Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Grandma's Autograph Book

My grandmother's autograph book

The roots of my existence as a Cardinals fan date back (at least) to my grandmother. She grew up in St. Louis and tells stories of her memories as a member of the Knothole Gang in the late 1930s. In this program, students were allowed to attend weekday games for free. My great-grandmother would give her a quarter on occasion and she would spend ten cents to ride the streetcar to the game and ten cents to ride it home. That would leave her with a quarter that she would alternately spend on either a snow cone or a scorecard. And on at least some of those occasions, she would seek out autographs from her baseball heroes, collecting their signatures in her autograph book.

My grandmother on the Cardinals Cruise
In January of 2004 my grandmother went on the trip of a lifetime: the annual Cardinals Cruise. And sixty-five years after her days in the Knothole Gang, she took her old autograph book with her, and added to it with the Cardinals who were on the cruise. Recently she gave me that old autograph book, knowing what a big fan (and collector of autographs) I was.

The following autographs were in it from the Cruise:

Bo Hart was a rookie second baseman with the Cardinals in 2003. He burst onto the scene, batting .489 in his first nine games, ultimately finishing the season with a very respectable .277 average. The following season though, he only came to the plate 14 times before being sent back to the minors at the end of April, never to return to the bigs.

A St. Louis native, Kerry Robinson played for five teams in his seven-year MLB career.The only stop that lasted more than one season was with the Cardinals, for whom he played outfield from 2001 to 2003. He is perhaps most remembered for a game-winning home run against the Cubs that was chronicled in Buzz Bissinger's book, Three Nights in August.

Before he was the Cardinals' manager, Mike Matheny was a four-time gold-glove award winning catcher, including three times with the Cardinals. Even as he has faced mounting criticism from many Cardinal fans, my grandmother still is a steadfast supporter, in no small part due to her time spent with him on the cruise some 13+ years ago!
Tom Herr came up with the Cardinals in 1979 and was a mainstay at second base for the better part of a decade. His best season was unquestionably 1985, when he had 110 RBIs despite hitting only eight home runs. He batted .302 and stole 31 bases while only being caught three times, finishing fifth in the MVP voting.

Bob Gebhard pitched 31 innings in the early 1970s, but he was on the Cardinals Cruise because he served as an assistant to Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty from 2000-2004. Before that, he was the original GM for the Rockies, serving there from 1992-1999 and being responsible for building that team from the ground up.

Another person who came to St. Louis from the Rockies was Wayne Hagin. Hagin had the unenviable task of replacing a legend. Jack Buck manned the mic for nearly half a century. After he passed away in 2002, Hagin had served as a radio play-by-play man in Colorado since their inception in 1993, but he only lasted four years in the Cardinals' booth. That notwithstanding, my grandmother has very fond memories of his kindness.

Remember though, that the autographs my grandmother got on the Cruise were not the only autographs she gave me. She also had gotten the following 65 years earlier:

Buzzy Wares played for the old St. Louis Browns in 1912 & 1913. Two days after he made his MLB debut though, a new manager took over for the Browns. His name: Branch Rickey. Rickey must have been impressed with the baseball acumen of Wares, even if his playing ability was unspectacular, because when he was the Cardinals' GM in 1930, he hired Wares as a coach. Over the next 17 years, the Cardinals would win seven NL pennants and five World Series. Wares would coach a total of 23 seasons in all for the Cardinals, remaining on their staff through the 1952 season.

Don Padgett came up with the Cardinals in 1937 and hit .288 with them over five seasons (including a 1939 season when he hit .399 in 233 at bats). He served in the military from 1942 to 1945 and then finished his career with a couple seasons in which he played for the Dodgers, Braves and Phillies.

I'm frankly not sure who this autograph belongs to. My grandmother thinks it must have been from either the 1938 or 1939 season, and when I inspected those rosters, my best guess was that it was Micky Owen. I'm reasonably certain it's not his autograph though because...
...THIS is Micky Owen's autograph. Owen came up with the Cardinals in 1937 and played the first four seasons of his 13 year career in St. Louis. After being traded to the Dodgers, he put up four consecutive All Star seasons, but he is most famous for dropping a third strike with two out in the ninth inning of game four of the 1941 World Series. Tommy Heinrich reached base safely and the Yankees would go on to win both the game and the Series.

Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter played for the Cardinals from 1938-1953 (excepting the three seasons he served in the military during World War II). He is best known for his "mad dash" from first base to score the winning run in game seven of the 2946 World Series. He would also play parts of six seasons with the Yankees as well as spending time with the Braves and the A's, but his greatest success was in St. Louis where he was an All Star in all 10 seasons he played between 1941 and 1953.

Hall of Famer Johnny Mize played the first six seasons of his career, and held the franchise record for home runs in a season (43 in 1940) until a fellow named Mark McGwire donned the Birds on the Bat. Mize hit .329 with 19 HR and 93 RBIs his rookie year of 1936. He followed this up with five straight season in which he finished in the top twelve of the NL MVP voting.

Despite having averaged 26 HR, 109 RBIs and a .336 batting average, he was traded to the Giants after the 1941 season. This move seems like a terrible one, considering the minimal return the Cardinals received. It turns out though, that this trade opened up a spot in the lineup that would be filled in 1942 by a rookie from Donora, Pennsylvania named Stanley Frank Musial.

Grandma and Fredbird

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