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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Picking a Winner
by Hal Vickery

Didnít I tell you? In last weekís column I noted how any pick I make in the post-season (with the exception of the 2005 Sox) seems to crash and burn. Two weeks ago I revealed that my post-season rooting interest was in the Oakland Athletics. The Aís were out of it before I could go to the refrigerator for a cold can of pop. (Thatís soda for you non-Chicago-area folks.)

I concluded with a little humorous line, ďHave I told you lately how much I like the New York Mets.Ē I have to confess that I really canít stand the Mets. The only time I ever actively rooted for them in the post-season was when Robin Ventura played for them, and we all know what happened then.

Apparently it doesnít make any difference if I really mean it or not. The only thing I have to do is show my support in public, and the team I name is as good as out of it.

That being said, and at the risk of once again being the kiss of death to a team, Iíd still like to identify my World Series pick for 2005. Iím putting my support, but not my cash because I know better, on the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now this has nothing to do with the fact that as I write this they are already up by one game against the Tigers. Thatís only because George doesnít change the home page until Sunday. I would have written this Thursday night after I personally caused them to beat the Mets. Now I guess Iím going to guarantee their loss.

There is no logic behind my wanting the Cardinals to win. I lost all respect for Tony LaRussa when he looked the other way when a certain home run champion was very likely shooting himself up with steroids, and then so much as admitted that when the scandal broke and that player testified to a Congressional committee that he only wanted to look to the future and not dwell on the past.

I lost respect for Dave Duncan when he decided to act like a parent instead of a baseball coach this season when his son was hit by a pitch, and he went into a rant against Ozzie Guillen for hitting his kid.

And I have to admit that I didnít follow the Cards at all this summer. Heck, I didnít even look at the National League standings, even in September.

I really donít have anything against the Tigers either. I might have a bias against their starting catcher who attributed his sudden weight loss a couple of years ago to wanting to be more maneuverable behind the plate.

Also, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Iím not really thrilled with their right fielder who refused to let the Sox examine his surgically repaired knee before trying to negotiate a contract.

Still, that just evens the amount of dislike I have for both clubs. In the case of the Cardinals, my venom is directed towards their on-field management. Against the Tigers, it is directed against a couple of players. Itís a wash.

In fact my support of the Cardinals has nothing to do with the 2005 club. It goes back to a high school PE teacher named Jim Harmison, who said he spent some time in the Cardinals organization. I never bothered to research whether or not that was true, but the year he mentioned that was 1964.

Those of us who are old enough will remember that as the year the Cardinals, under Johnny Keane won the World Series against the Yankees, managed by Yogi Berra. Now you have to remember that this was before divisional play, and the Yankees were hated by Sox fans even more than the Twins are today.

To top it off, the Yankees had barely beaten the Sox that year, winning the American League pennant by just one game. The greatest revenge a Sox fan could think of would be for the Yankees to lose, and with the help of World Series MVP Bob Gibson, Sox fans got their sweet revenge.

Then to make things even sweeter, in a story of betrayal that could only be matched by the Borgias, the Yankees fired Yogi Berra and hired Johnny Keane as manager. There were strong suspicions at the time that the deal had been made before the Yankees had lost the Series.

Now I hated the Yankees, but who couldnít love Yogi Berra? To see the cold-hearted Yankees front office deal with him even more harshly than they had when they decided Casey Stengel was too old was just too much. So it was even sweeter to watch the Yankees drop from World Series losers in 1964 to sixth place and their first sub-.500 season since the Renaissance.

Sox fans just knew that only the collapse of the Yankees would bring them their first pennant in six years. Okay, Sox fans were wrong about that, but the collapse was still sweet to watch.

Now you also have to realize that it took me close to forty years to shake off my infatuation with the losers on the North Side. So when the Cardinals came to Chicago, at least until sometime in the mid-Ď90s, I still rooted against them.

Then I had my epiphany. I realized that the Cubs would never win as long as they were owned by the Tribune Co. I hitched my wagon to Jerry Reinsdorfís star, and about ten years later my faith in him was rewarded with not just a World Series appearance but with a World Series Championship.

When I made that commitment to the Sox, I had to find some National League team to actively root for. Thatís when I remember Jim Harmison and the í64 Cardinals. It helped when Tony LaRussa took over the reins in 1996. Until the steroids scandal, which hadnít broken yet, Iíd always liked LaRussa, so I now had another reason to root for the Cardinals. I also knew and liked some Cardinals fans, so that set the deal. The Cardinals it was.

Now, I have to admit I was somewhat unfaithful to them during that period because Iíve also had a strong rooting interest in the Kane County Cougars. At that time the Cougars were affiliated with the Marlins, so I divided my NL time between them and the Cards.

But there was always that anti-Cubs feeling among Cardinals fans that kept me coming back to St. Louis. On the other hand, there was the matter of that little fight the Tigers had several years ago against the Sox. I was at that game, and even though Phil Garner is long gone, my dislike of the Tigers stays with me.

So at the risk of cursing them, Iíll give it another try: Go Cards!

______________________________________________________________________

Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

Have a Thought about
Picking a Winner?

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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