When I was 10 years old I bought a hat. Almost three decades later I still have it and, while I no longer wear it everyday, there are still many old friends who, when I run into them, the first thing out of their mouths is, “Where’s the hat?”
As you can imagine, after wearing the hat almost constantly throughout my teens and early 20s it’s in rough shape. The brim is cracked and worn, the stitching of the logo has come largely undone and more resembles a fuzzy mass than the team’s symbol and the adjustable plastic back is held together by a mixture of old duct tape and paperclips.
I think you get the idea as to why I don’t/can’t wear it to work.
Beyond being an avatar of my youthful self, the hat is a symbol of a baseball team which, in spite of several attempts, I’ve never actually seen play live.
Back in 1986 I became a St. Louis Cardinals fan, largely due to the magnificent play of shortstop Ozzie Smith. If you’ve never seen him play, he won 13 straight Gold Gloves, made 15 All-Star teams and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, receiving votes from 91.7 per cent of the electors. He played with a level of joy that you don’t often see in successful professional athletes who seem to care more about winning than playing the game itself.
It didn’t hurt that the team was fairly successful at the time and that Smith was surrounded by great teammates.
Now being as young as I was, there was no realistic possibility for me to go to Busch Stadium and, in the days before Interleague play, the only chance for the Cards to come to Toronto would have been if both teams made the World Series. (Thanks Atlanta and Philly.)
But there was one other option: Spring Training. I could have had an opportunity to see them during a family trip to Florida in 1989 thanks to a delay in our return flight and the team playing only a short distance away, but instead of giving us accurate information about how long we’d be waiting, the airline, which no longer exists, kept telling us it would be another hour or so. Then in 1990 the Redbirds were scheduled to play the Jays at Skydome. The mother of one of my best friends got us all tickets and we were all excited to go. However, as any fan will tell you, that was the year Spring Training was lost to a lockout and the series with Toronto was cancelled.
Then, as if to screw with me, the baseball gods have had St. Louis come to Toronto several times since Interleague play began, but on every occasion I’ve either been out of town or stuck committed to something that I couldn’t get out of.
So I figured it was time to take things into my own hands and use the fact that I’m no longer 10 years old to my advantage. Next week will see the hat and I sitting in the stands at new Busch Stadium watching the Cards taking their revenge on the BoSox for last fall.
Now if only Ozzie would come out of retirement for a couple of games…
— Gordon Cameron is Group Managing Editor for Hamilton Community News