Red tide of Cardinals fans rises in Columbia

Thursday, October 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:50 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The world of staunch St. Louis Cardinals fan and 9-year-old Colin Glennon turned upside down on a winter day in 1988.

As he walked into the kitchen of his family’s Columbia home before school one morning, he heard the news: The Cardinals traded beloved second baseman Tommy Herr to the Minnesota Twins for outfielder Tom Brunansky.

Glennon had handled it with poise when his Cardinals lost the 1985 World Series to the cross-state rival Kansas City Royals, and when the team failed to make the playoffs the next season.

But this? This was too much.

“I started crying bad,” said Glennon, 24, who is an insurance claims reviewer in Columbia. “I told my mom that there was no way I could possibly go to school that day. So I stayed home.”

While most Columbians probably didn’t take the news of the trade quite as hard, more than a few city residents have no doubt harbored a certain loyalty to the Cardinals over the years. Despite resting almost exactly between Kansas City and St. Louis, Columbia, at least for now, has become a Cardinal friendly territory.

“I’m a Kansas City fan, and always will be,” MU senior Aaron Francis said. “But I don’t mind cheering for the Cardinals. They’re from the same state, it’s kind of like cheering for the Big 12 (Conference).”

Now, as the team enters Game 2 of the National League Championship Series tonight against the Houston Astros, the buzz around Columbia is beginning to grow.

“People are definitely talking about it,” Nate McMahill said, as he watched St. Louis defeat the Astros 10-7 in Game 1 in a packed room in the Delta Upsilon fraternity house on the MU campus.

“Just walking around town, there is a lot more red everywhere.”

Indeed. On a recent afternoon at the Columbia Mall, toddlers strolled by in Scott Rolen T-shirts. Countless St. Louis hats rested on countless college-aged heads, and Barnes and Noble Booksellers, located inside, featured a display dedicated strictly to books about the team.

Red bracelets reading “Go Cards,” similar to the yellow Lance Armstrong “Livestrong” bracelets that gained popularity this summer, have also sprouted up throughout Columbia.

“This is awesome,” Columbia resident Mike Harizal said. “You don’t realize how huge this is for Cardinals fans that the team is doing so well.”

Area businesses are also feeling the playoff fever. According to some local sporting goods retailers, keeping St. Louis gear on the shelves hasn’t been easy.

“There’s just a demand, people are asking for it,” Marcus Garcia, a manager at Champs in the Columbia Mall, said. “I put in a request for more Cardinal stuff the other day. This past weekend, the Albert Pujols jerseys were big. We started the weekend with 16, and now we’re down to four.”

At Campus Bar and Grill on Ninth Street, manager Jason Robertson has staffed about 40 percent more workers than usual for the start of the NLCS, and has also brought in an extra cook and extra bartenders to help with the postseason rush.

Since the playoffs began last week, crowds at the bar have sometimes reached 200 people on game nights, a stark contrast to the 20 to 60 that Robertson said usually fill the bar on a weekday evening.

Said Scott Heaton, who works at Domino’s Pizza: “People are coming up with some pretty ridiculous excuses to get out of work on nights the Cardinals play.”

Heaton understands, as most fans do, the magnitude of St. Louis’ postseason run. The team, while making the playoffs five out of the past eight years, haven’t been to a World Series since 1987, when they lost to the Twins in seven games. This fact hasn’t been lost on Cardinal fans.

But after finishing the regular season 105-57, the best record in baseball, and winning a convincing opening round series against the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers, many are beginning to feel this could be the year of the Cardinal.

“You don’t want to say ‘We got it’,” Glennon said. “But the team seems so solid. It’s been such a good year. The lineup is absolutely stacked, the pitching has really come through. But there are only good teams left. Houston’s really hot right now, and obviously whoever wins the Yankees-Red Sox series will be a great team. But I definitely like our chances.”

In case that isn’t enough, Glennon has decided to grow a “playoff beard” in support of pitcher Matt Morris. Glennon hopes the tradition, normally used as a good luck charm in hockey, will provide the extra oomph the Cardinals need in their quest for a World Championship.

“I haven’t shaved since the end of the regular season,” Glennon said. “I’m trying to do my best, trying to be with Matty the best I can.”

And if the Cardinals are able to keep the momentum and claim their first World Series title since 1982?

Todd Hadfield has a prediction as to the effects:

“Riots,” Hadfield, a member of Delta Upsilon, said. “Gang wars, gun shots, cars getting turned over. Just riots. But nice riots.”

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