May 26, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) throws to a New York Yankees batter during the first inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Why are We Giving Gifts to Retirees, and other Tidbits


Yesterday, Memorial Day 2014, the St. Louis Cardinals hosted the New York Yankees at Busch Stadium for the first time since 2005.  This was a very meaningful game in that it fell on Memorial Day when MLB honors all Military Service Men and Women.  Also, 50 years ago the Cardinals beat the Yankees in the 1964 World Series.  This made a great opportunity to celebrate that team and World Championship.  On top of both of those significant occurrences, this series marked the last time retiring New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter would be playing at Busch Stadium.  That being said, the Cardinals tried to cram all 3 “events” in to one.  They honored the military with camouflage hats and jerseys, paraded the 1964 World Championship team around the field (Bob Gibson threw the ceremonial first pitch to Tim McCarver), and they also presented Derek Jeter with a gift as a retirement present.  Uh, isn’t this a 3 game series?  Did they have to cram all of that in to one day?

First off, let me say I think it is great that Major League Baseball honors current and former military members each and every Memorial Day.  The sacrifices those men and women and their families have gone through cannot be overlooked, and the thanks every American can give them will really never be enough.  That being said, I think it would have been very appropriate for the St. Louis Cardinals organization to focus on that and that alone.  There was no need, with 2 games left in this series, to have the Jeter and the 1964 anniversary distractions on Memorial Day.

However, all 3 celebrations happened yesterday, so let’s look at the other two.  I think it was very classy that the Cardinals presented Derek Jeter with the Stan Musial cuff-links and the $10,000 donation to his Turn 2 Foundation.  The guy is a millionaire athlete, he doesn’t need materialistic things.  The donation was a great gift and gesture.  But, in all honesty, I think this gift giving thing is absolutely ridiculous.  I do not recall Cal Ripken, Jr. receiving gifts when he retired.  I don’t remember class acts like Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine getting farewell tours.  It seems like this started last season with Mariano Rivera‘s retirement.  The Minnesota Twins thought it would be fun to give him a rocking chair made of broken baseball bats.  Yes, there is some humor in that, and a nice gesture to the most dominating closer the game has ever seen.  But, did the rest of the league have to continue with the gifts?  With all due respect to Rivera and Jeter for being very classy ballplayers, and very good ballplayers, did they really do anything to revolutionize the game of baseball?  Gift giving would make more sense if the player had done something very significant, like Jackie Robinson or Henry Aaron.  Those guys changed the game of baseball.  Jeter had absolutely no history with the St. Louis Cardinals.  He played at Busch 3 games back in 2005.  The Cardinals played in New York 3 games in 2003.  That is it.  No postseason meetings.  Sure Jeter is one of the few modern day players that has stayed with one team his entire career.  And, yes, he has been the “face of MLB” for the past decade and a half.  But, did the Cardinals really need to give him a retirement gift?  And did they have to give him that gift on Memorial Day when something much larger than any baseball player was being recognized?  It is a farewell gift, seems like it should have been given to Jeter on his last game at Busch on Wednesday.

On to the celebration of the 1964 World Series Championship team.  I think it is absolutely great that the Cardinals keep their former players involved with the team.  Every opening day the Hall of Famers get paraded around the field in what I consider the best opening day festivities in all of baseball.  Honoring past World Champions is also a great way to look back on some of those former Cardinals and to stir up those memories.  It was great to see Gibson throw out that first pitch.  Better yet was listening to him and Tim McCarver and Dan McLaughlin on Fox Sports Midwest during the broadcast.  But, as I said earlier, this is a 3-game series.  Couldn’t this have been recognized at tonight’s game?

Of course the Cardinals ended up losing this game in the 12th inning.  With all of the pomp and circumstance it would have been nice to get a win.  And, yet again, as I have mentioned before, Manager Mike Matheny made some questionable moves. However, one thing that stuck with me while watching the broadcast, other than the awesome stories from Bob Gibson, was how the announcers were fishing for excuses for Michael Wacha‘s somewhat uncharacteristic start.  First off, I thought he had a great start.  He went 7 innings, allowed 4 hits, 3 earned runs, walked 2, and struck out 2.  I guess it was uncharacteristic that he walked 2 and only struck out 2?  Either way, it seemed like McCarver and McLaughlin were trying to blame the Matt Adams foul ball that hit Wacha’s throwing arm for this start.  Did anyone think that maybe he was just having a bad day?  He is still young, maybe playing the storied Yankees was a bit too much excitement for him.

With the importance of observing Memorial Day and honoring past and present military members, I feel like the Cardinals could have handled things a bit more professionally yesterday.  Maybe that “karma” is what cost them in the end.

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Tags: Bob Gibson St Louis Cardinals

  • Art Vandalay

    Couldn’t agree more. Don’t forget about Todd Helton. He was just as classy as Rivera and Jeter and he did not receive a farewell tour when he retired. The only gifts he got were from his own team. Likely has a lot to do with Rivera and Jeter being Yankees and the good ole east coast bias.

  • rpmoriarty

    Ok, I’ll try again, you’ll probably mod it again too. The tradition of teams giving gifts to retiring great athletes has been around for a long time. Far longer than Rivera last year. Just because you don’t remember anything by Mo’s rocking chair doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Ripken received gifts from almost every team he played, a full list can be found at the Baltimore Sun’s website. Ozzie Smith received the same treatment in 1996. Chipper Jones received a Stan Musial jersey from the Cardinals when he retired a couple years ago. Just to name a few.

    • Daniel Solzman

      FWIW, I’m the site editor and I didn’t delete any comments. But I have no problems with the gift-giving myself. It’s no different than a HOF caliber player being named to the All-Star team in their final season, especially when their stats have gone downhill.