Whew!

You know things have been going badly for your team when NPR has a feature on their near-choke. But after two weeks of unwanted drama, the Cardinals pulled out their sixth Central Division championship in seven years, which means that, because in the one year they didn’t make the playoffs, 2003, the Cubs won the division, there’s been a team in which Stacey and I have a serious rooting interest in the playoffs every one of the seven years we’ve been hosting baseball open house at the Rocketship.

Some notes from last week:

1) Wednesday night, when the Cardinals desperately needed a win against San Diego to end a seven-game losing streak, late in the game Cardinals broadcaster John Rooney said, regarding the extra-inning Astros-Pirates game, “You’ll hear the crowd start bubbling in a few minutes, because the magic number has just dropped to four.” Stacey and I, while listening to the Cardinals game on the Internet, were also following the Pirates-Astros game on mlb.com’s Gameday, and from what we could tell, the game wasn’t over–the Pirates had by no means won.

Rooney came back from a break for a San Diego pitching change saying, “We had some wrong information on that Pittsburgh-Houston game.” But before he could explain what had actually happened, Albert Pujols hit one into orbit, giving the Cardinals a good-sized lead. Rooney got caught up in describing the action, and he didn’t get back to apologizing and explaining for probably five minutes. Houston would go on to win that game, leaving Rooney in very real danger of having fatally jinxed the team.

2) That mistake also ties in with my brother’s biggest complaint about Rooney, whom I’ve been a big fan of since his days keeping Ed Farmer in check on the White Sox broadcasts: he’s profligate with his home run hopes. About once per game, he’ll get all excited about a long fly . . . that dies short of the warning

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track. If you’re like me and my brother, and still get most of your baseball through radio announcers (admittedly via the Internet), it’s an extremely frustrating habit.

3) On Friday night, with Pujols at the plate again, Mike Shannon delivered the following call:

Shannon: Here’s the pitch. Pujols swings, and Ha-ha! You can’t sneak the sun past the rooster, boy! And the rooster just crowed!

Rooney: Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Rooney and Shannon work together better than Rooney and Wayne Hagin ever did. I hope Rooney’s okay with Shannon’s prominence on the broadcast, because they really do make a good team. Shannon, though not a great (or even good, really) play-by-play man, is a wonderful friend to listen to on the broadcasts. So long as he’s there, I’ll still feel like listening to Cardinals games is the same experience I grew up with, despite Jack Buck’s death.

4) Saturday, Stacey and I watched the Cardinals on Fox–cleverly synching up the Internet radio feed to the Tivo so that we could hear Shannon and Rooney instead of Piniella and Whoever–through the end of the seventh. The Cardinals were down 2-0 at that point, but I gathered my things to go to Wrigley Field, because I had a ticket to my last game of the year, an inconsequential tilt between the Cubs and Rockies.

I hopped on my bicycle . . . and got two blocks away, to Wilson Avenue, before I thought, “Why am I leaving an important game, one that I care about, to go see an utterly inconsequential game?” I turned around and got back home for the bottom of the eighth, which allowed me to see Sandfrog lead singer Scott Spiezio’s game-breaking triple. As soon as the game was over, I was back on my bike, and by the first pitch of the second inning at Wrigley, I was in my seat.

5) I hope there’s no long-term karmic damage from my rooting for Larry “Chipper” Jones and the Braves this weekend. Similarly, I hope St. Louis doesn’t get the punishment it probably deserves from the gods for doing the Tomahawk Chop a couple of times this weekend at Busch Stadium. As Lando might say, “There was nothing we could do. They arrived just before you did.” Or something like that.

Go, Cardinals!

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