A Father’s Day tribute to a special Cardinals fan
By Greg Simons
I’ve been a St. Louis Cardinals fan my entire life, and that’s because of the Cardinals fan I learned the game of baseball from, my dad.
My father grew up in central Illinois, about midway between St. Louis and Chicago, so his choice of team allegiance could have gone a few ways, with the Second City’s second team, the White Sox, having the lowest odds of earning his loyalty. I was surprised when I learned my dad actually rooted for the Cubs for a year, but he was in sixth grade at the time, so the folly of youth can explain the error of his ways.
After briefly experiencing the misery of being a fan of the North Siders, Dad made the fortunate decision to look southwest to find his long-time favorite franchise. For the next sixty or so years, that choice paid off quite well.
My dad was a middle-school math teacher for over 15 years, and the combination of the game of baseball and his love of numbers were a great fit. He would calculate batting averages in his head on a regular basis. I’ve never taught math, but the first degree I declared when I started college was Mathematics, though I quickly learned middle- and high-school math was fun, but a four-year degree in the subject would have been tortuous.
To supplement his teacher’s salary, Dad umpired baseball and softball on evenings and weekends, sometimes officiating 10 or more games over two days in sweltering heat with at most one other ump to share the duties. The money was nice since he and Mom were raising two sons, but the love of the game was a calling, being involved in the sport his passion.
While his work tied in with baseball regularly, his fandom was present 100% of the time. Sure, like most of us, he was quick to complain if the Cardinals made a bad play, a poor trade, or had a years-long stretch of futility. (For Dad, it was the ’50s and ’70s; for me, it was the ’90s.) But when the Redbirds were on top – he witnessed World Series titles in 1964, ’67, ’82, 2006, and ’11 – he was a very happy fan. And living about an hour from Chicago for those last two championship runs, good-natured ribbing of the many Cubs fans in town added to his glee.
Whenever St. Louis’ next World Series win happens, my dad won’t be around for it. Their last postseason run before he passed away produced a National League pennant but a six-game Series loss to the champion Boston Red Sox in 2013. Hopefully, I’ll be able to witness a few more titles in my lifetime, and I’ll think of him every time it happens. And while my kids aren’t really baseball fans, if you asked them which team they do have any affection for, it would be the Cardinals. (Yes, I raised them right.)
There are millions of Cardinals fan dads celebrating Father’s Day today, and I hope they have a wonderful time with their families. And that’s sentiment is true for all Redbirds followers regardless of who they are or what day it is.
But today I’m thinking about my dad, as I’m sure many of you are, as well. My love of baseball comes from him, and I’m grateful he nurtured my fandom for this beautiful game we all love. Thank you, Dad, for everything.