By Sally Tippett Rains
Lisa Phillipson had a great time with her friends at Spring Training this year. Though more than 40 years have passed, the crack of the bat and the smells of the ballpark bring her back to her childhood and the love of baseball that her grandpa instilled in her—the greatest gift he could have left her with.
“I’ll never forget the day I became a Cardinals fan,” she said at the pool of the Homewood Suites Hotel in Palm Beach Gardens this year. “It was the day Bob Gibson threw a no-hitter.”
When she was eight years old, the East St. Louis native lost her mother. The family had celebrated Lisa’s eighth birthday and a month later her mother– shown in the photo with Lisa on that birthday– was gone, and life as she knew it would change. She was uprooted to live with her grandparents, Leo and Rella Feltenstein.
“Early on when I had just moved in with them, my grandpa asked if I wanted to ride with him to make his sales calls, so I said yes,” she remembered.
There was nothing else going on and she figured why not. It was a little strange riding alone in the front seat with her grandpa, shown in the photo, left. It was the first time she’d been alone in the car with him, as before it had been with the whole family.
“I remember it was hot,” she said. “It was a hot humid August day like we have in the Midwest. And of course grandpa didn’t have air conditioning in the car in those days.”
It’s funny what you remember about snippets of your childhood but that day is loud and clear in her mind’s eye.
“My legs kept sticking to the seats from the sweat, so I kept moving around,” she remembered.
What started out as an uncomfortable ride turned when her grandfather suddenly turned up the radio.
“’Lisa, be still now because Bob Gibson is pitching a no-hitter, and this could be history,’ I remember him saying.”
Lisa being in the second grade had no idea what a no-hitter was but she knew it was something she better find out about, so she sat quiet as Jack Buck painted the picture on the radio.
“I had no clue what it was, but I did know that if it was important to my grandpa than it was important to me,” she said. “He had said it in such a tone that I knew to take it seriously—so we both listened intently as we bumped around in that old car with no seatbelts on, going to his sales calls, and we both burst out with ‘He did it!’ at the last pitch.”
And so on August 14, 1971 her love affair with the St. Louis Cardinals officially started. That day listening to Jack Buck broadcasting the game on KMOX Radio against the Pirates from Three Rivers Stadium is forever in her mind and in her heart. It is that way with lots of Cardinals fans. The love of the team is much larger than the score of the game, it is the feelings and memories that come back each year when the boys of summer come out.
In the 1970’s many a youngster went to bed with a transistor radio under his or her pillow listening to the games.
“The Cardinals were on the radio, and you have to understand that at our house if you were listening to the Cards game on the only radio we had in the kitchen at night time there was no reason to have the lights on in the kitchen,” she said. “And we watched the games on T.V on some Sundays—nothing like it is today.”
Fans of a certain age remember when they got their Cardinals news from KMOX Radio, the Globe-Democrat and Post-Dispatch and the local television stations. This was way before Twitter, Facebook, and FOX Sports Midwest.
“I became familiar with names like Jack Buck, Jay Randolph Sr. and Ron Jacober,” (Randolph and Jacober shown right) she said. “I knew when my grandpa got mad at a pitcher named Scipio Spinks for sliding in head first to home plate that pitchers shouldn’t slide in head first. I came to understand that if the Cardinals game was the Game of the Week on Saturday, we were not doing anything else.”
And that was just fine for her because through Cardinal baseball she was able to forge a new type of relationship with her grandpa which would be with her for the rest of her life.
“Over the next decade my Cardinals struggled,” she said. “This taught me how hard it is to win the World Series, but it wasn’t hard to have your favorite players.”
Like other kids throughout the country who were able to pick up the 50,000 red hot watts of KMOX’s broadcast, the Cardinals became a special part of their lives.
“My first crush was Kenny Reitz, even though as Jack Buck had mentioned he was slow of foot, but quite a cat when covering 3rd place,” she said. “I can remember disliking Steve Garvey so much because he beat out my Lou Brock for MVP in 1974. It still makes me happy to this day, that we own the Dodgers.”
In her late teens, early 20’s her love for the Cardinals grew as did her knowledge of the game.
“Whiteyball, came to St. Louis, and I got my first taste of a World Championship, and I liked it!” she remembers. “During 1985, I slept outside Busch Stadium for two nights in a row to get tickets for the playoff games.
Fans had to order a strip of tickets and in order for her to get to purchase Game Five, she remembered wishing they could lose one game so they could get to Game Five.
“SoI guess it was all my fault,” she said. “I will never forget that phonecall I got one late afternoon day in October of 1985. My friend Paula was calling to as me to in her wedding – but what timing! Ozzie Smith had just made us all “Go Crazy, Folks Go Crazy” and my grandpa and II were celebrating– so I asked if I could call her right back and we celebrated!”
Throughout the 1980’s they shared the love of baseball.
“We dislike Jeffrey Leonard, one flap down, for calling us a cow town, we made sure to vote for Tommy Herr as much as possible to beat out Ryne Sandberg of the rival Cubs for the All-Star Game. Those and so many more are memories from my twenties.”
But baseball, like life teaches us lessons
‘Over the next few years, it reminded me that winning does not come easy,” she said. However things all changed in the mid-nineties when Tony LaRussa, Dave Duncan, Mr. DeWitt and other new owners came to town. All of sudden we ‘were the team again’ winning and more winning.”
She rooted for players like Dennis Eckersly and Mark McGuire.
“Oh Mark McGuire, we were there in 1998 sitting in dead center field, one row from the top of Busch Stadium II when he hit that line drive over the left field wall,” she remembered. “We were sitting up so high on the left field side that we could not see it so we waited for others to react. That was an amazing night! Everyone was high fiving everyone!”
She has continued her love affair with the Cardinals being in the stadium seeing the catch that Chris Duncan made in 2006 and the one Allen Craig in 2011 which gave the teams two more World Championships.
“Jack Buck reading his poem during the first game back to Busch Stadium after 9/11 was a big highlight in my memory, as was Scott Rolen’s big home run against the Astros, in the NLCS; and Edmonds amazing catch during that same championship.”
Just like other Cardinals fans her age, she remembers Jack Clark’s home run off Niedenfeur in 1985.
“And Willie McGee’s return to St. Louis that was met with an amazing standing ovation, Adam Wainwright’s strike out of Beltran– David Freese, Lance Berkman, Daniel Descalso’s hits in the famous “Game Six”, Chris Carpenter’s game against the Phillies in 2011 NLCS and his defensive gem in Game One of World Series. These are all memories that I hold dear and actually some I was on hand to see.”
Her grandpa is gone but the love for “his” team has turned into the love she has for “her” team.
“There were so many memories I’ve seen and others were shared with strangers at local sports bar– and some I was alone, just me and my beloved St. Louis Cardinals.”
Fathers and sons, grandfathers and granddaughter, it has been a tradition handed down the generations- the love of Cardinals baseball.
“As we head into 2019 with players like Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Paul Goldschmidt– and Mike Shildt at the helm I have such high hopes”
Lisa was decked out in her Cardinals red with a bunch of friends at Spring Training having the time of her life, but the season starts or real on Thursday. She’ll be in the stands in Miller Park as the Cardinals take on the Brewers in their first game of the 2019 season.
“Cardinals baseball is like family, even if you are mad at them, you still love them, and my friends know you better keep your mouth shut about my team if you do not root for them,” she said. “Speaking of family I think back to that ride in the car in 1971 and am so happy that as a young eight-year-old that my grandpa shared his love affair with “my” St. Louis Cardinals.