My 7-year old daughter (a smooth defensive infielder) approached the gates of Busch Stadium on October 27th and said to me, “Daddy, this feels different than the last Cardinal game we went to…There are a lot more people. I mean, a lot more people. And, they just seem to be acting differently. Why is that?” I responded with pride, “Delaney, welcome to the World Series, the greatest sporting event there is, and our Cardinals are playing in it.”
We handed our Game 6 tickets to the Ticket Taker, and that’s where this story takes an evil turn. Our tickets did not scan. We were escorted to a member of the Stadium’s Management Team (not Tony Larussa), then asked to pay a visit to the Ticket Office. We were informed that our tickets were counterfeit, and we were out of luck. Within minutes, my daughter and I went from sitting in the bleachers inside Busch to sitting on a curb outside Busch.
We sat there for a few minutes without saying a word when finally my little girl gazed up at me with her sweet, innocent face which was buried underneath her RED winter stocking cap snuggled under 4 layers of RED shirts and sweatshirts, and says “Daddy, I don’t understand what just happened. Why won’t they let us inside to watch the game?” I admit it. My eyes began to water and not because of the 25mph blustery wind hitting us with a 40 degree wind chill. This was among the saddest moments of my life.
I explained to her that earlier in the day Daddy had purchased 2 tickets from a man who said he could not attend that night’s game due to a family conflict thanks to the previous night’s rainout. Game 6 was supposed to be played the night before, but it was postponed due to rain. He had a good story. I bought it, and I bought what I thought to be 2 bleacher tickets to Game 6 of the World Series. He got me. In looking back, I can see the red flags now. But, I admit that I was seeing RED that entire day, and wasn’t even thinking this was a possibility. Yes, I’m naïve. And, yes, I’ll never get on Craig’s List again. I know, I know, I’m an idiot for even thinking this was an option, but for a non season ticket holder that was struggling to swallow the Stub Hub prices, and lost out on the team’s auction for tickets, Craig’s List seemed to be my only option. I know, I flubbed it. Error Daddy.
So, there we sat on the sidewalk for over an hour. Delaney then turned to me and said “Daddy, let’s go get some dinner.” So, we went over to Friday’s Restaurant which had cleared out as those with “real” tickets walked over to the game. We watched the first couple of innings while eating a burger, fries, and a strawberry RED slushee (Delaney’s choice). She said “Daddy, let’s walk back over to the Stadium.” “Really?, I questioned” “Yes, Daddy, I want to hear what it sounds like when that many people all get excited at the same time. I want to hear what a World Series sounds like.” Oh, yah, sure, I had dry eyes, and I can also hit a 99mph Fastball. Not so much.
If the “seller” had walked past me at that point in time, I would have gone all Mike Tyson on him (not the Mike Tyson that played for the Cardinals in the 70s either). I’m not tough. I can also admit that. But, you Dads know what I’m talking about. This thief stole an experience from my little girl, and well, you don’t have to have biceps the size of Albert Pujols to knock someone out of the park.
My little “Red” bird and I walked around the Stadium for a couple of innings, just taking in the World Series atmosphere. I tried to haggle with a couple of scalpers knowing the entire time that I just couldn’t bring myself to risk another counterfeit experience and spend more money on this game. Besides, what if “we” lost? Ugh. I couldn’t go there either. So, after the 4th Inning, I looked at a tired little girl and said “Honey, how bout we go home and watch the rest of the game with Mom and your brother? I’m so sorry that we’re not inside watching this game. I’m truly very sorry.” She looked at me and said “Daddy, this was the best game that I’ve ever been to. It’s the World Series, and I’m with you.” Yep, call your Water Utility Company because I had enough H2O streaming down my cheeks to take care of your entire town.
So, she bounced into my arms, threw her arms around my neck squeezing me tighter than a runner from 3rd sprinting home on a sac bunt attempt (baseball reference), then I flung her onto my shoulders and I skipped all the way back to my car with my little girl singing “Take me out to the Ballgame” and of course, “Never say Never” by Justin Beiber.
We buckled into our seats in the Top of the 5th. She was asleep 1 out later. When we arrived at our home, it was the 6th. I picked her up, put her on the couch, and rubbed her head while she slept on my lap all the way until the Bottom of the 9th when 2 men were on, and 2 were out with 2 strikes on Cardinal batter David Freese. You all know what happened in the game from that point on, but I will say this, she never even made a peep. She was safe and sound at home, and that was good enough for her. Thanks to the Home Town Kid, David Freese, the Cardinals, miraculously, won that game after being 1 strike away from elimination not once, but twice, and the 3rd baseman was the hero both times.
That game will go down as the greatest Baseball game in St Louis Cardinal History, and I’ll never forget it as my Greatest Sports Moment. I owe it all to an infielder whose first name starts with the letter “D” …. Delaney Smith, my little girl.
November 27th, 2011