Base­ball mem­o­ries in­clude Car­di­nals game

The Weekly Vista - - Opinion - Press The Daily DAVID WIL­SON

Dur­ing 1994, I was do­ing part-time work as a sports re­porter for

in Paragould. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence. For the most part, we cov­ered lo­cal sports, and there was plenty to write about.

On one oc­ca­sion in the sum­mer, how­ever, I got to go up to St. Louis and take some pho­tos and write down some notes as the Car­di­nals took on the Atlanta Braves. Dur­ing the week­end, the two teams were play­ing six games in four days, and I ar­rived on Fri­day af­ter­noon to see a dou­ble-header, which would last well into the night.

But I wasn’t there to write a blow-by-blow de­scrip­tion of the game. That was more than ad­e­quately pro­vided by the As­so­ci­ated Press and by ESPN. Nope, I was on the field be­fore the game to get some pho­tos that we could per­haps use later, and I felt that I should be able to get a col­umn or two from the ex­pe­ri­ence as well.

In one of those col­umns, I wrote about the kin­ship that St. Louis has with Arkansas. I told of how a trav­eler to St. Louis, if he or she is pay­ing at­ten­tion, can’t help but re­al­ize the city’s Arkansas con­nec­tions. Most base­ball fans un­der­stand that Arkansas has al­ways been good Car­di­nal coun­try, but the ties go much deeper than that.

Many Arkansans have rel­a­tives liv­ing in the St. Louis area. That’s be­cause many years ago, there was a mass ex­o­dus of peo­ple mov­ing from Arkansas to St. Louis. They were look­ing for work. And they found it.

Some would even­tu­ally move back to Arkansas like my par­ents did. Both my mother and my dad grew up in Arkansas but, when they were very young, they went to St. Louis to work, where they met and got mar­ried.

A cou­ple of years later I was born. And once they started a fam­ily, they felt it was best to get out of the city and move back to Arkansas. That’s their story. But there were many others who stayed.

I was once eat­ing at a small diner in eastern Arkansas where I over­heard a man at the next ta­ble talk­ing about how “ev­ery­one” from Arkansas was mov­ing up to St. Louis in the 1950s. I lis­tened care­fully be­cause he was talk­ing about peo­ple like my par­ents.

“If ev­ery­body that moved up to St. Louis had stayed in Arkansas,” he said, “there would be a city in the Arkansas delta of about a mil­lion peo­ple.”

I smiled to my­self. But to­day, while we don’t have a me­trop­o­lis aris­ing from eastern Arkansas farm­land, one can go to St. Louis and find Arkansas con­nec­tions ev­ery­where.

Dur­ing my 1994 trip, the wait­ress who took my or­der in Lou Brock’s Sports City was one such ex­am­ple. She said she had lived in St. Louis much of her life, but that she likes to get out of the city when she can. One of her fa­vorite places to get away was Chero­kee Vil­lage, in north-cen­tral Arkansas.

Ge­orge Schroeder, who wrote for the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette at the time, was also in St. Louis that Fri­day night for the dou­ble header. He usu­ally cov­ered the Arkansas Trav­el­ers and Arkansas State, but it was the Car­di­nals that he was cov­er­ing that evening. In ad­di­tion, I also met up with a re­porter from Stuttgart.

But one of the big­gest mem­o­ries took place be­fore the game, as I was on the field snap­ping some pho­tos as the Braves took bat­ting prac­tice.

I looked towards the seats and saw a young man with wide eyes look­ing at the stars on the field. I’ll never for­get those eyes. They were in­no­cent, hope­ful and plead­ing.

They be­longed to a blond-haired boy who was stand­ing in front of the first-row field boxes at Busch Sta­dium. He couldn’t have been much more than seven or eight. He would give any­thing for an au­to­graph.

“Sir,” he said, look­ing at me on the field. “Could you take this base­ball to Dave Jus­tice and see if he’ll sign it?”

“Sorry,” I’m not al­lowed to do that,” I said. I hated to tell him no.

I hope that the young man even­tu­ally got some au­to­graphs. If not on that day, then on another.

The magic in his eyes said a lot. There’s noth­ing quite like base­ball.


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