End of a Season Tough to Take

Rex Duncan says good-bye for awhile.

Well after the game ended, I sat and stared at the TV set.  Not really seeing what I was looking at, my mind wandered to what had been, what was, and what might have been.  While I regret that the NLCS with the victorious Houston Astros ended with a relative whimper as opposed to the Game 5 Big Bang, it was amazing how quickly the hole in my life formed.


Today, for the first time since late February, there will be no Cardinal baseball.  I'll watch the World Series with dispassionate interest.  The Astros are a classy squad from the NL Central who are valued rivals of the Cardinals.  The White Sox represent Illinois, my home state, and intuitively I feel like I should support any non-Cardinal team in the World Series from the Land of Lincoln that isn't the Cubs.  Forgive me if my dispassion already shows.


I would be remiss if I didn't congratulate the Astros.  They are truly an opponent worthy of Cardinal steel.  If the Redbirds can't get to the Promised Land, I am truly delighted that Biggio and Bagwell and Company will get there.  In trying to be truthful about it all, the best team won this series and earned the right to advance. 


I feared facing Roy Oswalt in this game more than I would have any other Houston pitcher.  Oswalt was firing white tracers at Brad Ausmus last night and the Cardinals couldn't catch up.  In opposition to Oswalt's performance, the Cardinals flailed away at the plate, looking nothing like the offense that won 100 games during the regular season.  A wild pitch and a center field error, both of which led to cheap Houston runs, did little to instill confidence in the direction of the game.


Still feeling the warm afterglow of The Great Pujols' game-winning home run Tuesday night, I thought the Cardinals would carry their dramatic momentum in to Game 6.  I hoped that the return to St. Louis, the massive adoration of Cardinal Nation, and the miraculous new lease on life might cast favor on the Cards.  Instead, the Astros rose to the occasion and now we become passive spectators.


The other emotion that gnaws at me is some fear of the unknown.  What will the 2006 Cardinals look like as Walt Jocketty starts rolling up his sleeves?  What does Fate have in store for Mark Grudzielanek, Reggie Sanders, So Taguchi, and Matt Morris?  What pitfalls await the incredible transition from KMOX to KTRS, a station that can't transmit much beyond the furthest most reaches of the Metrolink?  What can one make of the new stadium, and who will really reside and shop in a Ballpark Village?


Sorry, folks, I've got a bad case of the blues right now.  Cardinal baseball creates such a rhythm in my life that those first few weeks after the last game are tough ones.  Like the end of a wonderful summer, the conclusion of Cardinal baseball is cause for reflection, especially when one considers all the challenges that were surmounted this year.  I'm quicker to define the success of a season in terms of total wins than in the good fortune that it takes to bring home a World Series title.  Baseball, with all its intricacies, strategies, personalities, and mysteries, is an experience best savored one game at a time. 


And so the time has come when the Birds migrate.  Many will go to warmer climates, some to other countries, a few to their homes in and around St. Louis.  The wrecking ball will thunder and ultimately have its way with Busch II.  Busch III, like a brick tide, will eventually obliterate any sign of that which is so familiar to us.  KMOX has already signed off as the flagship station of Cardinal Nation.  For a little while, our lives will be a little emptier.


Then, in February, really just over four months away now, the Cardinals will return to Jupiter.  Our thoughts and hearts will leap to the first sounds of the pop of a fastball in the catcher's mitt or the crack of a ball well struck by a wooden bat.  Familiar faces and new faces will again don the Birds-on-Bat and prepare for 2006, and we, of course, will be there again from start to finish.  So, with the eternal closing words of Jack Buck, which always bade well but assured reacquaintance in the future, so long for just a while.


Rex Duncan


Special limited-time offer - receive 60 issues of the Sporting News plus the 128-page hardcover book "Ozzie Smith: The Road to Cooperstown" included with your one-year subscription to thestlcardinals.com. thestlcardinals.com Total Access Pass(tm)

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories