Braves or Cardinals? (Or someone else?)

Years ago, we ran a reader poll for The Clarion-Ledger. We asked which team was Mississippi’s favorite Major League baseball team.

The was back when the newspaper really went statewide and it was before the Internet went widespread, meaning readers had to care enough to put a stamp on an envelope and mail in their answer.

I knew it would come down to either the Atlanta Braves or St. Louis Cardinals.

I was not surprised.

The Braves and Cardinals ended in almost a dead heat. The Yankees were a distant third.

Many people cared enough to attach a note.

The typical Cardinal fan wrote: “I have been a Cardinal fan ever since I listened to Harry Caray broadcasting the games on KMOX radio. I listened to them every night.”

The typical Braves fan wrote: “How can you not be an Atlanta Braves fan when they play in your living room every night on the superstation.”

My guess is that the result of a similar poll currently would produce this result: Braves, first; Cardinals second; nobody else close.

The Braves, now that the Mississippi Braves play Class AA baseball here, have probably moved ahead. But Cardinals fans still are plentiful. That’s just my take. And by the way, I like both. I often fell asleep listening to the Cardinals and Harry Caray and Jack Buck. But I read Eddie Mathews biography in the third grade, and I became a Milwaukee Braves fan, as well. When the Milwaukee Braves came South, my Braves fandom only increased.

The truth is, I grew up a Yankees fan. Mickey Mantle was my hero. Both my parents were Yankees fans. Mantle homered in the third game of the World Series the day I was born. My dad wanted to name me Mickey. Mom thought kids would make fun of me because of Mickey Mouse. So they compromised and named me Rickey, which later became Rick.

We couldn’t get the Yankees games on the radio back then, but I kept up with the score by listening to the Cards. That summer of ’61 when Mantle and Roger Maris had the famous home run race, I wore out the deejay at a local radio station calling to see whether or not one of them had homered. I still remember the phone number: 583-1741.  If that deejay is still alive, he still hates me.

I quit pulling for the Yankees when CBS bought them. That was 1964 or ’65, which roughly coincided with Milwaukee’s move to Atlanta. Pretty soon the Braves were on TV every night: twice. Ted Turner would replay the games after midnight. Can’t tell you how many times I fell asleep watching the replay. Meanwhile, CBS sold the Yanks to George Steinbrenner a few years later and my ambivalence where the Yankees slowly evolved into dislike. (I do love to watch Derek Jeter play, and he remains one of my favorite players on my least favorite team.)

I still watch the Braves three or four times a week. And I find that the older I get, the more I love baseball, everything about it, and especially the rhythm of it. I love watching the guys who used to play just across the Pearl River at Trustmark Park now leading the Braves to a run-away lead in the National League East. I remember Phillip Wellman telling me that Brian McCann was going to be “a great Big League hitter.” I remember interviewing both Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman when they were 19 and being struck by their intelligence and maturity. I remember how much ground Andrelton Simmons covered at shortstop and how his throws to first were like lasers. (Simmons, I believe, is a future Hall of Famer. Perhaps Freeman, too. We shall see.)

OK, I am rambling, but this is a blog and baseball remains my favorite sport. I still like the Cardinals, still pull hard for the Braves. But the Yankees of 1961 remain my favorite team.

How about you: Braves, Cardinals or anyone else?

16 thoughts on “Braves or Cardinals? (Or someone else?)”

  1. As I sip my morning coffee from my StL coffee much, I’ll go with the Cardinals. Dizzy Dean was a family friend from farther back than even my 70 yr old dad can remember. We’ll always be Cardinal fans in the Mixon household because of that relationship.

  2. Cardinals! Yep, I too grew up tuning in KMOX at night. Dad always used Old Diz charcoal when he fired up the grill. Busch Stadium, IMHO, is MLB’s Mecca.

  3. I have been a Braves fan since I can remember. My memories are growing up watching them every night on TBS during the 90s, and our family trip every summer to go see a game. Chipper Jones was a rookie when I was 5, and he has been my favorite baseball player every day since then. Even though he is gone, I have become attached to the new group of stars.

  4. BRAVES!! Much like Rick, I grew up a diehard fan of a different team but not the Yankees…I bled Dodger blue. Great memories of some great Dodger teams and players but, over time, I’ve slowly morphed into an Atlanta fan. Having the M-Braves here has only accelerated my shifting allegiance. To be able to go to Pearl and watch those guys play and then follow them on to ATL where so many of them are dominating the NL East has really been fun to watch….wouldn’t mind seeing a Braves beatdown of the Cards in the NLCS!!

  5. The Cardinals are my NL team, although I’m not passionate about them. The truth is that I tend to pull for teams with former Diamond Dogs. I grew up watching the Braves on the Superstation but lost interest when they traded Dale Murphy.

  6. I feel they’re may an underrepresented population in this conversation. I was born in ’74. And Jackson started receiving WGN in the late 70’s. So, when I was growing up, you were either a Braves fan or a Cubs fan. (Half of) my friends grew up rooting for Cy Young hurlers such as Bruce Sutter and Rick Sutcliffe. Our heroes were Valiant Viners like Ivan DeJesus, Leon Durham, Shawon Dunston, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Cey, Mark Grace, and Jody Davis. Folks our age, experienced the ’84 Cubs and the ’89 Cubs – not to mention the first Wrigley night game in ’88. I can still recite the commercials for Empire Carpet, Danley Garages, Victory Auto Wreckers, and the Lincoln Park Zoo. And to this day I consider both Bill Buckner and Greg Maddux Cubs. Unfortunately, with the growth of regional cable, Jackson (and the rest of the country) now only has access to a fraction of the Cubbies schedule. I guess the ability to track Trib and Sun Times beat writers on the internet is somewhat of a consolation, but that won’t perpetuate a Jackson fanbase. Alas.

    “ALRIGHT, lemme hear you…”

  7. I became “aware” of sports in the early 70’s, the heyday of the Big Red Machine, and while not an avid fan any longer, I still keep an eye on the Cincinnati Reds. Went to work for the JaxMets in 1980, so impossible NOT to be a NY Mets fan during their tumultuous run under Davey Johnson. Don’t know why, but I never latched on to the Braves or Cards, though my wife’s family is from SE Missouri and are rabid followers. Guess I am just a contrarian; never been a big Saints fan either.

  8. St. Louis Cardinals all the way! Truly America’s Team (at least “middle America”). Apple pie. Best looking uniforms in any sport. Like you, Rick, and Scoop and thousands of others I grew up listening to Harry Carey and Jack Buck, sometimes deep into the night for west coast games with radio under my pillow. Their voices were soothing to this young fellow who loved baseball (and who played Stratomatic baseball most every night instead of homework). After a win, Harry….”the Cardinals are coming, tra la la la, the Cardinals are coming….”, And I recall my grandfather with the transistor to his ear listening every time they were on.

    And…Dizzy Dean was a frequent visitor to Belzoni for hunting, fishing and fellowship with that same grandfather (OJ Turner) and his brothers, along with Johnny Vaught, Bruiser Kinard, Tad Smith, et al. Have a cherished picture of that group together. And a Humphreys County Country Club cap with the nine hole scorecard handwritten on the visor, 42 to 43 in favor of OJT, with Dizzy’s signature.

  9. Pull for the Cubs and the Braves. I also listened to Harry Caray and Jack Buck as a youngster and pulled for the Cards back then, but they got replaced by the Cubs with the advent of WGN and Harry becoming the play-by-play guy there. Not much to see with the Cubs this year (or most years for that matter). My new team is Minnesota now that Brian Dozier is a regular…check the box score every day.

  10. Leonard, There are a lot of common threads in all the comments. Brian Dozier was one of the best college shortstops I’ve ever seen…. I don’t think even the Twins were expecting this kind of pop: 11 home runs and 47 RBIs in 100 games.

  11. Like you Rick, I grew up a Yankees (and Mickey Mantle) fan. Yanks were only team they showed on tv, the once a week Sat. Game of the Week. Was briefly a Cards fan after that. Became a Braves fan due to Skip, Pete, Ernie, Joe and Don. Later having lived in Atlanta area for 12 years, including ’95 World Series championship year, solidified it for me. Go Braves!

  12. My Aunt and Uncle took me to my first Braves game July 3, 1992. A CG shutout by Tom Glavine. From that spring when they gave me the tickets to now I have followed the Braves. One of the reasons I moved to Atlanta. I make about 20 games a year now.

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