St. Louis Cardinals

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StLouisCards logo

The team logo, featuring a cardinal perched on a bat. Some have insisted that two birds are pictured, but they all turned out to be drunk.

The St. Louis Cardinals are a Major League Baseball team. They play in the National League, in the Central Division. It is probably not a coincidence that St. Louis, Missouri is in the central part of the United States.

The Cardinals began play in the late 1800s. In the 100+ years since its birth, the team has amassed a rich history full of great players, delicious cookies, girly music, and noxious fumes.

History

The Initial Era

Contrary to popular belief, the team was not named after the songbird, but rather after one of its first great players, Jose Cardenal. Cardenal was so embarrassed by this association that he later changed his name to Jose Uribe.

The team never went to the World Series during its first several decades of existence, so nothing of actual substance is known about its early years. Hah! Things were simpler back then, lemme tell you. No obsessing over everyone's batting average and EAR and whether they do better at night or during doubleheaders and all these other useless statistics that are so popular nowadays. You either won or you didn't, and if you didn't? You could go jump in quicksand and drown for all anybody else cared. Most losers did, come to think of it, there still being a lot of quicksand pools lying around the country and no warning signs posted to distinguish them from the public swimming pools like there are nowadays. You young whippersnappers have it easy, you know. Uh, where was I . . .

The Gashouse Gang Era

During the 1930s the team was known as the "Gashouse Gang", partly because all the members lived in a house made out of gasoline[1] and partly because they used to roam the streets at night, mugging little ladies, beating up on skateboarders, and slugging it out with their bitter cross-town rivals, the Pond Scum. The team was led by such greats as Dizzy Dean; his brother, Dazzy Vance; Ducky Medwick, who started a riot with his quacking during one particularly unmemorable World Series game against Detroit; and Lip "The Leo" Durocher, who got his nickname because he was born in September, making him a Virgo.[2]

The WWII Era

Toward the end of the 1930s the New York Yankees were getting pretty annoying, repeatedly winning not only the World Series but the Super Bowl and Powerball to boot. The rest of baseball was so desperate to stop them that they finally turned to the Cardinals in 1942, and the Cardinals rose to the occasion by somehow defeating the Yankees in a hotly contested World Series for the ages 4 and up. Since that worked so well, the Cardinals were given another chance next year, only to be defeated by the Yankees in a hotly contested World Series that bards will sing about for all eternity . . . or at least until they get bored of it.

The next year, the Cardinals made it to the World Series again, only to face -- of all people -- their bitter cross-state rivals, the St. Louis Blues. I mean, Browns. Seriously, how did that happen? The St. Louis Browns were, like, Cubbian in their ineptitude. Somebody must have been reading the AL standings upside down.

Browns home cut

Another run scores for the Cardinals.

Anyway, the stage was set for an epic battle. The battle, however, was anything but epic, because someone snuck into the Browns' locker room and sprayed red paint all over their uniforms just before Game 1 was to begin. Most teams would be too embarrassed to take to the field, but the Browns bravely played on. They probably sensed that this was small potatoes compared to the promotional stunts Bill Veeck would think up during his reign of terror as their owner. Alas, all was for naught, as the official scorer followed the simple rule of crediting the Cardinals with all runs scored by a player wearing red. The Browns were unable to get their uniforms cleaned in time to avoid a heartbreaking Series loss.

The Cardinals were less than gracious winners. In the years that followed they frequently ribbed the Browns about the crimson paint job and its results. Finally the Browns got sick and tired of hearing about it, so they left for Baltimore and became the Washington Senators III.

The Stan Musial Era

During the 1940s through 1960s, the metaphorical face of the team was Stan Musial. He is the most popular St. Louis Cardinal of all time, consistently averaging about 136% of the vote in "Favorite Cardinal" polls among fans of the team. (For some reason, members of the Major League Baseball Players Association prefer to vote for Curt Flood.)

Stan Musial was nicknamed "The Man" because during most of his career he was the only male on the Cardinals' roster, the owners having been a little too impressed by the movie A League Of Their Own. Like Babe Ruth, Musial started out as an outfielder but switched to pitching after a career-threatening injury. Musial finally hung up his spikes after twenty years to focus on his true passion in life: playing the philharmonica.

Among Musial's fellow Cardinals toward the end of his career was Red Schoendienst, who was rather mischievous. During critical moments, with the other team threatening to turn a game in their favor, Schoendienst would get snippy with the opposing batter, angrily accusing him of not knowing how to pronounce her name while turning her back toward the plate to let her target get a good look. Sometimes this flustered the batter enough that the Cardinals pitcher could slip one or two strikes by without him even noticing. However, opposing teams quickly learned to respond to Schoendienst's tantrums with "It's pronounced 'Red'! Now shut up!"

One of Musial's few male teammates, Enos Slaughter, won the 1946 World Series for the Cardinals when, in the seventh game, he hit a single and then stole home on the next pitch. The Cardinals won a lot of championships during this time period, despite the fact that the vast majority of their pitchers threw like girls.

The Bad Spanish Era

During the late 1960s, the Cardinals had multiple Spanish-speaking players on the team simultaneously. This had evidently never happened to any team in the history of baseball before, so someone decided it would be cute to give the team a Spanish nickname. This someone also apparently thought it would be funny if that nickname were "El Birdos".

I trust I don't need to tell you how very, very bad that attempt at Spanish is. It makes Babelfish look like a flawless linguistic achievement.

Records that survive from that time indicate that a tsunami of bad Spanish descended upon St. Louis, with sportswriters typing about how well the Cardinal hitters were swinging "el bat-os" and announcers excitedly telling their audiences that someone had just driven in "three el run-os". In a recent survey, baseball historians picked this debacle as the second-worst thing to happen to baseball ever, ahead of both the color barrier and George Steinbrenner and behind the newest Washington team being nicknamed the "Nationals".

The Something Era

I dunno what happened during the 1970s. Disco, gasoline shortages, Houston Astros uniforms,[3] whatever. It probably wasn't a very good time for the Cardinals either.

The Ozzie Era

The 1980s were, like, totally rad for the Cardinals. The team went to lots of World Series and won a large fraction of them, but that's getting boring by now so let's talk about something else.

Like in 1985, when shortstop Ozzie "The Wizard of Id" Guillen hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth to win an NL Championship game. The ball struck a sign reading "Hit This And Win A Free Session For Everyone In The Stadium" that served as advertisement for a well-known local psychiatrist who thought he could afford to pull stunts like that. Not wanting to waste the chance of getting something for free, most of the spectators (and several members of each team) promptly went crazy. The ensuing masses of people sitting around uselessly[4] in the waiting room, waiting for their free psychiatric treatment, cost the local economy millions and bankrupted the psychiatrist in question.

Ozzie Guillen was only one of many famous Cardinals from this time period.[5] There was also Willie McGee, known for his humongous cookie empire. There was Andy Van Slyke, who would go on to fame starring in The Dick Van Slyke Show while playing for Pittsburgh. And there was Vince Coleman, victim of a bizarre tragedy all his own.

The year 1985 was just plain unlucky for the Cardinals. They must've had some seriously bad karma going on. In the playoffs that year, Vince Coleman was injured when he was mugged by a tarp. Yes, a tarp. You know, a sheet of pure waterproof-ness. No, he didn't make the story up to explain away bruises from tripping over his own shoelaces or being beaten by his wife or anything embarrassing like that. Everyone saw it happen to him on the field. Well, maybe they were all making it up too, I guess. Anyway, the police report took so long to fill out that Coleman missed the rest of the playoffs and the World Series. He never even recovered his wallet.

The worst was yet to come. In the World Series that year the Cardinals faced their bitter cross-continent rivals, the Kansas City Royals. The Royals, who -- Are you sitting down? You'd better be sitting down for this -- were actually good back then, fought the Cardinals in a titanic battle royale. The Cardinals were up 3 games to, uh, lemme do the math . . . 2 entering Game 6. During that game, there was a very close play at first base. The first-base umpire, who went by the name "Don Denkinger" but whom many Cardinals fans later believed was probably Satan in disguise, watched the play closely, raised his arms, paused, made a face, then forfeited the game to the Royals. One of the Cardinals announcers, either Joe Buck or Richard Scarry,[6] had just commented that if Denkinger got this call wrong, he would "probably be tarred and feathered by the other team." This was a Very Bad Pun. The tar was an allusion to Royals first baseman George Brett. Brett was notorious for using a bat made entirely of pine tar, just to "make it fair" for opposing pitchers.[7] The feathers, of course, referred to the St. Louis team's symbol.

Talking it over afterwards, everyone at the stadium agreed that the right thing to do had been to forfeit the game to the Royals. There was no other adequate response to such a horrendous play on words. The next day the Cardinals were too embarrassed to even show up at the stadium, and the Royals completed a remarkable come-from-behind victory to win their first World Series.

It may have been as a result of this incident that Richard Scarry fled to the Cubs in disgrace. Or maybe he left before this happened. You'll have to ask him next time you see him, because I was too young at the time to pay attention to any of this.

You know, for a team that's won so many championships, there sure is a lot of shame in the Cardinals' history. And we have yet to touch on . . .

The Stereo Era

The 1990s started off rockily for the Cardinals. The manager, Joe Torre, was fired by Anheuser-Busch (who owned the team at the time but had forgotten why they had wanted it in the first place) for whining about how the owners were letting the team fall apart or some such nonsense. Torre was then hired by the Yankees, where he soon showed everyone that the beer people were right to let him go by blundering into an eight-year rut during which the Yankees managed to win just six AL championships and only four World Series titles.

The new Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa, had previously managed only in the American League, for the Cardinals' bitter cross-dimensional rival Chicago White Sox and the Cardinals' buttered hot cross-bun rival Oakland Athletics. La Russa found plenty of time during his early days in St. Louis to launch a multi-million-dollar pasta business, but soon he was distracted from it by matters more serious than training Royce Clayton to do a backflip on command.

One of the greatest hitters of all time was coming under heavy suspicion of stereo use. Everyone had been wary of the man almost since his rookie year -- just look at the biceps on that guy! They're huge! -- but soon a blizzard of accusation and argument sprang up around the player, who was, of course, none other than Rogers Hornsby.

Some insisted that it was impossible for a mere mortal to bat .624 in a season without using banned auditory aids; others pointed to the bizarre "s" in his first name as proof that the bodily distortion induced by abuse of stereos had extended even to Hornsby's name. Still others defended Hornsby, chiding his attackers for being cynical and for making fun of his given name, which after all appeared with an "s" on his birth certificate, so it had started out like that, and people are naming their children much worse these days you know, I even saw a story in the paper the other day that said that several people have forced "ESPN" onto their poor defenseless infants, but who are we to judge anyway and let's just let the man help our team win and . . .

Ah, yes, those were such innocent times.

The next Cardinal-related blow to the integrity of the game came in 1998. In the midst of the heroic, heartwarming, sensational, lucrative[8] battle between Matt McGwire, Sammy Sousa, and Fred McGriffey Jr. for the single-season home run record, a sour note was sounded when reporters noticed a boombox in McGwire's locker. McGwire defended its use, saying that boomboxes were technically not forbidden by MLB and that he only used it to play soothing Jim Brickman music to help him relax while lifting 5,000-pound weights in the gym. While the first claim was true enough, the second was disproved by a local TV station's undercover investigation, in which McGwire was clearly recorded, on videotape, pumping iron while singing along to Britney Spears. After the season, MLB convened a panel that ruled that boomboxes were no longer allowed and that McGwire was a real freak, because seriously, Britney Spears? In the weight room? The latter judgment was later overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States by accident when Justice Antonin Scalia spilled his decaffeinated soda on the documents pertaining to the case.

It was expected that McGwire's 2010 candid confession to the usage of other, undeniably forbidden audio devices would restore his public image somewhat, but so far the reverse reaction seems to have occurred. Cultural experts universally agree that the response would have been more positive if McGwire hadn't felt the need to drone on and on about putting together his ABBA mix tapes.

The Now Era

StLouisCards spiky

The Cardinals also tried altering their logo to cash in on the anime craze. The lack of energy beams doomed this experiment to failure.

Shortly after the turn of the millennium, the Cardinals decided to get with the times. Some years previously, Jackie Robinson had become the first Japan-born person to play in MLB, and Japan was now all the rage. The Cardinals resisted this change in the culture of the sport for a while, because peer pressure is bad, m'kay? But eventually they caved and sent a scout on down to that country to have a look-see. The scout returned and reported that he had searched very hard but had failed to find any good Japanese players, mostly on account of failing to find Japan. After consulting a globe, the team sent the scout out again, this time in a westerly direction. He returned with So Taguchi, who would shortly become the Cardinals' first player from Japan.

Taguchi was fairly popular with the fans and team alike. He himself was happy enough during his first few years in St. Louis. However, the situation slowly wore down his endurance. Everywhere he looked in the stands, he saw witty signs like "Taguchi is So good!" and "Go, So! Go!" and "So Let's Go Team!" The people who wrote the headlines for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch were, of course, not above making similar puns. Taguchi knew that they all meant well, aside from maybe the headline writers, but eventually it started to really weird him out. Cardinals officials refused to deal with his concerns in any meaningful way. The last straw came when, as he was returning to the dugout after scoring a run, he happened to glance into the stands and saw a fan wildly waving a sign that read "I Luv Tamagotchis!" After that season was over, Taguchi fled to the Phillies, who promised that they would crack down on any Philadelphia headline writers who tried to pun on his name in any way. They also assured him that the fans would boo him no matter what he did.

The rest of MLB lobbied to change the team's name to the St. Louis Marginals after the 2006 season since they won the World Series after posting an 83-79 regular season record, which is rather marginal for a playoff team. However, Stan Musial made a surprise appearance at the meeting at which officials were to vote on the measure. The Man took out his philharmonica and played a tune he had just written, titled "Leave My Team Alone or I'll Tell Bob Gibson to Throw Rocks At You." The resolution was quickly defeated.

In October of 2011, a squirrel ran across home plate during a playoff game between the Phillies and Cardinals. The Cardinals went on to win the game and the series. The squirrel instantly became a celebrity in St. Louis, appearing on morning talk shows and in newspapers and magazines. He was also offered a book deal and a Twitter account[9] before the madness died down. The squirrel later admitted that he had run onto the field on a dare while seriously drunk.

“ Runs are like nuts you can never have too many ”
~ The Rally Squirrel on its baseball philosophy

After the World Series that year, in which the Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers, at least one person suggested that the Cardinals are "complete BOSSES". This is demonstrably untrue, however, because the team was not entirely covered in thick armor (with the obligatory exposed spot that could be hit for massive damage, of course). They did have about a zillion hit points and exasperating healing powers, however, so qualified as at least a mini-boss.

Stadiums the team has called home

Busch Stadium-II

Busch Lite Stadium. Below is a bottlecap for comparison. How can anyone seriously think the two look alike?

Fanta bottlecap

Why would a beer company want their name on a building that looks like part of a soda bottle, anyway? It makes no sense!

  • Sportsman's Park (Renamed Sportswoman's Park for most of the '50s and '60s.)
  • Busch Stadium (Strictly speaking, this was Sportsman's Park living under an assumed name for unknown reasons.)
  • Busch Lite Stadium (Designed and built according to ancient Greek principles of architectural beauty, this was a magnificent work of practical art, with its circular shape and its long, wheelchair-friendly ramps by which to get from one level to the next. The fact that some people thought it resembled a bottlecap when seen from above was a total coincidence.)
  • Busch Stadium III: The Search for Taxpayer Money

The Odd Couple

In the early 1960s, the Chicago Cardinals football team moved to town, taking up residence with the baseball Cardinals in Sportsperson's Park. This was quite an awkward situation. Besides the chaos that occurred whenever the two teams played home games simultaneously, the native St. Louis Cardinals were naturally uncomfortable, to say the least, around anyone who hailed from Chicago. The football team tried its best to get along -- washing its share of the dishes, fixing things around the house, turning the radio down low at night -- but eventually the stress was just too much for the baseball organization, and they built and moved into Busch Lite Stadium, which was constructed out of leftover materials from the Gateway Arch. The football team was left behind in the old stadium.

The two teams might have learned to co-exist in this manner, but the football Cardinals couldn't stand their loneliness and moved in with the baseball Cardinals again. The friction between the teams was thereby re-intensified. In the late 1980s, for this and other reasons, the football team gave up and moved even further west, to Phoenix, Arizona.

Ballpark Village

Back when Busch Stadium III was a mere twinkle in its architect's eye, the current owners of the Cardinals, who had bought the team from Anheuser-Busch some years prior,[10] went to the state government of Missouri and asked for help with funding the construction of their intended new stadium. Part of their argument in favor of this was that MLB had promised to hold an All-Star Game in St. Louis if a new stadium was built there, and then the city would be able to show off to the entire baseball-watching world its bustling, lively, healthy downtown, which as we all know is a gold standard to which all major cities the world over should aspire . . . okay, maybe not.

Anyway, the brilliant negotiators in the state government agreed to help build this monument to the inflated sports economy, with the understanding that the Cardinals were to build a series of nice-looking duplexes on the property formerly occupied by Big Mac Land to house the city's homeless population. And it should be built, like, really soon, okay guys?

Well, years passed, and each time they were asked about the project, Cardinals ownership managed to shift the deadline just a little farther into the future.[11]

At last notice, ownership's estimate of the date of completion of Ballpark Village had altered from "Whenever we feel like getting around to it" to "Ballpark what?" A state official speaking on terms of anonymity was quoted as saying to his dog, "At this point, we'd be happy with a few rusty Quonsets."

Mascot

Fredbird

A dangerous gleam in his eye, Fredbird prowls the stands in search of his next victim.

"Fredbird" is the team mascot. He has numerous outstanding warrants in North America due to his murderous habit of standing over people and playfully biting their heads off. It is believed that not even children are safe when the mood strikes him. Safety advocates strongly urge everyone to steer clear of this most dangerous cardinal. Why he is still allowed to roam the stadium grounds freely is anyone's guess. He is also know is the Wesley Crusher of Cardinaldom.

Fredbird's brother, the Weatherbird, is the court jester for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Weatherbird lost all his feathers long ago due to being stressed out by his brother's antics.

Popular Media

Shotpunball

In the movie, several baseballs were also murdered.

  • The 2005 book Three Nights In August deals with the efforts of a small group of talented, misguided NASA employees to track one of Matt McGwire's less emphatic home runs as it circled the globe repeatedly over the course of 72 hours. At about the time of the book's release, a small industry sprang up in St. Louis, dedicated to speculation about who would or should play the part of Tony La Russa in the movie version, the filming of which some people apparently assumed was inevitable for whatever reason.
  • Matt McGwire made a cameo in a 1999 episode of the police drama Mad About You in the role of a pillow on Helen Hunt's bed.
  • The 1934 documentary film Death on the Diamond recounts the demise of the entire St. Louis Cardinals baseball team at the hands of the 2004 Boston Red Sox pitchers.


Trivia

  • A total of nine no-hitters have been thrown by players wearing Cardinal uniforms. A "no-hitter" is quite a feat. It means the guy on the mound went the whole game without hitting any batters with his pitches. Unfortunately for the players who faced him, fireballer Bob Gibson only managed one no-hitter (and that was probably accidental). During his playing career, Gibson reputedly kept the American bone-setting industry financially afloat all by himself.
  • At the 1999 All-Star Game in Boston, Matt McGwire temporarily set a record for "Most Home Runs Hit during One Round of the Home Run Derby". The record was nullified five minutes later when careful scrutiny of slow-motion replay indicated that McGwire was wearing a hot pink iPod during his amazing display of power. This was immediately confirmed by asking McGwire, "Were you wearing an iPod just now?" Afterwards, McGwire refused to say what he had been listening to, or even whether the iPod had been turned on. It is widely believed, based on circumstantial evidence from disreputable sources too subtle to go into here, that McGwire was listening to "Mmmbop" on loop.
  • Barack Obama wore a White Sox jacket when he threw out the first pitch at the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis. Reportedly, several Republicans triple-dog-dared him to wear a Cubs jacket instead, but the President wisely withstood their partisan rhetoric.


Footnotes

  1. It was the Great Depression. Standard building materials were expensive.
  2. Remember, they lived in a building that was constantly giving off fumes. Clear thinking was not their strong point. In fact, after his playing days were over, Dizzy Dean accepted a job as radio announcer.
  3. http://www.astrosdaily.com/history/uniforms/index.html, about one-third down the page. The stripes. Ohhh, the stripes.
  4. Wireless Internet had yet to be discovered.
  5. Incidentally, Ozzie had a weak throwing arm, so instead of pumping weights or playing a stereo to strengthen it, when a grounder was hit to him he would charge at it, catch it, and then turn a flip as he threw it, thereby giving it enough oomph to get all the way to first base.
  6. A very small minority of investigators believe it to have been Al Hrabosky, who was actually employed as an announcer by the Cardinals at the time, but what do they know?
  7. No, I don't know how you get a black, sticky substance out of a tree either. Nature is weird.
  8. During 1998, approximately 3,000 songs about the Race To Wipe That Maris Guy Out Of The Record Books were recorded and inflicted upon the public. Sports sociologists estimate that the last time anyone actually played any of them back was April of the next year. It is rumored that several disaster relief organizations still monitor eBay and filesharing systems, anxiously dreading the reappearance of the one that was sung to the tune of "Stand By Me".
  9. You thought I was kidding, didn't you.
  10. Of course, now Anheuser-Busch is owned by some German brewery. The reader is invited to insert his or her own joke involving Germany and baseball here, because the writer frankly cannot think of any good ones.
  11. A plot of the "estimated completion date" vs. the "date the estimate was made" would have been provided here, but graphs are dull. And anyhow a picture of a bottlecap is more important.


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