St. Louis Sports Online
99.9% Original Content--Since 1995--The Online Source for St. Louis Sports

Founding Editor: MARK BAUSCH











regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review


email Mike

Cards' Magic Number is Eight...

posted October 11

The St. Louis Cardinals will host the Washington Nationals in Game One of the 2019 National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium.

The Magic Number is now eight.

Did anyone believe these words would be seriously uttered back at the All Star Break?

Here the 314 in mid-July folks were still hung over from celebrating the Blues Stanley Cup victory and parade. Baseball faded into the background back then because of the focus on the hockey team: and because the local nine were an uninspiring club with a .500 record. Many of the self-proclaimed Best Fans in Baseball were misspelling tweets predicting the team would be sellers at the Trading Deadline: wondering who would stay and who would go.

Fast-forward ninety days and suddenly the Red Birds are not only in the NLCS but will have home field advantage.  That is because St. Louis’ opponent will not be the heavily-favored Los Angeles Dodgers. Rather the franchise formerly known as the Montreal Expos that will be coming to town. Only the Bryce Harper-less Washington Nationals stand in the way of St. Louis returning to the World Series.

It has been a wacky year, eh? The top two National League seeds with a combined 203 regular season victories will be watching the rest of the post season from the comforts of their homes.

Suddenly there is a path for the Cardinals to continue their October 2019 excellent adventure. Holding home field advantage gives St. Louis a huge plus in what appears to be a very evenly-matched NLCS.  In as many as four of those games, the Red Birds will get the last at-bat. Home field advantage means more in baseball than in any other sport. In no other sport does the rules of the game provide the home team a competitive advantage. Football, basketball and hockey can talk about venues, fanbases and climate. None of those offer a rules advantage to the home team.

Thanks to the shock & awe first inning in NLDS Game Five, Cardinal Manager (and new internet sensation) Mike Shildt has the luxury to now set up his pitching staff for the next round. Some of the national pundits believed Shildt should have removed Game 5 starter Jack Flaherty early because St. Louis had a huge lead in the game. Good Grief: this is the deciding game of a Major League Baseball playoff series not some first grade tee-ball game in Forest Park. There is a reason why a ten-run mercy rule is not in effect in the Big Leagues.

Allowing Flaherty to log in six stress-free innings provided a much needed rest for an overworked bullpen. Plus #22 can now continue his routine and enjoy regular days of rest while preparing for Game Three at Nationals Park and tentatively a seventh game should it be needed.

In 2019, St. Louis won five of seven against Washington. In the NLCS that doesn’t mean anything. The four games in DC were in April when the Nationals were still trying to find themselves. After fifty games, the Nats were 19-31. Saying it another way, in their final 110 games Washington posted a 74-38 record (.661 winning percentage) in the competitive National League East.

To get some perspective from the Potomac, Sam Fortier of the Washington Post writes: “The Cardinals present a serious and immediate challenge to whatever dreams the Nationals have. It might not seem like it, because the NL Central champion won the fewest games of any team in the LDS round (92), but the Cardinals possess traits that make a club difficult to deal with in October.”

“This series will be even more contentious with what’s at stake. Each team will use all its best and, though the Nationals might have a liability in the bullpen, it might hold up better against a weaker offense. Right now, though, it’s impossible to say. After all, the Nationals weren’t supposed to beat the Dodgers in the first place.”

For the past three months both teams grinded out wins. Fortier’s last observation is accurate. But the Cardinals were not expected to be here either. So, both NLCS teams are playing with the house’s money.

The result: this should be a fun series with loads of subplots.

Meanwhile back here in the 314 there are some interesting parallels between the 2019 Cardinals and the 2019 Blues. At the mid-season mark both teams were no where near playoff contention. For the Blues a 25-year old named Binnington was added to the roster to jump started the season. For the Cardinals, it was a 24-year old named Edman. The Blues saw hockey powerhouses from Tampa Bay, Calgary, Nashville and Washington get eliminated. The Cardinals are still standing while the expected teams from Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles are on the sidelines. Both the Blues and the Cardinals did not have round one home advantage but still won the series.

Just like during the Blues run, the Cardinals are providing the area a shot of self-esteem.

One last fun fact: the St. Louis Cardinals have never reached World Series in year ending in 9. This means absolutely nothing: but this bureau thought it was a fun fact.

Our friends at Accuweather.com, predict temperatures for the first pitch of Game One to be 46 degrees. Just like any best of seven, the pressure is on the home team for the first two games. The visitors will be looking for a split. Some combination of Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas are expected to start Games 1 & 2. For the Red Birds the ball is now in their court.

The Magic Number is now eight. The most wonderful time of the year continues here in self-proclaimed Baseball Heaven.

The St. Louis Cardinals will host the Washington Nationals in Game One of the 2019 National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium.

Honestly, did anyone believe these words would be seriously uttered back at the All Star Break?

Aledmys Diaz, Kurt Warner & Talent Evaluation: Tunnel Vision, Not Knowing What You Don't Know & Missing Greatness

Mark Bausch


St. Louis Sports Online


In June of 1981 I met a young lady (Susan) who, in September of 1982, became my wife.

In 1983 we attended a David Bowie concert at what was then known as the Rosemont Horizon (in suburban Chicago). By that time, Bowie had become a mainstream pop star whose songs were heard all over the world.

It was my first Bowie show, and the entire experience catalyzed an acute awareness of David Bowie and his music. (Late to the party, eh?)

In 2004 Bowie performed at St. Louis' Fox Theatre, we were there, and those in attendance were mesmerized by what we observed: we were in the presence of a star.

By that time, I had gained knowledge of most of his career--in large part thanks to wife Susan, who was far 'ahead of the curve' on Mr. Bowie.


Forty years ago (March 3, 1976, to be precise), Susan attended her first David Bowie concert, at Chicago's International Amphitheater.

She was eighteen years old and returned home from college to see the show--accompanied by her younger brother.

Bowie's perfomance confirmed what she first suspected years previously after seeing the man on a Saturday night Don Kirshner-style music video TV show: namely, David Bowie was an avant-garde performer with world-class talent, talent impossible to ignore if you knew what to look for.

Literally ten days prior to Bowie's International Amphitheater show, that same Bowie tour paused in Evansville IN on February 22, 1976, for a Sunday night performance at Roberts Stadium (the home of the Evansville Purple Aces basketball team).

I was seventeen at the time, still a senior at a small town high school located a half-hour or so from Roberts Stadium...but I believed I had better things to do than watch some Brit named David Bowie perform a couple dozen of his songs.

As I look back to February of 1976, I had plenty of awareness of the upcoming bicentennial celebration; plenty of awareness of high school advanced chemistry, physics, trigonometry and analytic geometry; plenty of enjoyment of high school golf; a fun job at an area supermarket (don't laugh: $2.10/hr and time-and-a-half on Sundays); as well as fun and frivolity with friends and a high school sweetheart.

This was my world, and it was all good.

But my good world, in February of 1976, would have been my better world if I had possessed a little more awareness of the earth around me and had opened my eyes to the talents of David Bowie, who, to me at the time, was the guy who sang the throwaway Top 40 pop song 'Golden Years'.

Therefore, in 1976, I had no interest in attending the Bowie show in Evansville, Indiana.

After all, it was a Sunday night (school the next day!) and I had never attended anything other than basketball games and the Shrine Circus in Roberts Stadium, a venue that I believed to be infested, during rock concerts, with pot-smokers and troublemakers that roamed freely in a world that I did not understand.

In other words, my perspective was foolishly limited and suffered from myriad distractions, and my tunnel vision of that world was incomplete.

The result of tunnel vision?  I didn't know what I didn't know.



Tunnel vision in professional sports?

On a macro scale, the industry-wide ban on players of color, best exemplified by MLB's 'habit' of not allowing black players to play the sport of baseball at its highest level, is probably the best (worst?!) example of tunnel vision.


On a micro scale, Cardinals' rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz comes to mind as a player whose skills were viewed by major league talent evaluators with tunnel vision: they didn't know what they didn't know.

Recall that on July 8, 2015, Diaz was placed on waivers by the Cardinals, and was therefore made available to the other 29 big league clubs for no charge other than the price of assuming the balance of his contract (which includes 2016 and 2017 salaries of $2.5 million per season).

Diaz went unclaimed, and it seemed as if his aspirations of ever wearing a major league uniform would remain unfulfilled.


At the end of today's game (July 3) the Cardinals will have played 81 games (exactly half of the scheduled 162 regular season games), and Aledmys Diaz' current half-season statistics project to a 20+HR/80+RBI season to go along with his current .300+ batting average/.900+OPS stats--first-half numbers that, despite early-season defensive shortcomings, are likely to earn Aledmys Diaz a place in the upcoming All Star game.

Spring training injuries to starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta and spring acquisition Ruben Tejada (as well as sub-par shortstop play from Jedd Gyorko) opened the door for Diaz; he was literally the Redbirds' fourth and last resort--and the Cuban defector has not looked back.


Another St. Louis example of professional talent evaluators not knowing what they didn't know was personified by the circuitous path taken to greatness by former Rams QB Kurt Warner.

Recall that Northern Iowa alum Warner sat on the bench for his first three college seasons and only cracked the Panthers' starting line-up for his senior year.

Warner was not drafted by any NFL team before spending a couple of weeks as Bret Favre's caddy in Green Bay. He then played three years in the Arena Football League before the Rams signed him in 1998.

In 1998 Warner starred for the Amsterdam team in NFL Europe before returning to St. Louis where he managed a few minutes of playing time in the final game of the 1998 Rams' season.


Prior to the 1999 season, the Rams signed free-agent QB Trent Green to a four-year multimillion dollar contract, and viewed Warner, at best, as a back-up--because he (Warner) was made available to the Cleveland Browns in the NFL's 1999 Expansion Draft!


The Browns did select a quarterback in their expansion draft: Tampa Bay QB Scott Milanovich, who was released before training camp commenced. Browns' management were convinced that #1-overall draft choice Tim Couch would be their QB for a decade.


Nearly two decades later, the Cleveland Browns are still looking for a quarterback while Super Bowl champion Kurt Warner hopes for his induction to the professional football Hall of Fame, and Aledmys Diaz is hoping for an invitation to Miami for the 2016 MLB All Star Game.

And the great David Bowie died in January of this year.

I do not want to miss any more greatness.



Bill Bidwill Passes...

Mike Huss

October 6

It seemed somewhat fitting that on the day the St. Louis Cardinals arrived in Atlanta for the National League Division Series and the St. Louis Blues raised their Stanley Cup banner, former owner of the St. Louis Football Cardinals William V Bidwill died at the age of 88.

It was fitting in that during his stay in St. Louis, Bill Bidwill and his football team were considered an afterthought: always that other team playing second fiddle in the Gateway City professional sport team pecking order.

While in St. Louis Bidwill was viewed as eccentric, aloof, and seclusive. Rarely did he agree to interviews and rarely did he participate in civic functions. Bidwill was not considered an A-lister by the area’s social butterflies, movers or shakers. For most of his St. Louis tenure, Bidwill never hired a team General Manager, but he was brutally loyal to underperforming subordinates such as George Boone. To some St. Louis sports fans, Bill Bidwill was considered Public Enemy #1.

The Football Cardinals (nicknamed the Big Red) were always owned by the Bidwill family. Originally based in Chicago the team relocated to St. Louis in 1960: then owned by the brothers Bill and Charles, Jr (known as Stormy). In 1972, the brothers went their separate ways. Stormy assumed control of the family’s race tracks in Chicago. Bill assumed control of the football team.

During their twenty-seven year St. Louis tenure, the Big Red were mostly not too good. Once our town’s only newspaper labeled Bidwill’s team as “the Futile Franchise”. While in the 314, the Football Cardinals compiled a 186-202-14 regular season record. Our friends at Pro Football-reference.com spells each season out:

Year    W    L    T    Div. Finish    Head Coach
1987    7    8    0    3rd of 5    Gene Stallings
1986    4    11    1    5th of 5    Gene Stallings
1985    5    11    0    5th of 5    Jim Hanifan
1984    9    7    0    3rd of 5    Jim Hanifan
1983    8    7    1    3rd of 5    Jim Hanifan
1982    5    4    0    3rd of 5    Jim Hanifan
1981    7    9    0    5th of 5    Jim Hanifan
1980    5    11    0    4th of 5    Jim Hanifan
1979    5    11    0    5th of 5    Bud Wilkinson, & Larry Wilson
1978    6    10    0    4th of 5    Bud Wilkinson
1977    7    7    0    3rd of 5    Don Coryell
1976    10    4    0    3rd of 5    Don Coryell
1975    11    3    0    1st of 5    Don Coryell
1974    10    4    0    1st of 5    Don Coryell
1973    4    9    1    4th of 5    Don Coryell
1972    4    9    1    4th of 5    Bob Hollway
1971    4    9    1    4th of 5    Bob Hollway
1970    8    5    1    3rd of 5    Charley Winner
1969    4    9    1    3rd of 4    Charley Winner
1968    9    4    1    2nd of 4    Charley Winner
1967    6    7    1    3rd of 4    Charley Winner
1966    8    5    1    4th of 8    Charley Winner
1965    5    9    0    5th of 7     Wally Lemm
1964    9    3    2    2nd of 7     Wally Lemm
1963    9    5    0    3rd of 7     Wally Lemm
1962    4    9    1    6th of 7     Wally Lemm
1961    7    7    0    4th of 7    Several
1960    6    5    1    4th of 6     Pop Ivy
On a late December Saturday afternoon in the final game of the 1984 regular season, the Football Cardinals were in Washington to play the Redskins. The winner would be NFC East Champions and would host a first round playoff game. The losers would be out of the playoffs. On the game’s final play St. Louis kicker Neil O’Donoghue missed a game-winning field goal. The Big Red lost the game and were sent back to the 314 empty-handed again.

Less than a month later, Bidwill held a press conference announcing the need for a new football-only stadium for his team with public money. His announcement wasn’t well received by local fans, politicians and business leaders. In the mid-1980s, the Baseball Cardinals owned the sports market. Fans were cheering on Whiteyball, going to the World Series while clapping their hands to the beat of the Budweiser tune.

In the mid-1980s, football in St. Louis was something to do after the baseball season ended.

But it was Bidwill’s football team looking for a new stadium funded by public money.

Two years passed with no results, plans or movement. Instead, there was finger-pointing, politicians bickering, threats and insults. Through it all Bidwill remained silent watching it all unfold. Then during the 1987 season he announced that unless there is local Stadium progress, he will consider moving his time out of town. The reaction was apathetic.

To illustrate, as this was unfolding and fresh off a World Series appearance, Cardinal slugging first baseman Jack Clark bolted to the New York Yankees in free agency. That triggered a readers’ poll from our town’s only newspaper asking, what is the biggest loss: The Football Cardinals leaving town or Jack Clark going to the Yankees?

This bureau was hosting local sports radio back then. I still remember the comments from the call-in listeners. “Let him leave”. “Not to worry, with Anheuser-Busch based in town, the NFL will have to put a new team here.” “He’s bluffing.” “We’ll help him pack”.

On January 15, 1988 Bidwill announced that he would be relocating his football team to Phoenix. In the fall of 1988, the city of St. Louis would not have any representative in the rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League.

After the relocation announcement, reaction was strong across the region. But perhaps the most prophetic comment came from Offensive Tackle Luis Sharpe when he said about the situation: ''A pro football team is a hot commodity. 'In this day and age to let an NFL team slip away doesn't make any sense at all. It wasn't handled well. The politicians messed up. You just don't go out and get another team. Better keep the one you have.''

Prophetic indeed: The Big Red’s relocation led to a botched and embarrassing NFL expansion bid failure, overpaying to bribe the Los Angeles Rams to come to town and incurring millions of dollars of unpaid obligations when the Rams picked up and left back to the West Coast. 

Thirty-one years later just like the fall of 1988, the city of St. Louis has no representative in the rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League. Allowing Bill Bidwill’s football team to leave town remains the biggest mistake in the history of St. Louis sports. Heck, the new MLS would likely be playing in that football stadium had things ended differently.

Right, wrong or indifferent Bill Bidwill provided three years for St. Louis to get its act together. Our town refused and are still paying for that decision.

It seemed somewhat fitting on a busy sports day locally, former owner of the St. Louis Football Cardinals William V Bidwill died at the age of 88.

Inquiring minds wonder to this day what would have happened had O’Donoghue’s kick been successful on that late December 1984 Saturday afternoon in DC.





regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review


email Mike

Baseball is Back!

posted April 2

It is good to have Baseball back.

Here in self-proclaimed Baseball Heaven expectations are high for their heroes to return to post-season play. The 2019 St. Louis Cardinals are a better baseball team than the St. Louis Cardinal team that walked off at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon September 30, 2018. The mere acquisition of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has made 2019 St. Louis a better baseball team.

But what exactly does that mean? Those in the know believe that the Red Birds have closed the gap between them and the top two teams in the National League Central Division. St. Louis is considered by many as a potential playoff team in October. Still, the scoreboard will have the final say.

The Cardinals would get an early test during the first weekend of the season in Milwaukee in a four-game opening-weekend series against the NLCD defending champion Brewers.

Four games later, the results are in. The Red Birds earned a low score on that first test.

Now, the bureau concedes this weekend is a very small sample size and that a Major League Baseball season is very, very long. But in the end, four games against a strong divisional rival in their backyard is an important series if it were played in April or July or September. St. Louis’ mission was to get at least a split of the four-game series. If that occurred, four games in Milwaukee would be wiped off the schedule with no effect on the standings.

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, the Brewers sent a message to the Cardinals and Central Division that they are still here and have no plans on leaving. Milwaukee won three out of four in the opening series against St. Louis. The Red Birds head to Pittsburgh two games behind the Brewers in the standings.

Again we repeat:   this is a very small sample size and that a Major League Baseball season is very, very long.

 During the first series there was there good news and there was bad news for the local nine. 

The good news is that the Cardinals scored nineteen runs in their first four games in Milwaukee. The bad news is Red Bird pitching allowed nineteen runs against the Brewers.

The good news is that St. Louis hit eight home runs in the four game series. The bad news is that Milwaukee hit nine long flies in those four games.

The good news is that the newly-acquired Goldschmidt blasted four home runs in the series: three in one game. The bad news is defending NL Most Valuable Player Christian Yelich also hit four home runs in the series: but he hit one in each of the four games.

The good news is that the Cardinal defense only committed one error in the series. The bad news is that Red Bird batters struck out 43 times in 36 innings against Milwaukee pitching.

The concerning issue though is how the finale ended. The Red Birds held a three-run lead with nine outs to go. By getting those final nine outs, St. Louis would have achieved their objective: splitting the series and wiping four games at Miller Park off the schedule with no affect in the standings.

But that didn’t happen because the Cardinal bullpen did not complete the task in late innings. Despite all those glowing accolades bestowed by the apologists on Fox Sports Midwest regarding the effectiveness of free agent reliever Andrew Miller and the velocity of Jordan Hicks’ pitches, the St. Louis bullpen blew the save in the critical fourth game. Hicks did not get anyone out in the ninth inning as the Brewers captured the finale in walk off fashion.

Again we repeat:   this is a very small sample size and that a Major League Baseball season is very, very long. But this series and particularly game four, highlights a concern suggested during those cold winter nights: just who will Mike Shildt give the ball to in the ninth inning?

In today’s game, teams need that shutdown closer or that shutdown bullpen if they have dreams of playing in October. To illustrate and keeping it close to home, let’s review the numbers:

In 2018, the Cardinal bullpen blew 21 saves. The Red Birds finished three games out of the final National League Wild Cards spot.

In 2017, the St. Louis bullpen blew 17 saves. In the end, the team finished four games out of the final Wild Card spot.

In 2016, the Red Bird bullpen blew 17 saves. That Cardinal team finished just one game out of the final National League Wild Card spot.

In 2018, Bud Norris earned 28 saves for St. Louis. In 2017 Seung-hwan Oh earned 20 saves and Trevor Rosenthal captured 11 saves. In 2016, Oh compiled 19 saves and Rosenthal 14 saves.

We now fast forward to the start of the 2019 regular season: Norris, Oh and Rosenthal are not on the St. Louis roster.

So the question remains: just who will Mike Shildt give the ball to in the ninth inning? At this writing that answer is: to be determined.

The Red Birds will play two games in Pittsburgh before returning to the 314 for the home opener against the San Diego Padres. It’s hard to believe Thursday afternoon will be the fourteenth opening day at Busch III.

(SIDE NOTE: With rain in the forecast for Opening Day, inquiring minds wonder what is the over/under for the number of innings the majority of the self-proclaimed Best Fans in Baseball will hang around during the home opener once the Clydesdales and the convertibles leave the field.)

Again we repeat:   this is a very small sample size and that a Major League Baseball season is very, very long.

But regardless of the month, the four games in Milwaukee were a missed opportunity.

It’s April and welcome to the return of Baseball, Cardinal Nation.

And it’s good to have it back.


Mark Bausch


St. Louis Sports Online
Batting Orders on the Eights:
1978, 1998 and 2008. 2018?

posted July 24

Let’s pick an arbitrary year in major league baseball—1978.

In 1978, Vern Rapp, Jack Krol and Ken Boyer served as manager of the Cardinals. The batting orders for all 162 Cardinals games that season ‘featured’ a pitcher in the ninth spot in the lineup.

Rapp, Krol and Boyer were following baseball’s 1978 lineup norms: a given team’s pitcher nearly always batted ninth in his team’s lineup.

One year later (1979), Tony La Russa began his baseball managerial career when he was hired to manage the Chicago White Sox.

Fast forward about twenty years to 1998.

During the 1998 season’s All Star break, then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, with nearly two decades of major league managerial experience already under his belt, dispensed with the pitcher-must-bat-ninth ‘wisdom’.

And for the balance of that ’98 season, La Russa broke with tradition and wrote lineup cards in which his starting pitcher was listed in the #8 spot in his lineup.

Recall two salient facts about La Russa’s 1998 Cardinals squad:

(1) the team was average (83-79 final W-L record; third place in the NL Central)

(2) in 1998, Mark McGwire (after hitting 58 homers while playing for Oakland and St. Louis in 1997) was engaged in a historic season-long chase to eclipse Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61 home runs

Perhaps La Russa felt an obligation to McGwire, who traditionalists viewed as a prototypical clean-up hitter…to get Big Mac as many at-bats as possible, to enhance his chances to break the record.

The move also served as an attention-grabber, and diverted fans (and media) from the rather obvious fact that the Cardinals 1998 team, as a whole, was not a strong contender for post-season play.

Whenever asked, La Russa pointed out that with a ‘hitterish’ position player batting ninth (instead of a weak-hitting hurler), McGwire, in every inning except the first, essentially could be thought of as a clean-up hitter—thus at least partially satisfying baseball’s old-school thinkers.

So the debate began in 1998—where should the pitcher bat in the lineup?

Ten years later...in 2008, La Russa revisited the issue, when future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols hit third in the Cardinals order. In this case, La Russa aimed to enhance the run production of his line-up by enabling ‘The Machine (Pujols)' to see more runners on base.

Fast forward ten more years--to 2018.

The debate concerning La Russa’s ‘innovation’ continues, with Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon among many of today’s MLB managers who have dabbled with ‘hitting the pitcher eighth’.

With every MLB team accessing supercomputers on a daily basis and hiring ‘quants’ to program those computers to their specifications , you can be certain that literally millions of line-up combinations have been simulated...and everybody from the geekiest team employee to the owner has an opinion based on those ‘data’ that aims to answer the question—should a pitcher always bat ninth in the lineup?

Well, if there was ever a line-up that might see benefits from a position player with some ‘pop in his bat’ hitting ninth...not three positions in front of #3 hitters such as Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols, but directly in front of baseball’s hottest hitter (Matt Carpenter), had the new Cardinals skipper given any thought to what, twenty years ago, was a St. Louis innovation?

In the Great America Ball Park visiting dugout, I asked Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt that very question prior to today’s game (July 24) vs. the Reds, one day after his squad lost to the Reds...2-1 in walk-off fashion.

You can listen to Shildt’s response here (along with Talking Heads and Pretenders music in the background...1978?!) or go old school yourself and scroll down for the written word.

Either way, check those box scores, folks.


Q: There's a twenty year history in St. Louis, going back to '98, of the pitcher hitting eighth in the batting order. Your best hitter is...leadoff. Does that cause you to think about batting order a little bit?

Mike Shildt: It is food for thought. It's not anything traditional I've done. I'm still trying to get my head around, quite honestly, what that looks like, and the reasoning behind it. I know there's different reasons for and against, clearly...to point out to make a commitment to what that looks like.

To your point about Carp leading off, as productive as he's been, to get somebody in front of him...it kind of backs up a couple of days ago what you're thinking about.

You know we hit for Miles [Mikolas] the other day, in the fifth inning, or the top of the sixth inning, rather, in Chicago, you know when he still had some pitches on the table.

And I didn't communicate as well as I'd like to after that game. It is also a decision based on, if we get Jed [Gyorko] on at that point, now we get Carp up, and that's a chance to break the game open. So there is some methodology to what that looks like.


Thanks for reading.






regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review


email Mike

Mike Huss' Take Five

posted  April 13

Random thoughts & observations as many of the self-proclaimed Baseball Fans in Baseball suffer from early April panic attacks

Retirement congrats#1: University of Michigan Head Men’s Hockey Coach Red Berenson announced his retirement after 33 seasons behind the Wolverine bench. The 77-year old Berenson led Michigan to eleven Frozen Four appearances. The Gateway City remembers the Red Baron quite fondly as he was the Blues first Superstar, former Captain and Head Coach. Well done, Coach.

Retirement contrats#2: Former St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinatis announced his retirement from that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League. The thirty-year old Laurinatis played eight seasons: seven in St. Louis. #55 was a class act: a hard working football player on some awful teams. Still, he did not pout about his fate and put his team first. Laurinatis deserved better in his NFL career but this bureau bids him the best in retirement.

Wanna feel old? Happy 76th birthday, Pete Rose (4/14/17)

Wasn’t Ken Hitchcock scheduled to retire from coaching after this season?

AND FINALLY FROM THE “LEGAL DOCKET” BUREAU:  In a 4/12/17 story in our town’s only newspaper, football writer Jim Thomas writes: “he city, the county and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority are suing the National Football League over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago. "The Rams, the NFL, through its member teams, and the owners have violated the obligations and standards governing team relocations" because the Rams failed to meet league relocation rules, the suit claims. As such, the league has breached its contractual duties owed the plaintiffs, the suit says.” And in a related story, Los Angeles Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke yawns.

Comments?        Contact Mike at:    mike@stlsports.com



WDBX Saturday/Sunday Sports Review
hosted by Mark Bausch

Saturday/Sunday Sports Review Show Intro #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber,
Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and (the late) Charlie Spoonhour and Joe Buck)

Saturday/Sunday Sports Review Show Intro #2
(featuring Jan Quarless, Rick Ankiel, (the late) Ron Caron, Walt Jocketty, Brian Jordan and Joe Buck)


Recent WDBX Sunday Sports Review Highlights

Geary Deniston, Mike Huss, Mike Rainey, Todd Hefferman & Mike Baker talk sports with host Mark Bausch every Sunday

Sunday Sports Review 160925 (September 25)
Deniston&Baker  Baker&Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160918 (September 18)
Deniston  Deniston&Hefferman  Hefferman&Rainey
Sunday Sports Review 160911 (September 11)
Baker  Baker&Deniston  Baker&Rainey
Sunday Sports Review 160807 (August 7)
Bausch  Deniston  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160731 (July 31)
Deniston&Baker  Rainey
Sunday Sports Review 160717 (July 17)
Deniston  Hefferman  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160710 (July 10)
Deniston  Rainey  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160703 (July 3)
Deniston  Huss  DeAnna Price
Sunday Sports Review 160626 (June 26)
Deniston&Hefferman  Rainey&Hefferman  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160619 (June 19)
  Huss and Baker
Sunday Sports Review 160612 (June 12)
  Deniston  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160529 (May 29)
Deniston  Rainey  Baker  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160522 (May 22)
Deniston  Rainey  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160515 (May 15)
Deniston  Rainey  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160508 (May 8)
Deniston  Rainey  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160501 (May 1)
Deniston  Rainey  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160410 (April 10)
Deniston&Hefferman  Rainey  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160403 (April 3)
Deniston&Hefferman  Rainey  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160313 (March 13)
  Baker  Deniston
Sunday Sports Review 160306 (March 6)
   Deniston  Hefferman  Huss  Rainey
Sunday Sports Review 160228 (February 28)
  Deniston  Hefferman  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160221 (February 21)
  Deniston  Hefferman  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160214 (February 14)
   Deniston  Hefferman  Huss  Rainey
Sunday Sports Review 160207 (February 7)
  Deniston  Huss  Rainey
Sunday Sports Review 160131 (January 31)
  Deniston  Hefferman  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 160124 (January 24)
  Deniston  Hefferman  Huss
Sunday Sports Review 151206 (December 6)
  Huss, Deniston & Rainey
Sunday Sports Review 151122 (November 22)
  Huss, Deniston & Rainey
Sunday Sports Review 151115 (November 15)
Hefferman, Deniston, Huss & Rainey




For Many St. Louisans—the Sound of Baseball Remains the Voice of Harry Caray

regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review


email Mike

posted March 8

Last Saturday (March 1), Harry Caray would have been 100 years old.


No kidding: It might be—it could be—it is: a century


For those of us baby boomers that grew up in the Gateway City, state of Missouri, the Ozark region or throughout the Midwest, Harry Caray was the soundtrack of summer. For a quarter century, Caray was the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals. His style was unique and no holds bar. His voice boomed describing the exploits of Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and others. For twenty-five years, Harry Caray was the sound of St. Louis baseball.


In the world where one can be immediately identified by their first name (Elvis, Ozzie, Madonna, etc), if back in the day you said that “Harry” was on the radio, you knew exactly who was on the air. For many of us growing up in the 1960s and earlier, Caray’s familiar, bold and dramatic musings heard through a transistor radio muffled under a pillow (as we were hiding it from our parents after being sent to bed) created the perfect ending to a summer’s evening.


Born Harry Christopher Carabina from Italian and Romanian parents, he grew up on La Salle Street on the near south side of St. Louis on 3/1/1914. Caray’s father died when he was an infant and his mother died when he was around eight years old. In essence he grew up as an orphan.


In his youth Caray played semipro baseball before auditioning for a radio job at age nineteen. It was then when young Harry found his calling. He would cut his teeth in the radio business in markets such as Joliet, Illinois and Kalamazoo, Michigan before returning to his home town. He joined the Cardinals radio broadcast team in 1945. It was here in St. Louis and particularly behind a hot KMOX radio microphone where the legend of Harry Caray evolved.


It was Caray’s voice that narrated the stories of the successful seasons of the mid/late 1940s, the challenging 1950s and the memorable 1960s for the Cardinals. But it was during the down years of the 1950s when Caray’s career rose to prominence. In February 1953, August A. Busch, Jr. convinced his Anheuser-Busch Board of Directors to purchase the Cardinals from Fred Saigh. The Big Eagle and Harry Caray were both cut from the same cloth. Both wanted to be the center of attention. Both appreciated pretty girls. Both were Type-A. Both were highly competitive.


But most importantly, both could sell beer. That alliance would make Harry larger than life. Over the KMOX airwaves he was an unabashed homer. But above all, he could sell beer. Busch once referred to Caray as his best beer salesman. The bond was then formed.  


Behind Busch’s influence, the powerful KMOX signal and Caray’s bombastic style the Cardinal radio network became the largest in the Major Leagues. Prior to 1957, St. Louis was the westernmost franchise. Cardinal fans were emerging west of the Mississippi. Caray was the evangelist. Casual and non-baseball fans listened to the games only to hear what Harry had to say. During it all, he promoted and pushed Budweiser. The match seemed made in heaven.


The Cardinals went to the World Series three times during the 1960s: winning it all twice. After advancing to the series in 1967 and 1968, St. Louis was expected to make it a three-peat. It didn’t happen. In 1969 St. Louis finished a disappointing third in the newly created NL East. But days after the final out, a bombshell was dropped in the Gateway City. Harry Caray and the Cardinals parted ways. The larger than life broadcaster was out as Cardinal broadcaster.


There have been many of urban legends as to what led to the split. We’ll never know for sure. But we did observe in a pre-cable, pre-internet era, that the divorce was far from amicable.


Leaving St. Louis, Caray took his talents to Oakland where he spent one season working for the colorful Charles O Finley’s A’s. One year later, Caray was signed as an announcer by legendary owner and promoter Bill Veeck of the Chicago White Sox. It would not take long for Harry to discover that Chicago was indeed his kind of town. 


During Caray’s tenure on the south side, the White Sox were not very good. In his first season the Sox went 56-106.  The high water mark was 1977 when they won 90 games. During Caray’s time on the South Side, the Sox had a losing record in eight seasons.


But despite the ineptness on the field, fans listened to the White Sox games because of Harry Caray. Partnered with the colorful and unpredictable Jimmy Piersall, the broadcasts were more entertaining than the games. Caray introduced Comiskey Park fans to the familiar chant from the musical group Steam as pitchers were removed from the game or when the Sox were going to win: “na-na-na-na---na-na-na-na-----hey, hey, hey---Good Bye”.


Caray and Piersall would broadcast games from the bleachers. On July 12, 1979 Harry spoke over the Comiskey Park PA pleading for calm on “Disco Demolition Night” where the Sox had to forfeit the second game of a doubleheader. Fans rushed the field causing extensive damage.


Yep, the White Sox were not very good then—but it was sure fun to listen to the games.


In 1982, Caray moved to the north side of Chicago: signing a contract to broadcast games for the Cubs. It was there through the magic and power of the WGN-TV Superstation signal where Harry Caray would be introduced to a new generation of baseball fans. The Cubs turned Harry loose over the airwaves and it proved to be reality television at its finest. The Cubs were not very good. But just like when with the White Sox, baseball fans tuned in to hear Caray offer his insight and opinions: from trying to pronounce player’s names backwards to welcoming who at the ball park that day to saluting the smallest towns throughout the fruited plain.


During his stay with the Cubs, Caray introduced his trademark: the seventh inning stretch singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. Regardless of the score or the loyalty, Wrigley Field fans sang along with Harry: as Caray, then in his 70s, used his microphone as a baton.


My last conversation with Harry was in 1996. It was during a Saturday afternoon game at Busch Stadium II between the Cardinals and Cubs. Prior to the game, I was in the press lounge. Sitting very quietly in the corner was Harry Caray watching the Fox Network pre-game show. On the screen was his grandson Chip. As I passed his table, Harry smiled and said to me, “isn’t he great?” I politely smiled, agreed continued some small talk. During it all Harry just kept smiling.



So here is this larger than life personality I grew up listening to via a transistor radio under my pillow savoring the moment as a proud grandfather. I started smiling also.


In 1989, Harry would be inducted into the Broadcaster’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a year later, into the National Radio Hall of Fame. He suffered a stroke in 1987. But Caray would not leave the broadcast booth. Then in February 1998, Caray fell at a restaurant and suffered a head injury. He died February 18, 1998 of cardiac arrest with resulting brain damage. 


1998 was the season of the great Home Chase that rescued baseball from the 1994 Work Stoppage. The Cardinals’ Mark Mc Guire and the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa would blast long flies in pursuit of Roger Maris’s single season home run record. It would have been fun and perhaps fitting had Harry hung around one more year to describe those events as only he could.


Today, television (particularly cable television) is the primary outlet for baseball. The legendary baseball voices from past years have been replaced by some combination of blow-dried polished announcers and former ball players: each parroting team written talking points and are nothing more than an extension of the team’s marketing department. You know: always remember that good seats are available, always look for the positives and never criticize the Home Team.


I wonder if Harry Caray would have been hired as a broadcaster in today’s environment. My thinking is probably not. And that’s too bad. Games were sure more fun during Harry’s day.


Last Saturday (March 1), Harry Caray would have been 100 years old.


Holy Cow.




Dan Kelly: Simply the Best

regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review


email Mike

posted February 7

On the same date the Beatles made their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show a half century earlier, this Sunday will also mark the twenty-fifth  anniversary of the death of long-time St. Louis Blues broadcaster Dan Kelly. He once was called the "purest, most knowledgeable, most accurate" voice in hockey. Kelly was 52 years old when he died at his Chesterfield home after a five-month struggle with cancer.

Patrick Daniel Kelly was the best play-by-play announcer ever to broadcast a hockey game. He was an announcer, a salesman, a preacher and a teacher. Born on St. Patrick’s Day 1936, no one has ever come close to his talents in describing the sport of hockey. To this day he remains the Gold Standard in the industry. When Dan Kelly’s voice boomed behind a nationally televised hockey game, you knew that game had to be important.

There will always be a debate on who is/was the best baseball announcer. While Cardinal fans lobby for the talents of the legendary Jack Buck, one can understand why those on the West Coast provide equal testimony for the great Vin Scully. Yankee fans speak with pride about the calls of Mel Allen. Yet those in Michigan fondly will counter about the homespun style of Ernie Harwell. You will never get consensus on who is the best baseball announcer. But there is no debate on who is hockey’s best announcer. As NBC’s Bob Costas once said: “hockey is a sport that should never be broadcasted on radio. Yet in broadcasting hockey, Kelly is like Secretariat in the Belmont. Whoever is second is really closer to third or fourth”.

The Canadian-born, portly Irishman cut his broadcasting teeth in the CFL and on his native land’s best-known hockey vehicle: Hockey Night in Canada. Back in the day when only the original six teams skated in the National Hockey League, a young Kelly would assist legendary broadcaster Danny Gallivan in calling the Saturday night Game of Week as it beamed throughout all the Canadian provinces and in the northern US.  It was THE event on TV in Canada.

Then in 1966, the NHL expanded: doubling from six to a dozen franchises. The new markets would be Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Local insurance executive Sidney Solomon Jr. and his son Sidney III owned the St. Louis franchise and nicknamed them the Blues. The Solomons purchased the deteriorating fire trap at 5700 Oakland Avenue and transformed it into a hockey arena. The Blues games were aired over the 50,000 red-hot watts of KMOX Radio that first season. Buck was named as the team’s first radio play-by-play man with former NHL defenseman and Coach Gus Kyle providing the analysis. Jay Randolph replaced Buck once spring training arrived. The Blues finished in third place that first season. But behind the goaltending of veteran Glenn Hall, the Note advanced in the playoffs to the NHL Finals: only to lose to the mighty Montreal Canadiens in four straight games. 

The following year, the Blues searched for a new play-by-play man to take over for Buck. A young up-and-coming St. Louis hockey executive named Scotty Bowman recommended Kelly to the Solomons. They’d pay Kelly a king’s ransom to lure him and his family from Ottawa to St. Louis. But it would be money well spent.

It took the 34-year-old Kelly and his partner Kyle only a short period of time to earn the respect and admiration of the St. Louis listening public. Kelly would educate his mid-America radio audience about the rules, traditions, beauty and skills of hockey. With the help of the KMOX signal, Kelly and Kyle would spread the word into over 44 states and throughout Canada. Kelly’s familiar “He Shoots, He Scores” call quickly became and still remains a St. Louis hockey staple. Kyle would be the loveable sidekick: referring to close games as “barn burners” and occasionally butchering the English language. A classic “Kyleism” occurred after a jolting Bob Plager hip check. Old Gus said: “Plager hit him so hard, his socks changed feet”. It was just great stuff.

Back in those days, the Blues were the hottest ticket in town. There was actually a season-ticket waiting list for Blues games. 1968-1969 was memorable for the franchise and Kelly would serve as the narrator. He painted the pictures with words over the KMOX airways as Hall of Fame goaltenders Hall and Jacques Plante captured the Vezina Trophy. Kelly’s description of all six goals scored by Red Berenson on a November 7, 1968 night in Philadelphia remains legendary. Kelly and Kyle would announce with fervor the fisticuffs when the Plager Brothers and/or Noel Picard would not back down from the League’s tough guys. That season the Blues won the Conference title and returned to the NHL Finals: only to again be swept by Montreal. After the season Kelly narrated a KMOX-produced album re-living those 1968-69 highlights.

It took less than one season, but Canadian born Dan Kelly became a St. Louis original.

He would become the Gateway City’s hockey evangelist. For the next nineteen seasons, it would be Kelly’s voice describing Blues action on those cold winter nights. He was behind the microphone in January 1972, when some Blues players went into the stands in Philadelphia to confront the Flyer fans: eventually sending Head Coach Al Arbour and those players to jail. He calmly explained to fans why trading Berenson to Detroit was a good thing as a young star named Garry Unger would be coming to town. Kelly helped hockey fans grieve over the sudden death of young defenseman Bob Gassoff. He told fans to keep the faith as the Solomons were contemplating bankruptcy due to rising debts. He introduced Ralston Purina as new Blues owner and Emile Francis as the team’s new President.  A few years later, he watched helplessly as Ralston left the Blues for dead: with the distinct possibility the team would be relocated to Saskatoon. He introduced and interviewed Harry Ornest: a Beverly Hills businessman who bought the team off the scrap heap while bringing hockey executives Ronald Caron and Jacques Demers to town with him. Kelly described the classic 1981 first round Game 5 playoff game when Mike Crombeen’s double-overtime goal advanced the Blues into the next round.

It was Kelly’s voice that narrated arguably the franchise’s most memorable game: May 12, 1986 (a. k. a. the Monday Night Miracle). The Blues faced elimination in Game 6 of the Conference Finals against Calgary. St. Louis trailed 5-1 in the third period, only to tie the game and then win it in overtime on a Doug Wickenheiser goal. Kelly’s voice provided that soundtrack.

Dan Kelly was the link. From the Solomons to Ralston to Ornest to Shanahan: from player trades to coaching changes, from possible relocation to financial stability, it was Kelly that was the constant for Blues fans. He not only taught the Gateway City the game of hockey, but also served as the voice of reason and experience.

While hockey was his trademark, Kelly was also versatile in other sports. He was in the locker room in Montreal when the Cardinals captured the 1982 National League Eastern Division title. In 1983, he and Mike Shannon described Bob Forsch’s second no-hitter. He was one of the CBS regional NFL TV broadcasters.  Kelly was behind the University of Missouri radio network microphone when the Al Onofrio-coached Mizzou football team marched into Columbus to upset Ohio State. Kelly teamed with Bob Starr during the glory years of the St. Louis Football Cardinals: including the legendary Mel Gray phantom catch game against Washington. Plus Kelly made countless cameo appearances on Jack Carney’s highly-rated KMOX radio show.

Unlike today, especially as seen on local cable telecasts, Kelly was not bashful to speak his mind: even if it ruffled the feathers within the Blues front office. One night he was in New York to emcee an event honoring Arbour. Kelly introduced himself saying, “I come from St. Louis where we had Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour and we fired them both. How smart are we?”

Then in 1988, hockey’s greatest voice grew weak and ill. We eventually found out that cancer was the culprit. Others would describe Blues games. But it wasn’t the same. We then realized just how spoiled we all were. In January 1989, the Blues honored for their play-by-play man. That night it also was announced that Kelly would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The guest list included local celebrities such as Buck, Costas, Whitey Herzog and Shanahan as well as his hockey colleagues Don Cherry and Jiggs Mc Donald. They all took turns playfully roasting, yet honoring the Voice of the Blues. But the Great Kelly was too ill to attend in person. Ironically, he listened to all the festivities on KMOX Radio from his hospital room.

A month later, hockey’s greatest announcer died at the far too young age of 52.

Now a generation has passed since we heard Dan Kelly announce a hockey game. Millenials do not know what they missed. Thank goodness for audiotapes. On his tombstone at Resurrection Cemetery in southwest St. Louis is engraved “Voice of the Blues”. That just says it all.

“Hockey is a sport that should never be broadcasted on radio. Yet in broadcasting hockey, Kelly is like Secretariat in the Belmont. Whoever is second is really closer to third or fourth”.

Said another way, Dan Kelly was simply the best.






...from the stlsports.com archives:

FOX, with Joe Buck as host, is once again televising the Men's US Open Golf Championship. In 1995, St. Louis Sports Online sat down with Joe for a lengthy Q-and-A.

Check it out!

Mark Bausch


St. Louis Sports Online

Joe Buck Speaks

originally posted June 17, 1995

Joe Buck, along with his father (Jack Buck), Mike Shannon, Al Hrabosky, and Bob Carpenter, is one of the five broadcasters that bring Cardinal baseball into the family rooms, cars, and offices of Redbird fans all over the midwestern United States. Joe Buck’s work in the St. Louis market is not simply an accident of birth--the FOX network hired Buck to do play-by-play work for their inaugural season broadcasting NFL games. National reviews on young Buck were mostly positive. Indeed, by the end of the NFL season, he was regularly given assignments indicating that FOX considered him among their top two or three play-by-play guys.

In a nutshell, the guy has as much talent as any young broadcaster, since, say, a youthful Bob Costas. Most St. Louis Sports Online readers surely recall that Costas, fresh out of Syracuse University, took St. Louis, and then the country, by storm.

In thinking about Joe Buck and the kinds of questions I would ask, two things came to mind. First, I hoped to bring StLSO readers some new and timely information about the Cards young broadcaster. On this point I feel reasonably confident.
I had also hoped that Buck would play along and poke a bit of good-natured fun at his legendary broadcasting partner, the one and only Mike Shannon. For example, during a recent broadcast, Shannon was discussing ballpark architecture and Coors Field, and, while querying Joe Buck as to the age of the Roman Colosseum, Shannon suggested that it [the Colosseum] was “three- or four- hundred years old, right Joe?”.

In that regard I failed, as Joe Buck played all Shannon-related questions straight down the middle, earnestly saying that “Mike has been extremely helpful to me just starting out in this business.”

Prior to a recent Cards-Braves game, Buck and I sat down in the dining room behind the Fulton County Stadium press box. He is 26 years old...and looks young enough (and fit enough) to be part of a double play combo with Cards shortstop Tripp Cromer. Indeed, Buck said that the Cards had thoughts of drafting him right out of high school. I should have reminded him that the Cardinals drafted Paul Coleman right out of high school, too.

It should surprise no one that Joe Buck, who makes his living as a play-by-play sportscaster, is a verbal individual. But I was surprised to find Buck to be extremely intelligent, as well. Throughout the interview he listened very intently to the questions, and at times, gave quite specific and carefully worded answers that sort of demanded that the original question be rephrased. When a tough question was posed, he wouldn’t give an inch. In other words, the guy is good...and, at least in this interview, didn’t really let down his guard too much. In retrospect, perhaps I could have done a better job interviewing him.
I didn’t feel so bad, though. After all, he’s the professional interviewer!

And before we started, Buck was kind enough to remind me to turn on the recorder...

StLSO: Joe Buck, you’re a St. Louis native. Do you have brothers and sisters, and are they still living in St. Louis?
Buck: I have seven brothers and sisters. All except one (who resides in the Chicago area) still live in St. Louis. I’m the second-to-the-youngest...my younger sister works for a radio station back in St. Louis and I have an older sister who works for a TV station in St. Louis. So we’re everywhere.

StLSO: Where did you go to high school, and when did you graduate?
Buck: I went to St. Louis Country Day High School, and I was graduated in 1987.

StLSO: What were your favorite subjects?
Buck: Chemistry...uhhh...you know what? That sort of stuff always baffled me. I’m not a smart guy. I know that. That’s why I’m a broadcaster. I was more an English and Spanish...those kind of subjects, as opposed to math and chemistry.

StLSO: Did you attend a college or university?
Buck: Yes. I went to Indiana University in Bloomington Indiana. I played some college baseball there...Mickey Morandini was also on the IU baseball team.

StLSO: What was your major...and did you graduate?
Buck: I was an English major. I did not graduate. I was at IU for three and a half years, and in the middle of my fourth year I got the Cardinal job. While I was going to school I was broadcasting Louisville Redbird games.

StLSO: If you weren’t a sportscaster, what career might you have pursued?
Buck: Probably...law.

StLSO: Give us an oral resume, starting with your first broadcasting job....
Buck: In 1987, I did afternoon sports reports on KMOX, and mornings on KMOX’s sister station on the FM side, which at that time was called KHTR. I worked Louisville Redbirds games for two years, beginning in 1989. During that time, I also did some fill-in work for the Cardinals when my Dad was doing football or baseball...and that blossomed into a full-time position which is when I left college.

StLSO: Are you married? If so, does your wife enjoy sports?
Buck: Yes I am married, and I have been married for two and a half years. And yes, my wife does enjoy sports.

StLSO: Do you have children?
Buck: No.

StLSO: You are no doubt aware that ESPN spawned ESPN2. Does ESPN3 have a futures contract on your first-born?
Buck: [Laughs out loud in a resigned sort of way.] Sure...that’s the way things are going in baseball these days. The kids are taking over.

StLSO: Approximately how many nights per year do you sleep in an out-of-town hotel room?
Buck: Ummm. I would say...I would say about half the nights in a given year I’m on the road.

StLSO: Does your wife often accompany you on road trips?
Buck: Yes, she does.

StLSO: What are your favorite cities to visit?
Buck: Cities where I have friends like here in Atlanta...or in Los Angeles with a friend of mine who’s in a rock group out there. Both are towns that I enjoy visiting because I have good friends from high school who reside there, including Kevin Omell here in Atlanta.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Omell was also graduated from Country Day in 1987, and sat next to Buck for much of the interview.

StLSO: On a given three day trip to Pittsburgh, what do you do between games?
Buck: Golf is a big time-killer. You know, we get back so late...I can’t get to sleep before three o’clock in the morning...I get up about eleven and have lunch and maybe do a little exercising and then go to the ballpark.

StLSO: In your job as a Cards broadcaster, who is your boss....any one person? And on Fox?
Buck: A lot of people. For the Cards, I guess Steve Uline of Bud Sports is my boss. It just progresses after that. You’ve got Anheuser-Busch and their broadcasting division, and you’ve got the Cardinals and their division.
For FOX, David Hill is the Vice-President of Sports, and Ed Goren, I think, is the Executive Executive Producer, and George Krieger is Executive Producer. All three of those guys are more-or-less in charge.

StLSO: Politicians and their staffs often work from “talking points” when they try to get out a certain point of view to the public. Have any A-B or Cards brass ever suggested that you say, X, Y, or Z? Putting it differently, are you ever given “talking points” to work from?
Buck: No. That’s a good question and I would assume that other broadcasters are told what to say and what not to say. But I work out of common sense. I know where my bread is buttered...so...I’m always trying to promote the Cardinals. But I’ve never been told to say something or not to say something.

StLSO: How does your work with the Cards differ from your work with Fox?
Buck: Well, when I’m doing baseball with the Cardinals I feel like I’m more part of the team, and as the team goes so goes my mood.

StLSO: You’re not feeling too good then, eh?
Buck: Yeah, exactly. If the team’s not playing well, I’m usually not in a good mood. With FOX, with something more national, I couldn’t care less who wins...I have no attachment to the teams and I’m really worried about my performance and being accurate and here [with the Cards] it’s more being a part of the group and hope that they’re winning.

StLSO: Do you review your own on-air performance? If so, what do you listen for?
Buck: All the time. I listen for...verbal crutches and things that I fall into from time to time...repeating the way I’m describing something over and over...varying your call when you’re describing something. I’m not one for cliches.

StLSO: Do play-by-play broadcasters suffer slumps?
Buck: Oh yeah. There are days when I wonder whether can speak English! I mean, sometimes you’re not enunciating and just not getting the words out...and other days you’re almost telling yourself to shut up, because the stuff is just coming out so quick and easy.

StLSO: Do play-by-play men read reviews of their work (i.e. USA Today)? Do you?
Buck: Yeah...and anyone who says they don’t...is lying. This is a very...uhhh...this is a business where you like positive reinforcement, and negative criticism really gets at you.
It [negative criticism] hurts...I’m doing everything I can...I’m traveling and sweating in the booth and doing my homework and when you read something bad about yourself...it’s not fun.

StLSO: I recall hearing you broadcast some Missouri Valley Conference basketball games a couple of years ago.
Buck: Let’s see...that was two years ago so it was the winter of ‘93.

StLSO: I remember watching one of those games...quite honestly, it didn’t seem that you were prepared for one of those games.
Buck: Really [said in the form of a statement].

StLSO: Yeah, that night, the normal Joe Buck delivery seemed less smooth than normal as you didn’t seem to know the names of the players and their uniform numbers...I bring this up not to embarrass but rather to make the point that a good deal of preparation is involved in your job. This is true, isn’t it?

Buck: Yeah, you absolutely have to prepare. But you have to remember that what people might hear or see on television and what comes across is not always...
See, you can look at something and say he doesn’t know the name or number and say that he’s not prepared, but sometimes that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes it might be what’s going on in my ear. Sometimes it might be what the producer’s telling me...sometimes it might be what the director’s saying, while I’m talking, that could throw you off that is incorrect. A lot of the times the people behind the scenes make mistakes when you’re the front man out there.

StLSO: I don’t think I’m wrong about this...my point was that you just didn’t seem as familiar with some of these guys as other times and I think that points out how much preparation is important...
Buck: It’s all familiarity. I could run down the names and numbers of all the guys in major league baseball....that’s one thing because I’m around it every day of my life. But when you’re swooping down to do a game on a given weekend...having to learn two different teams...or...in fact, I was doing two MVC games a week...that’s four different teams...including women’s games....you know, keeping that straight all the time is not the easiest thing in the world. And I might add that the MVC production side of those games could have been improved, in my opinion. The MVC deserves better.

StLSO: You received a lot of positive notoriety for your ESPN duh-duh-duh...duh-duh-duh after Mark Whiten’s fourth homer vs. the Reds. Was that spontaneous or did your practice that?
Buck: [Buck delayed answering for an instant while a look of disapproval came over his face.] You can’t practice anything. If I were to practice something....I mean, that’s the beauty of what I do...you can’t practice anything. It just comes out...you don’t know what’s going to happen.

StLSO: Describe your preparation for a typical Cardinal game that commences at 7:35...
Buck: I prepare for every game...very easily...just by being there. I know exactly what’s been going on, on a daily basis...I mean, I know more, about this team, than anybody listening knows about this team.

StLSO: So, for a 7:35 start, you arrive at Busch Stadium at what time?
Buck: 4:00...4:30, sometimes 5:00...depending on whether I have other obligations..doing other work during the day...commercials or reporting of some sort.

StLSO: Describe your preparation for a typical FOX broadcast...
Buck: It’s totally different [from the Cards preparation]. When I’m preparing for a Sunday game for FOX, I start out on Monday evening doing spotting boards that I make out for myself...then we [the FOX team] get to the city on Friday and meeting the teams on Saturday...meet as a group on Saturday night...and as a group on Sunday morning....do the game on Sunday and then come back on Sunday night.
So there’s really a lot more preparation to be done...because I’m having to learn two new teams each week and I’ve got to pick up a team in week #14 and act like I’ve been watching them for the first 13 weeks.

StLSO: I’ve noticed that some things about baseball seem easier to evaluate while watching TV, as opposed to coming to the stadium and seeing the game in person. In particular, certain aspects of pitching seem to be much easier to follow on TV, as opposed from the stands.  Do you rely on a video monitor while broadcasting?
Buck: You can’t rely on it...you have to split your...

StLSO: Rely is the wrong word...utilize is better...
Buck: Oh yeah, yeah, you have to...you have to be aware of what they’re showing. You have to work together. You have a director and a producer and you have to all be on the same page. I can’t start talking about the crowd while they’re shooting Ken Hill and I can’t start talking about Joe Torre when they’re shooting Todd Zeile.

StLSO: And on radio?
Buck: Well on radio I can do whatever I want. There’s no one that is working with me...it’s all what I want to cover.

StLSO: Earlier, you said you graduated from high school in 1987 or so. Do you keep in contact with many of your high school classmates?
Buck: Yes, I do. Some more so than others.

StLSO: What fraction of them are baseball fans?
Buck: I would say, probably, half.

StLSO: The ones that aren’t...why aren’t they, in your mind? What would you tell them if you were to try and persuade them to come to the ballpark?
Buck: Well, that’s a tough question. I just think it’s a personal preference. I would never try to persuade someone to enjoy baseball. Baseball is just something that either you grow up around and really enjoy, or you have a tough time picking it up and staying alert while you’re at a game. I think [that for] some people, the game of baseball bores them. To me, I enjoy the two and a half to three hours that it takes to play a baseball game. But I think, to some people, that’s too slow. It’s a reflection of our society...they want things fast and they want scoring.

StLSO: Assume for a moment that you’ve been named Commissioner of baseball.
Buck: I’d quit...

StLSO: What would you prescribe for what ails baseball 1995-style?
Buck: Well, everybody’s trying to speed up the game. If I were to do one thing I’d make the umpires call a legitimate strike zone. I think that’s the absolute only way you can speed up the game...not when the PA announcer says the guy’s name one minute and fifteen seconds into the break. That doesn’t have anything to do with it...it has to do with a small strike zone and pitchers falling behind. These guys [the batters] don’t go up there swinging the bat...then they’re waiting to get ahead in the count and then they’re hammering away. I would say call the strike zone as it is written in the rule book.

StLSO: Among your suggestions for major league baseball, I’m surprised you didn’t include grammar and diction lessons for your broadcasting partner Mike Shannon.
Buck: No...I would not say that.

StLSO: Your on-air work is the most visible part of your job. Tell us a bit about your off-air responsibilities as a member of the Cards broadcasting team.
Buck: I’m involved with a lot of charity work in St. Louis, which, I believe, is part of being a broadcaster. In the off season I do a number of the Cardinal Caravans. But mainly charity work.

StLSO: After an evening’s worth of broadcasting, you said you were up ‘til three a.m., what do you do to unwind?
Buck: It’s not that I’m wound up...it’s just that my schedule starts later than everybody else and I end up later than everyone else.

StLSO: Do you work out regularly?
Buck: Yeah, I do. I try to. On the road, definitely, and at home, every day.

StLSO: What is the most difficult part of your job?
Buck: Uhhhhh...the travel. It’s tough, with a wife, and you want to see each other as much as possible...but it’s not always economically feasible to have her with me all of the time.

StLSO: Is there one part of a baseball game that you would like to do a better job communicating to your listeners?
Buck: I wish I could interview people better.

StLSO: Do you enjoy doing rain delay fills?
Buck: Yes and no. I don’t really feel that qualified to do them yet. I think people more enjoy listening to people that have been around the game a little longer than I have...I don’t have the background that Mike Shannon or my Dad would.

StLSO: What is the best part of your job?
Buck: Every day...the thrill of doing it every day...there’s not one day that has gone by where I had not wanted to do a game. I would rather do a game than not do a game.

StLSO: Bob Costas tells a story of traveling with the team on a day off...when he first started broadcasting. He didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to do that.
Buck: Yeah...well, that’s fun though. I did say travel is the toughest part but it can be the most enjoyable part...to get to know these guys...it’s like a traveling fraternity.

StLSO: Joe, you’re only 26 but have already accomplished a great deal in an extremely competitive field. What do you do to keep from getting the big head?
Buck: From day one, from being around my father, I’ve realized that being a broadcaster is not the most important thing in the world. It’s a fun job and I’m lucky to be doing it and I’m lucky to have been doing it for the last five years. But it doesn’t matter what level of success that I achieve...in the grand scheme of things it’s not that important. Therefore I will not get the big head.

StLSO: As far as your career is concerned, what would you like to accomplish professionally in the next five years?
Buck: That’s tough to answer. Because if anybody had asked me back in 1989 that five years from then if I’d be doing NFL football on FOX, I’d have never imagined that. Five years from now I would be very happy doing what I’m doing right now, and if something else comes along, like a chance to do nationally broadcast baseball, I would jump at that chance and would hope to be doing it.

StLSO: Joe...the best broadcasting I ever heard you do was during one of your football games. It was something minor and not something that I’m sure I’m going to be able to put into words. Your timing on what we used to call a down-and-out...it’s sort of like counting to five.
The quarterback takes the snap, drops back three or four steps, throws the ball on a line to the receiver, the receiver makes the catch and runs a little bit, and the defender makes the hit, knocking him out of bounds. You talked around all of those things, rather than interrupting what I was watching.
Buck: Sure. That is the essence of how I broadcast, or how I try to broadcast. It drives me nuts when I hear broadcasters talking incessantly. And just talking over the entire action.

StLSO: Do you understand what I’m talking about? That’s a perfect kind of a play that sort of has a rhythm to it...your basic seven yard down and out.
Buck: Well, broadcasting is all rhythm.

StLSO: I want to try this again. Do you practice that [the rhythm]?
Buck: No. That’s the way I grew up. I don’t think my Dad talks incessantly on a broadcast. I told myself because I listen to myself so much...watching tapes of my games on TV whether it’s basketball, baseball, or football...my voice sometimes drives me nuts...I don’t want to hear it all the time. I would rather accent the action instead of knocking you over the head with it. Especially on TV, being a TV play-by-play guy is almost redundant with people watching it. So if you can accent it, and you can add to it, then that is, I think, my job, and not tell people what they’re already seeing.

StLSO: At this point in the season, you’ve seen the Cards play forty some-odd ballgames and play .400 baseball. What should Cardinal fans look for in the future?
Buck: Well, there are no untouchables on this squad. You can’t have untouchables if you haven’t won since 1987. In my opinion, two-thirds of the significant players could, emphasize could, be different in 1996. If you asked Walt Jocketty or Mark Lamping, I think they would admit that this is not a first-place ballclub.

StLSO: So finally, Joe, when was the Roman Colosseum built?
Buck: Seventy-five years ago. You never know what you’re going to get on a nightly basis. You can be talking about rain or a home run and something like that comes along.

StLSO: Thanks.
Buck: OK. Thank you. 

Mark Bausch


St. Louis Sports Online
posted November 10

Role Models in Radio; Role Models in Coaching?

There's always good radio to be found the day after the Philly Eagles lose. That's because 97.5 The Fanatic employs long-time sports-talk radio pro Tony Bruno, who, with wit and wisdom and alacrity, persuades most (but not all) of his ever-insufferable listeners not to jump from the top of the nearest tall building. The wonder of the internet brings Bruno and his Philly-based station to anyone looking for an entertaining listening experience.

In a similar vein, the Cardinals' flagship radio station, 'The Voice of St. Louis' (TVoSTL), in the mid-afternoon of Wednesday, November 7, 2012, supplied a great deal of potential.

Hosts and callers alike on this station, during the mid-afternoon time slots, lean right-of-center (ya think?!)...and the day before (November 6) was election day.

'The Voice of St. Louis' (TVoSTL) has always tilted a bit to the right.

For example, you can bet the mortgage that long-time CBS VP Robert Hyland had no use, in 1972, for most of the positions held by that year's Democratic presidential nominee (George McGovern).

But somehow, back in those days, the political views of the newsreaders and hosts at TVoSTL were, if not difficult to ascertain...they were at least restrained. Hyland himself voiced an occasional, usually right-of-center 'editorial' in the early a.m. (before what is now called morning-drive), but his opinions were not delivered with the 'in-your-face' and 'take-no-prisoners' mentality that a certain Cape Girardeau-born nationally-syndicated personality (heard five days a week on TVoSTL) has popularized.

And the 'take-no-prisoners' approach to talk-radio has metastasized: in all likelihood, the locally-based right-of-center show that commences on TVoSTL at 2 pm (and other regional shows like it around the country) would not exist were it not for the popularity of the nationally-syndicated show that precedes it.


On Tuesday, November 6, voters in Missouri re-elected Democratic senator Claire McCaskill...while voters in the United States re-elected President Barack Obama.

These results virtually guaranteed that compelling mid-afternoon radio would be found the next day on TVoSTL.

Indeed, during the 2 o'clock hour on November 7, while discussing the election results and a 60 Minutes TV segment that featured a chilly and forced conversation involving US senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Harry Reid (D-NV), TVoSTL's mid-afternoon local host chimed in with his own view, agreeing with the notion that it would be hard for anyone (including the Republican leadership in the US Senate) to work with Reid, saying "Yeah, I hate Harry Reid too."

First, I chuckled--I was right! Then I groaned and quite literally thought of Robert Hyland, whose approach to radio is missed by many.

But Hyland is gone, and a man with the golden EIB microphone has acolytes all over the United States.

My chuckle and groan was followed by a click, as I changed the station to a St. Louis-based sports-talk station, whose update guy was discussing the St. Louis University men's basketball program and its head-coaching situation.

Back to sports, and to SLU basketball in particular.

To recap, in the wake of what is apparently a life-threatening medical issue, SLU head coach Rick Majerus has relinquished his coaching duties and has been replaced, on an interim basis, by veteran basketball man Jim Crews.

Crews, who played (1972-1976) and served as an assistant coach (1977-1985) at Indiana for more than a decade while the Hoosiers were coached by Bob Knight, was, beginning in 1985, a head coach at Evansville and then Army, for 24 successive seasons (seventeen and seven years, respectively), during which time his teams qualified for four NCAA tournaments.

From a basketball perspective, SLU's athletics department is fortunate that Majerus, prior to the 2011-12 season, was able to persuade Crews to return to coaching and join his staff at SLU.

My own thinking about Crews, though, centers on a post-game press conference held at the Arena at SIU-Carbondale, after an Evansville-SIUC game.

I don't recall the outcome of the game. I don't remember anything about the game itself. I'm not even certain as to the game's exact date, although I am certain it was in the late 1990s.

What I do recall, vividly, is being embarrassed, as a 1980 graduate of Evansville, to be in the same room with Jim Crews, as he, while serving as Evansville's head basketball coach, berated and belittled...INTENTIONALLY...a young man who was apparently the Aces' beat writer for the Evansville daily newspaper.

The reporter, who didn't look a day over the age of thirty and did not at all resemble the late Mike Wallace in demeanor, had the temerity to politely ask a mundane question about something that had transpired during the game he had just witnessed...a game that, as part of his job description, he was required to describe to his paper's readers.

Jim Crews would have none of the reporter’s questions and the reporter did not persist in asking them. Crews left the closet-sized room for the comfort of his team's locker room, leaving most of the other half-dozen or so in the tiny room shaking their heads. I do not recall, ever, in person, witnessing a more childish, silly and needless display of (bad) attitude by a person in a position of leadership.

Well, that's not exactly true.

A couple of months later (late in the decade of the 1990's), Bob Knight visited Jupiter FL as a spring-training guest of his buddy, then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

During one pre-game session near the Roger Dean stadium first-base line, La Russa and a horde of media left the area, and Knight and I remained in place, alone for several minutes.

While the details are not important, suffice it to say that as Jim Crews was to that Evansville-based basketball reporter, Bob Knight was to yours truly.

Mr. Knight was not interested in idle chat of any type that morning, and had a rather direct way of expressing that perspective. Furthermore, his approach is not likely to be found in the classic book 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'.


No one can deny the (broadcasting) excellence of Rush Limbaugh, in terms of listenership and revenue generation. Limbaugh is a wealthy man and a man of significant influence.

No one can deny the (coaching) excellence of Bob Knight, in terms of four-year player graduation rates and national championships. Bob Knight is in basketball's Hall of Fame, and, like Limbaugh, a man of significant influence.

But the effect of Limbaugh, on aspiring broadcasters...and the effect of Knight, on aspiring coaches--it seems to me that the plusses and minuses of those effects can (and should) be debated, in part because, in fact, only a fraction of their work is on public display.

What listeners hear, on the radio, from Limbaugh...is unique to him...and impossible to duplicate. And what goes into Limbaugh's daily 'performance' is something unseen to his listeners; it is private. Indeed, Limbaugh's private life is just that: private.

But in radio studios all over America, the talk-show posers try to imitate the master.

Including the clownsuit at 2 pm on TVoSTL. Click.

And what fans of college basketball saw of Knight, on the bench, was certainly unique to him...and also impossible to duplicate. One can argue, I think, that Bob Knight succeeded as a college basketball coach in spite of his public demeanor, not because of it.

But even today, in high school and college gymnasiums all over America, the coaching posers still try to imitate the General, in all his glory.


Bob Knight was dismissed, at Indiana, in September of 2000, after physically accosting and verbally abusing an IU undergrad. It was, according to the leadership at Indiana, the last in a long line of missteps committed by Knight.

Jim Crews was dismissed, at Army, in September of 2009, under cloudy circumstances that some said involved physically accosting and verbally abusing Army players (i.e. cadets). Crews’ offense was, according to the athletic leadership at Army, the last in a string of missteps. His dismissal came only a few weeks after signing a three-year contract extension (with a two-year option), and just weeks before the start of the college season.

Three years after his dismissal at Army, one hopes that Jim Crews emulates the results associated with Bob Knight, and leaves out the General's 'colorful' side.

That dog won't hunt in the genteel college basketball climate that is St. Louis University, whose most successful modern-day coach (the late Charlie Spoonhour) opened practices to the public at the old gym on Pine Street and, for awhile, was arguably the most beloved sports figure in St. Louis.

It really was a site to see—while Spoonhour watched his team do 3-on-3 drills, runners were circling the track above the court. Runners as in students and faculty. Other athletes were exercising courtside, too…but there was an excitement in the air: everybody wanted to be a part of Spoonball—it was fun and all of St. Louis knew it.

One hopes that interim coach Jim Crews gets the memo.



WDBX Sunday Sports Review
SSR Show Intro mp3 #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber, Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and Charlie Spoonhour, and Joe Buck)
SSR Show Intro mp3 #2
(featuring Jan Quarless, Rick Ankiel, Ron Caron, Walt Jocketty, Brian Jordan and Joe Buck)


...from the stlsports.com archives:

Rick Ankiel is now part of the extended Cardinals family again, as he has been hired by Fox Sports Midwest for pre- and post- game commentary. In 1999, St. Louis Sports Online sat down with Rick for a Q-and-A.

Read on...


Mark Bausch


St. Louis Sports Online

Reluctance & Mystery,
Talent & Expectations:
A Conversation with Rick Ankiel

originally posted June 28, 1999

Rick Ankiel is the brightest lefthanded pitching prospect in all of baseball…and at 19 years of age, is gaining maturity on and off the field…


Earlier this month, Thomas Harding, the Memphis Redbirds’ beat writer for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, asked yours truly a simple question.

It was a question I’ve heard before.

But admittedly, the sports context of his question...was new.

Certainly, though, Harding’s query brought a smile to my face.

His question was this: “How was it for you?”

The context?

Harding, a friendly bloke, wanted to hear about the Rick Ankiel interview I had conducted earlier that evening in the Redbirds’ dugout.

My answer was polite.

“He was...uhhh...reluctant.”

“Good answer!” said the beat writer, making like game-show host Richard Dawson.

Generally speaking, if you want to know something about a professional baseball player, talk to his beat writer.

Evidently, my description of Ankiel squared with Harding’s view of the youngster: reluctant.


But the reluctance that Rick Ankiel displays, in his interviews, only adds to the mystery that surrounds him
Here’s an analogy.

Think back to when you were fifteen or sixteen...a freshman in high school.

Wasn’t there a pretty girl, a graduating senior girl, that you found mysterious?

Wasn’t she difficult to approach?

And wasn’t she hard to talk to?

But from a distance...wasn’t she fun to watch?

That’s one way to view the mysterious side of Rick Ankiel.


The first thing you notice about Ankiel, up close, is his demeanor.

No, that’s not exactly right.

It’s the combination of his demeanor and his appearance that is so striking.

It’s like one of those “What’s wrong with this picture?” features, where one thing is out of place in a photograph.

That’s because, while Ankiel is only 19, and his face and body have the unfinished look of a 19 year old, his outward disposition appears to be that of a veteran (or maybe a teenager trying to act like a veteran).

In this reporter’s opinion, an opinion based on a limited set of observations, Ankiel’s disposition displays equal parts detached arrogance and active intimidation.

And as the recent pre-game beaning in a collegiate baseball game evidenced, there is a substantial intimidation component to pitching
(Don’t believe that? Step into a batting cage and dial it up to 80 MPH. You’ll get the picture...and don’t forget your helmet.)

So, for what it’s worth, Rick Ankiel appears intimidating...and mysterious.


From a distance, though, Rick Ankiel’s pitching talent is obvious to anyone with even a modest knowledge of baseball.

For starters, Ankiel’s delivery has a bit of (ex-Met lefty) Sid Fernandez flavor to it.

You remember El Sid--he hid the ball behind his front hip and leg for what seemed like an eternity, before projecting an above-average fastball toward the batter.

Ankiel’s trickery isn’t as pronounced, but it’s there, and he uses it to his advantage. As a result, Ankiel’s fastball seems to handcuff hitters in a way that adds a few MPH to its 91-92 MPH velocity.

Ankiel’s breaking pitch looks more like a curve ball than a slider. Its effects are best observed by observing the helpless, weak-kneed batter, who often looks like a Little Leaguer watching his first roundhouse.

That’s because Ankiel can throw his sharp-breaking curve for strikes...which, when combined with his heavy fastball, leads to stupendous strikeout totals.

But that’s not all. Ankiel’s change-up, though harder to spot from the stands, is apparently well developed, too.

So where do those strikeouts come from?

In the words of Cardinals minor league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins: “He has a very deceptive fastball...the ball jumps...it explodes at the plate.

“He can pitch up in the zone...and the ball just jumps by the hitters’ bat. He can use his change-up to strike guys out...he can use his curve-ball to strike guys out...he has weapons that produce strikeouts. He’s a gamer. He’s an intense guy. When he has two strikes on a guy he tries to strike him out and he has the weapons to do that.”

Riggins continues: “It’s amazing that [Ankiel] has the breaking ball and the change-up at 19 years of age.
“We have guys in our system at the AAA level that we’re still trying to teach the change-up to. Rick has all of those pitches already. It’s just a matter of consistency and getting those pitches in the locations he needs to...all the time.”

Which leads to...


Ankiel is 19 years old. The last 19 year old pitcher to make a big splash in the big leagues was Dwight Gooden.

Is it unreasonable to compare Ankiel, the summer 1999 Ankiel, with Gooden?

“I think so,” said Riggins. “You don’t want to put that much of a burden on him. We as pitching coaches treat every kid the same...whether he was a number one [pick] or a free agent...whether he is 8-and-1 or 1-and-8...

“We treat all these guys the same...and try not to put the pressure on him...that’s created more by the media..
“The expectations are also created by the fans,” continued Riggins. “That’s great...I love that stuff. But we shouldn’t put that much of a burden on Rick right now. He’s still a young kid trying to develop his stuff.”

And a young kid that, at 6-1 and 190 lbs, still sometimes looks like the teen-ager that he is.

Yet one final word from the Cardinals minor league pitching coordinator, Mark Riggins.
“His body is still growing. Usually at 21 or 22 years old...they fully develop. He’s got a couple more years...and may grow an inch or two…and his body will harden up,” Riggins said.

“When we signed him he was just a soft kid...a little overweight for his age...

“Last year in Peoria...Rick was very low on a test administered by our minor league strength coordinator.

“Rick, he was very low in the group of pitchers. That really stuck in his mind...but the very next day he was out early, running...

“By the end of the year, last year, he had grown into a man and he’s still growing.”

The Last Words

And how might Rick Ankiel finalize his development?

Recently, it was suggested to Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan that a pitcher combining the veteran moxie of Kent Bottenfield with the talent and tools of a Rick Ankiel would be a superstar pitcher.
Duncan’s response?

“That would be a nice combination,” Duncan replied. “Hopefully that’s what Rick Ankiel will be when he gets to the big leagues. He’ll have his physical skills so that he can execute and the only thing that will be missing is what you gain with experience at this level.

“And that’s knowing the opposition and knowing what you have to do to be a successful major league pitcher. He is 19 years old. There’s no getting around that,” Duncan said.

“I think he’s a mature 19 when it comes to baseball...he has a very good idea what he’s doing. He pays attention...he’s been a very coachable athlete and he’s learned a lot in the short time he’s been playing professional baseball.”

And Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty‘s view on Ankiel?

“Rick Ankiel is a young man who just needs a little more seasoning. He’s going to get better with experience. He’s got great ability and great pitches...he has to learn how to get hitters out at the higher levels...how to set up guys....everything comes easy for him right now but it’s going to get tougher as he moves up. But I think he’s very capable of making the adjustments.”

Jocketty’s parting shot, issued in March of 1999?

Not a promise or a commitment; just a declarative sentence.

“I don’t think it will be very long before he gets to St. Louis.”

The Conversation
[recorded June 12, 1999]

StLSO: We’re here in Nashville, Tennessee, visiting with Memphis Redbirds lefthander Rick Ankiel. Good afternoon, Rick.
Ankiel: Hi…how you doin’?

StLSO: We’re doing all right. Rick Ankiel…you’re 19 years old…you finished high school…two years ago?
Ankiel: Yeah, I believe so.

StLSO: That’s not too long ago. Fans are interested in your pitching ability and they are interested in some other things about you. Your pitching ability has brought you along way…do your high school days seem like a long time ago…or just yesterday?
Ankiel: It seems like a long time ago…to be honest. Last year was a long year, this year has gone well and has been flying by and I hope it will continue to be the same.

StLSO: What kinds of experiences from your high school days directly apply to what it is you’re doing now?
Ankiel: What do you mean?

StLSO: What I mean is…did you feel like your pitching skills were pretty well formed as a senior in high school…or not?
Ankiel: I don’t think so. [In high school] I just went out there and threw. I’ve started to learn a lot about pitching rather than just throwing the ball by people. I’m learning a lot and it’s a lot of fun right now and it couldn’t be better.

StLSO: It couldn’t be better…I guess you had a satisfactory for yourself last night…you feel pretty good about your performance yesterday?
Ankiel: I think last night was probably my worst performance of the year.

StLSO: In what way was it not as good as you would like?
Ankiel: In every way…in five innings I threw 92 pitches. As a starter, you’re not going to be able to stay in the game and help your team. As a starter, you just can’t pitch like that.

StLSO: We cover 40 or 50 games with the Cardinals every year…and you can hardly do a post-game interview with Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan without either of them using words like ‘adversity’ and people being able to come back from adversity…was yesterday as adverse a set of conditions that you’ve faced as a minor leaguer?
Ankiel: I don’t know as a minor leaguer…but definitely this year. It just wasn’t a good outing…I couldn’t really find a zone and things just didn’t really go too well.

StLSO: Rick, what is it that you like best about minor league baseball at this point…your teammates, the traveling…or not?
Ankiel: Everything…I mean…you’re playing something that you love to do and you’re playing in a dream when you’re doing things like that.

StLSO: So things are in a real positive sense for you…you’re happy where you’re at, biding your time, and looking to make good pitches…
Ankiel: I guess so.

StLSO: I’m wondering if there’s something I can ask you outside of baseball…that you’d be interested in talking about…high school…favorite classes…something you were interested in or not?
Ankiel: No man…baseball…that’s it.

StLSO: When you were eight, when you were ten, when you were twelve…you wrote on a paper somewhere that you wanted to be a baseball player…how long has this been a dream of yours?
Ankiel: I think, like, most kids in America, just growing up…it’s always a dream…for me, I don’t know. I guess ever since I’ve been little…right now, I’m trying to fulfill that and just keep focused on baseball.

StLSO: Do you have any sense of the anticipation that the folks in the city by the Arch, St. Louis, have for you?
Ankiel: I don’t pay attention to that…I leave that up to you guys…I just try to stay focused on pitching…and not worry about media…and other outside influences.

StLSO: Frankly, we’re interested, in the media, as well as the fans, in seeing that, that can happen for you, Rick Ankiel…good luck the rest of the year.
Ankiel: Thank you.



Mark Bausch


St. Louis Sports Online

Nearly 18 years ago, the androstenedione controversy surrounding Mark McGwire was the talk of St. Louis...but perhaps not how you mighrt remember it!

Out on a Limb?

posted August 27. 1998

A look at the way the St. Louis media handled the publicity surrounding Mark McGwire’s use of androstenedione

The St. Louis sports community

Mark McGwire and Androstenedione (andro)

DATE: August 27, 1998

....on KMOX radio, Hall-of-Fame sportscaster Jack Buck said it was a “non-story”, and pledged not to talk about the Mark McGwire androstenedione controversy.

Ex-St. Louis Sports Online contributor Randy Karraker, ably working the KMOX mike alongside Buck, agreed.

KTRS’ Kevin Slaten pitched in with his own bombastic opinion, saying that the original AP account of the story, and the front page androstenedione follow-up by the Post-Dispatch, only confirmed his own view that print journalists, and sportswriters in particular, are the lowest form of life on this planet.

In essence, Slaten completely agreed with the stated Buck-Karraker on-air opinion, saying that the whole Mac-andro affair was a “non-story”.

On KFNS AM-590, host Frank Cusumano expressed his view that “it’s legal, and therefore I don’t have a problem with it”.

St. Louis media veteran Scott Simon, another former St. Louis Sports Online contributor who now plies his trade at Kansas City’s CBS AM outlet, KMBZ, informed yours truly that the story was overblown...that he himself suffers from asthma, and the medication that he takes to control his condition renders him ineligible for the Olympics.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m thinking of the Jamaican bobsled team...Mr. Simon.)

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, a recent guest of the Saturday Sports Review, chimed in with a rather balanced view of the McGwire andro connection, noting that (1) the Olympic ban of andro can’t be taken too seriously in light of the IOC’s banning of various over-the-counter medications (such as Sudafed); and (2) the NBA ban of andro is ridiculous, too, since pot is not on the league’s list of banned substances.

But Miklasz covered all bases by espousing the view that androstenedione is legal, considered to be a nutritional supplement, and not banned by baseball’s establishment.

In other words, it’s OK to take andro because it’s not against the rules to do so.

KFNS’ Brian Stull, yet another former St. Louis Sports Online contributor, noted that the current media attention to Mac’s andro usage is, in his view, overblown, since Stull claims that McGwire openly discussed his use of supplements on at least two occasions in the weeks prior to the AP “scoop”.

And in their initial comments on the McGwire story, which were apparently based on early media accounts of the controversy, St. Louis Sports Online columnist (and WGNU sportscaster) Mike Huss, and St. Louis Sports Online photographer Eric Niederhoffer both leaned toward the view that the story was overblown...and that a possible driving force for the story was the media’s incessant desire to tear down the heroes that they themselves elevate.

So, despite all those opinions, all which sound logical in one way or another...

…why does McGwire’s use of andro leave a funny feeling in the pit of the stomach of this observer?

I don’t know.

Well, maybe I do.

Maybe it’s because all of Mac’s defenders sound, to my ears, a lot like President Clinton’s defenders.

Literally straining to defend their man.

Parsing their words.

And sounding like lawyers.

The Clinton defenders...and the McGwire defenders...their statements sound OK...they just don’t sound right.

Complicating issues include the fact that yours truly voted for Clinton.


And McGwire’s mammoth home runs have lit up summer for this particular sports consumer like no other recent time in sports.

But one thing seems certain.

In the 1998 baseball season, there is almost nothing connected with Mark McGwire that can be referred to as a non-story.

And the McGwire-androstenedione connection is, in fact, a huge story.

And, to this observer, it seems wrong to blame the media for publishing a story that, in more than one aspect, defines sports in the ‘90s.

We haven’t heard the last of Big Mac and androstenedione.

It does seem unfortunate, though, that in this one-in-a-lifetime baseball season, that Mark McGwire’s historic chase has been tarnished.

One more thing, though.

Recall that longtime St. Louis baseball observers--guys like Bob Broeg, Red Schoendienst, George Kissell, and the aforementioned Buck (that’s about two centuries worth of baseball there, folks)--all grin and utter more or less the same line, when asked about McGwire.

“I’ve never seen anything like him.”