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Cardinals show class and humility in weekend recognitionsPosted Monday, May 14, 2012, at 8:46 PM
Despite this weekend's three-game shellacking, it is a good week to be a Cardinal fan. Watching great baseball is fine, but when an entire organization understands and respects that parts of the game are bigger than just what is seen, amazing things can happen.
This past weekend, the Cardinals honored two men, one of them their own and one from the team that whooped them for three straight days.
The ceremony for Tony LaRussa on Friday evening was very touching. With video after video showing on the big screen, fans were able to relive some of LaRussa's best moments as a major league manager.
Players, coaches and colleagues from throughout his career were on hand to offer their memories of him while he sat silently in his seat, clearly a little uncomfortable with the attention.
With Tony, it's never been about him, and his speech illustrated that. Tony took heat himself to keep it off his players even when they had earned it. Tony always credited his coaching staff for a job well done, but almost never publicly criticized them. He lauded the St. Louis fan base on more occasions than I can count.
No matter how you felt about him, Tony was an old school manager with new school ways. You either loved him, or you hated him. He is a polarizing figure. Many aspects of his personal managing style are now considered "part of the game." Things like situational relievers, closers and batting pitchers in the eight-spot can all be, at least partially, attributed to Tony's success.
He was oft-criticized, but it's difficult to argue with a manager who has won 2,728 big league games. He won them because he was doing something right.
The Cardinals did the right thing in retiring his number. Some will question it and complain, but when someone devotes 16 years of their life to a team with the success he had, you give them the respect they have earned. The organization, as well as the fans, did just that. Through several long "Tony, Tony, Tony," chants, the fans said farewell to a truly unforgettable era of Cardinals baseball.
The team and fans continued to show their high level of class throughout the weekend as they honored retiring Atlanta Braves third baseman, Chipper Jones.
In his first at bat Friday evening, Busch Stadium rose to its feet (myself included), to show Chipper that even though he sits in the other dugout, we appreciate what he has done for the game over the past two decades.
When Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina called time and stepped to the mound so Chipper could have his moment, you couldn't help but be proud to be a fan of this amazing game we call baseball. Yadi's move was one of sheer class and respect for a man who has earned his moment. That the hometown boys understand and respect that just shows how fortunate people are to be St. Louis Cardinals fans.
Chipper went on to be honored before the crowd on Sunday afternoon, a gesture he will not see in every city he visits during 2012. He was visibly moved.
It takes a special kind of player to bring 45,000 people at a road game to their feet. He is definitely that guy, and the Cardinals are a special kind of organization.
Kudos to all involved in the planning for these events - the owners, front office workers, the team and many more - and for making this weekend's games, despite the loss, a memory that I will always cherish.
Friday night's game was the first for my two daughters. I can only hope the humility and class we witnessed that night will garner in them a love for this game just like my own.
The contest question for this week is: In honor of LaRussa's number being retired, how many games did LaRussa win as a major league manager? This includes the Cardinals, Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics - not just the Cardinals.
One randomly selected winner of all correct entries will receive a copy of the A+E Networks Home Entertainment/MLB Productions St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series Champions Collectors Edition DVD SET. This thing is huge and is complete with eight disks including all seven games of the 2011 World Series in its entirety as well as a bonus disk with footage surrounding the series it self. It is a combined 800 minutes long and originally sold for $99.99. The price has since dropped to $56.99, but you have a shot to get it here for nothing. This is definitely a must have.
Enter before next Thursday, May 17, 2012 at noon to be eligible.
Answers may be submitted as comments on this specific blog post, via the mailbag forum on the blog at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles , via email to email@example.com as well as by stopping in The Daily Statesman office at 133 S. Walnut in Dexter. Make sure to include your name, address, telephone # and email address. Make sure I know a reliable way to contact you. If I don't receive a response within 24 hours after I attempt to contact you, I will have to draw another winner.
To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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