got into the stadium I was initially bummed because fans were on the field, and the players were not. That quickly subsided when I made my way onto the field. I will save that story for another post though. I also was able to see Ernie Banks play the first game of a doubleheader yesterday. That story too will have to wait.

Pujols is the Man!

I already knew this coming into the stadium today, but he just added to his lore by smacking a home run way out of the park to win the game for the Cardinals in the ninth inning tonight. For a while I thought that this game might be going into extras once the Nationals went down in the top of the ninth. I thought that it would be fitting to see an extra inning game on my birthday. Albert decided against it though smacking a ball deep into the left field seats to win the game. From the moment that it left the bat you knew that it was gone. I had my camera put away already, but grabbed it out quickly to get a shot of the celebration at home plate. This team knows that it is close to something special. The Cubs won today so the lead stays at 9 in the central. That would not have been possible except for the heroics of Khalil Greene. He pinch hit in the eighth inning and hit a line drive out of the park to tie the game up. When Greene stepped into the box I thought “Why him?” I guess you don’t question the moves by Tony Larussa.
I was really excited to see the start of the game tonight to see John Smoltz pitch. He has 213 wins and 154 saves in his Major League career. He also won his first start in a Cardinal uniform on the road last week. What did the St. Louis fans do to greet Smoltz? Well he was cheered every time that the crowd thought that they could. They cheered him when he was warming up. They cheered when he came out from the bullpen before the start of the game. They cheered when he took the mound. They went ballistic when he came to bat the first time. They also gave him two send offs. They were not sure if he was coming out or not after he pitched the fifth inning so they gave him an ovation. They repeated the feat after the sixth. These fans really like Smoltz. He pitched six innings of four hit ball only giving up one run on a sacrifice fly. This was the pitcher that I came to watch tonight. He was worth every dime that I spent on my seat. I don’t know how much longer he will be around, but now I can say that I have seen him play. Tomorrow’s matchup is not quite as good. I guess you can’t get everything. It was fun to watch a team that wants to go to the postseason unlike the South Side team I normally watch.

Two Nights in August

Earlier this year I read the book “Three Nights in August” about the August 28-30 Cubs and Cardinals series in 2003. I was at the opening game of that series on my birthday that Friday. I was able to see lots of cool things that night. For one I got my first ball at a big league park during batting practice. I have a little more on the game here from a previous post. I have seen four Cardinals games in my life, and they all came during the summer of 2003. I also have had tickets a couple of times to the third incarnation of Busch Stadium, but have never made it for one reason or another. This was a great series that I will always remember. I am looking to recreate a little of that magic this weekend when I head down for my birthday again. As an added bonus John Smoltz will be pitching on my birthday. What more could you ask for? Dry weather. That is what we can ask for. Just for fun I decided to do a where are they now from that game. Here is a look at what has transpired for all 23 players and two managers that were involved with that game.

Cubs
Kenny Lofton – Ever the journeyman Lofton played for five teams after the 2003 season. He only played in 55 games for the Cubs that season. He played for the Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, Rangers, and finally the Cleveland Indians before hanging up his spikes after the 2007 season. After growing up in East Chicago it must have been a thrill for him to have played for both Chicago teams.
Ramon Martinez – Martinez played 102 games for the Cubs in 2004 as well as two playoff games in 2003. From there he bounced around between the Tigers, Phillies, Dodgers, and Yankees.
Sammy Sosa – 2003 might have been the last great season for Sosa. He hit 35 dingers in 2004, but a bad sneeze along with a corked bat, and a early departure from the team have marred that season. Sammy played for the Orioles in 2005, but was never the same. He came back with the Rangers in 2007 after sitting out 2006, but never really captured the magic that he once possessed. He sort of announced his retirement this season, but it was overshadowed by reports of his name being on the steroid list.
Moises Alou – Moises may most be remembered in baseball history for his reaction to the Bartman play. We all know that the play did not cause the Cubs the series, but it was sure a good excuse for a while. Alou played the 2004 season for the Cubs before leaving for the Giants and the Mets. He only played 15 games in 2008 before he retired. He did play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic this spring though. He was a fun player to watch who unlike the guy above played the game the right way.
Randall Simon – Simon went back to the Pirates after the 2003 season. He apparently was just a loaner. He never could square up a baseball like he could a sausage, and was out of the game by 2006.
Aramis Ramirez – Has become the third baseman that the Cubs were searching for since Cey left the team. He was injured much of this season, but is an important piece of the puzzle for the Cubs. Watching him lately though I have started wondering about his weight loss. He looks much the same way that Sosa looked in 2004. I told myself then that Sosa was not on the juice, and I was proven wrong. I am a little more cynical now though.
Alex Gonzalez – Here is the real reason that the Cubs did not go to the Series in 2003. His booting of a routine ground ball should be played just as much as the Bartman play if not more. Alex is currently playing for the Boston Red Sox.
Paul BakoBako played the 2004 season for the Cubs before moving on to the Dodgers, Royals, Orioles, Reds, and finally the Phillies this season. This seems to be a trend with this team. Most of these players bounced around a lot after the 2003 season. Teams didn’t want the curse to rub off I guess.
Carlos Zambrano – Has surpassed expectations and become the ace of the Cubs staff. He has not been himself this season because of injuries, but that is not uncommon for a Cubs pitcher is it?
Doug Glanville – Doug played in 87 games for the Phillies in 2004 before hanging up his spikes for good.
Mike Remlinger – Mike was the unlucky guy to give up the game winning home run to Robinson. I always enjoyed watching this lefty pitch. Mike stayed with the Cubs until he was traded in August of 2005. He was released by the Red Sox exactly two years to the date after he gave up that home run. He signed with the Braves in 2006, but was released in June.
Dusty Baker – Dusty stayed with the Cubs until Lou Pinella replaced him for the 2007 season. He was hired by the Reds for the 2008 season, and is still their manager. Where you find Dusty you will find players like Neifi Perez. He does not believe in on base percentage according to many reports. He does however believe in Santa Claus.

Cardinals
Kerry Robinson – According to the book about the series Robinson was a cancer on the team. He had average talent, but thought that he could be a star if he could play everyday. He was in LaRussa’s doghouse much of the time so it was no surprise when he was not with the team in 2004. He played in 80 games for the Padres in 2004, and 18 games for the Royals in 2006 before a started a superstar retirement.
Bo Hart – Bo was the story of the year in St. Louis. Who was this scrappy young player? Bo had the heart (no pun intended), but not quite enough talent. He bounced around until 2007 between the triple A affiliates of the Cardinals, Rockies, Cubs, and the Orioles. After being released by the Orioles in 2007 he joined the Lancaster Independant League Team. In 2008 he played for the Schaumburg Flyers and the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League.
Albert Pujols – Since 2003 Albert has become the man. He is the measuring stick for every player that comes up.
Jim Edmonds – Jim played with the Cards until 2007. He then spent the 2008 season between the Padres and the Cubs. He will always be remembered for that beautiful glove in center. Even when he was supposedly washed up he flashed a great glove in the field. Just try and hit it over his head.
Scott RolenRolen has continued to be a force at third. He was traded just before the deadline this season to the Reds.
Tino Martinez – Tino spent 2004 with Tampa Bay, and 2005 with the Yankees before hanging up his spikes.
Mike DeJean – Played until 2006 with the Yankees, Orioles, and Rockies.
Edgar Renteria – Currently playing for the Giants after stops at Boston, Atlanta, and Detroit.
Mike Matheny – Matheny was a thinking catcher that handled a staff well. He played for the Cards in 2004 before playing his final two seasons in San Francisco.
Matt Morris – Left to join Matheny in San Francisco where he played for two years. He then played a season plus for the Pirates before they released him in April of 2008.
Steve Kline – Also played in San Francisco after a brief stop in Baltimore. Is this luck or team cohesivness?
So TaguchiTaguchi is currently playing for the Iowa Cubs in the Pacific Coast league. Taguchi won a ring in 2006 with the Cards, and last season with the Phillies.
Tony LaRussa – Tony is still the manager of the Cardinals. With his intensity it is a wonder that he has stayed in the managing capacity every year since the White Sox hired him. He was the losing manager in the World Series in 2004 during the Red Sox dream season. He got his revenge though in 2006 when he won another title against the Tigers.

Randy Johnson Gets Win #300

Thanks to the beauty of MLB.TV I was able to see Randy Johnson get win #300 tonight. Randy has always been a class act, and he deserves this win. He pitched six strong innings to put himself into position to get the win. He did not give up a hit until the fifth inning. That would have been something else to pitch a no-no for win #300. His bid almost went for naught, but the home plate umpire on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded for the Nats called an obvious ball a strike. That kept the bid alive, and ended up being the deciding factor.