The United Cardinals Bloggers July project is to post a story about your favorite “obscure” Cardinal. Now, the definition of ”obscure” may be wide open, depending on an individual’s viewpoint, but the Cardinal I am writing about would fit any definition of obscure. In fact, I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of Cardinal Nation has never heard of this Cardinal. I write about him, not in the strict sense that he was a favorite player; I never actually watched him play. I write about him as a favorite because I knew him personally. He was a neighbor and a friend to my family and many other families in my small hometown of Desloge, Missouri. His name was Bobby Tiefenauer, known as “Pete” to those who knew him. Pete was a pitcher, a relief pitcher who threw the knuckleball. Pete played for the Cardinals on three separate occasions; in 1952, in 1955, and finally in 1961. Pete gave up pitching in 1968 and returned home to raise his family. He was not a star on the pitching mound, but he was a star to those who knew him You can read about Pete and view his stats here, here and here.
I viewed Pete initially through the eyes of a child as the man who was a friend to my Dad and who was the father of David, my brother’s friend. He was the tall guy with the winning smile who attended and helped coach the Little League games and Babe Ruth games my brother played in. The guy who, along with his wife Rosie, who I adored, would have long conversations with my mother at church. He was the guy who was active in the Booster Club at my high school, who wore the gold windbreaker of the North County Raiders to football games, and who could sometimes be seen, along with my dad, moving the first down poles and measuring for first downs as a part of the “chain gang”. He had an extended family there in Desloge, the Tiefenauers were well known and well respected.
I didn’t really know Pete as a St. Louis Cardinal, but as a husband and a father. He was just Pete. His contributions to the team I know and love were never really appreciated by me until I grew into adulthood. Oh, my father would sometimes talk about Pete’s knuckleball and I knew in a vague sense that he used to play major league baseball, but I never thought about the impact of actually knowing, on a personal level, a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Now that I am an adult I often wonder about Pete’s days as a Cardinal, and consider with awe the fact that he was a teammate of the great Stan Musial. I muse about how he got along with his teammates, did he socialize with them, was he friends with any of them, those players like Stan the Man, or Bob Gibson, or Red Schoendienst? If I had a chance to talk to one of those guys, what would they say about Pete? Would they have good stories to tell? It haunts me that I never got to know Pete well as an adult, never gave myself the opportunity to pick his brain about his days as a Cardinal. I bet it would have been good.
Pete left us 12 years ago. I was unable to attend the funeral, though both my parents did. I have lost touch with his family, though I did briefly talk to his widow Rosie when she attended the funeral of my father in 2009 and my sister just this past February. But those were not the appropriate times to discuss such matters as baseball. I may never hear the stories, but my imagination fills in the gaps. And maybe my imagination is better in the long run.
Bobby Tiefenauer may be an “obscure” Cardinal, but Pete was anything but to those who knew and loved him.