Could Love of Baseball Be Hereditary?
Writer determines that at the very least Cardinal baseball is our first sign of Spring.
The first sign of spring is the Cardinal. I'm talking about the birds-on-the-bat kind of Cardinals. Baseball.
Long before there was talk of ball players making $30 million, there was a St. Louis love of baseball that seems nearly genetic, hereditary.
Many of us grew up playing softball or little league baseball, and everyone in South St. Louis knew of Heine Meine Field. (Yes, it's pronounced HI-knee MY-knee.) A middle-aged sports reporter and friend from St. Louis, now in California, still remembers hearing that quirky, rhyming name on the radio as a kid.
The fields cover nine acres near Lemay Ferry and Little Broadway. The property was named for Heine Meine, a former St. Louis Browns and Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher in the 1930’s, who owned a bar near the fields.
Another thing with which St. Louisans all grow up is a degree of pride over our sports heroes who were sometimes our neighbors--like Stan “The Man” Musial. When I was a kid, we used to drive by his house in St. Louis Hills and felt as if the nearness of his home gave us all a right to fame.
By the same token, we felt a claim to fame when Steve Carlton, a former Cardinal pitcher, lived in a neighboring subdivision, in Mehlville.
So this week our longtime loyalties were rewarded when Stan Musial received the National Medal of Honor from President Obama. (I wish the President would have called our hero “The Man” instead of pronouncing Musial like Mucil.)
And Sunset Hills’s favorite son, Joe “Ducky” Medwick is legendary in the neighborhood. According to a memorial in St. Lucas’ Cemetery, he was the National League’s MVP and Triple Crown Winner in 1937, with a lifetime batting average .324. He was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1968.
By the way, "Ducky" got his name from his wife Isabelle Heutel, whose family owned Sunset Auto and box seats to the Cardinal games. She met him by asking for his autograph and the rest is history. They married at Sunset Country Club and lived on her father's (Joe Heutel) homestead on Geyer Road.
Baseball was a part of our family lore too. My mom was a batgirl at Eime Baseball fields. My grandfather “Hats” Eime was a contemporary of Heine Meine and a hunting buddy of both Meine and Medwick. Grandpa was a baseball fan and owned a tavern like his friend Meine.
Whitey and Mary Lou Herzog still live in Sunset Hills and are active in the community. Red Schoendienst, former Cardinal manager and onetime player, lives nearby.
My ManFriend recently reminisced about playing at Heine Meine’s field on the Jaspers team. By my calculations, this would have been in the early 1960s. His brother, Dave Loos, is now a recognized Athletic Director for Austin Peay University in Tennessee. He got his start playing semi-professional baseball at Heine Meine.
My personal recollection of Cardinal baseball involves attending games at the old Busch Stadium and using Straight-A tickets. (I’m not bragging. It seemed like everyone got those tickets.)
We would catch the bus at DeBasio Furniture on Lemay Ferry and take it directly to the stadium. Again the 1960s, but I’m dating myself. The best was going to a World Series game with my dad, which must have been 1967.
So we can see that the real harbingers of Spring are the first reports from Jupiter, Florida, about Spring training and salary negotiations.