She comes from a famous soccer family, but she just made her bucket list with baseball– by going to spring training– with a little luck of the Irish

By Sally Tippett Rains

St. Patrick’s Day it’s the perfect day for the story of one lucky fan who took a last minute, unplanned trip to spring training.

Cardinals fan Peggy Keough Disbennett finally got to check “spring training” off her bucket list this spring as she took a spur of the moment trip to Jupiter, Florida. Maybe it wasn’t a “bucket” list at all, it might have been the “pot” of gold at the end of the rainbow.

She found out that a family friend was going to Orlando to umpire a tournament and she asked if she could go. She persuaded him to head to Jupiter as soon as the tournament ended. Even though it didn’t work out for her husband, Tim (shown in photo with her, left) and twin sons to come she had the time of her life.– doing everything she had wanted to do and meeting people along the way..

“I ran into my former soccer coach and friend Paul Lia, who I hadn’t seen in about 20 years and he said he was umpiring a women’s fast pitch softball in Orlando,” she said. “I thought about it, and I knew Orlando was not that far from Jupiter. My husband was working out of town. I just called Paul and said, ‘let’s go to spring training!'”

Within two days she was on a plane. ‘

“We met up in Orlando and off we were to Jupiter,” she said. “It was like I was in my lucky 20’s again (more on that later) We didn’t have any tickets, we didn’t have a hotel room.”

That didn’t matter– they had luck with them and Paul found some tickets online. They got into Jupiter and literally  went straight to Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, still not with a hotel lined up but proudly wearing her Cardinals hat. They saw a Cardinals’ win that day.

They ended up finding a hotel and headed to West Palm Beach the next day to watch the Cardinals in a road game against the Nationals– and as luck would have it, they won again.

Everything seemed to fall into place and her dream trip turned out to be everything she hoped it would be.

“The entire time I was at spring training I felt like I was with my Irish grandpa’s happy go lucky spirit,” she said. “His birthday was March 17 and on this St. Patrick’s day,  he would have turned 130.

She even got an autograph from Jordan Walker.

“That’s my cute little pomeranian, Cheech, wearing the autographed hat I got from Jordan Walker,” she said.

Peggy says she rarely makes plans and that life is more fun when you don’t. It certainly turned out that way for her with her spring training trip.

She got her love of baseball from her grandpa

Peggy got her love of the Cardinals from her grandfather Paddy Keough, (shown left)– the St. Patrick’s day birthday boy– who she called a “savant in baseball.” She came from a sports family, but the family sport—and the family business was soccer.

Her father was the legendary soccer coach and player Harry Keough.

Harry Keough (shown right)  is one of the most famous soccer names in St. Louis; a member of the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame pretty much every Hall of Fame he could be in. He coached Saint Louis University to five NCAA championships and was a member of the U.S. National Team in it’s thrilling 1-0 upset of England in the 1950 World Cup.

And speaking of famous soccer names in St. Louis, Peggy Disbennett is the sister of Ty Keough—the first player the St. Louis Steamers signed when they came to town in 1980. He has been a player in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the Steamers in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) and Kansas City Comets (MILS); coach; and as a broadcaster has covered four World Cups for TNT, ESPN and ABC.

With all that soccer  watching and of course playing, in her everyday life, growing up she also managed to develop a love for the Cardinals.

“My grandpa, Paddy (Patrick) Keough went to almost every single Cardinals game,”said Peggy. “The Cardinals awarded him with a Lifetime Pass.”

We met Peggy at spring training and the only photo she had of herself with her grandfather (on her phone) was him holding her when she was a baby, shown right. She knew him until he passed when she was a teen and remembers that great smile he had.

Turns out her grandpa was also famous–  he was on “The $64,000 Question” television show and supplied $16,000 worth of correct baseball responses.” He went as far as the $32,000 question and. he won the convertible he is sitting in in the photo above as the consolation prize.

Paddy Keough was quite a character and he loved baseball: going to games, talking about games, thinking about the games. He made it a point to know baseball people, including Harry Caray, shown in the photo with him, left.

With all this baseball knowledge in his head and it being the early 1980’s in St. Louis, it’s no surprise he met Bob Costas along the way and they became friends.

“He was a wonderful old guy,” remembered Costas. “He was a regular in the press box at the Cardinals games. His memory was amazing, and his love of baseball so genuine.”

He had him on Sports Open Line a few times and the audience loved it.

“It was so exciting that my grandpa became very good friends with Bob Costas,” she said.  “He had just started working or KMOX and going to the ballgames and he was amazed by my grandpa’s depth knowledge of the game.”

Costas always liked talking to knowledgeable baseball people, and he appreciated all that Paddy had seen in the game of baseball over the years.

“He had seen or at least experience through newspapers, the entire modern histor yof baseball up until that time. He’d seen Cobb and Ruth, Hornsby and Alexander, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and others.”

St. Louis was a two team town with the Browns of the American League and the Cardinals of the National League.

“When my sweet grandpa Paddy passed away at the age of 88, Bobby came to the funeral and my aunts gave him all of my grandpa’s Baseball Digest’s and any other baseball books owned by him.”

With her grandpa, father and brother being notable sports people, sports success runs in her family— and she was also a part of it. Peggy Disbennett was on the first-ever University of Missouri- St. Louis (UMSL) women’s soccer team in 1981. Coached by Ken Hudson, that team dominated their competition by winning 16 straight wins including a 15-game undefeated regular season in which they outscored their opponents 92 to 6.

They finished with an overall record of 16-2. In the first-ever women’s soccer national poll, UMSL ranked fifth and by the end of the regular season they ranked second behind the University of North Carolina. The team received a bid to participate in the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women or AIAW national championship soccer tournament, where UMSL earned a first round bye before beating previously undefeated Texas A&M University, 2-1, in the second round.

She played soccer all four years in college and is still friends with Ruth Harker from that era who we have previously done a feature on. Ruth said  that the 1982 team that Peggy was a member of was in her top three best soccer times because they beat the previous-year national champion University of North Carolina team for the first time in program history.

Their sports talent was no luck, it was hard work, but her luck runs in other area.  This year’s lucky spring training trip was not the first time she felt her grandfather’s luck of the Irish.

“I got really lucky in 1982 when my friend Patty Kelley and I innocently went down to Busch Stadium World Series Game Seven. It was  Cardinals vs Milwaukee Brewers, and we had no tickets,” she said. “We figured we could buy some down there.”

This was the seventh game of the World Series in 1982– there probably were no seats to be had the day of the game, but that didn’t stop her from trying.

“I think I had an added sense of luck due to the fact that my sweet Irish grandpa had made it to opening day 79 years in a row, so I was meant to go to this World Series game.”

As “luck” would have it they got tickets and because someone recognized her friend Patty, they were able to ride on the Grey Eagle bus. They had so much fun on the bus, they watched the first six innings in the comfort of the bus.

“Once the Cards went ahead 4-3 we decided it was time to get into Busch Stadium, and we found our seats down the third base line near the field,” she said. “As everyone knows,  the Cards came through and won 6-3 and at the end of the game in all my excitement I pulled my reluctant friend Patty on to the field and we did cartwheels.”

She remembered they were not supposed to be on the field, but once again– spur of the moment– and lucky they didn’t get caught.

“While other people were tearing up pieces of that nasty ’80’s turf and getting chased by police dogs, we were doing cartwhees,” she remembered. “To this day October 20, 1982 was like a perfect dream! I kind of figured for years I was never gonna top that luck lucky day, but in the back of my mind every February and March I would get the itch to go to spring training.”

She finally made it in 2023 and she enjoyed every minute of  it.  She said it was just as great as she had hoped. And she’s already looking forward to next year.

“I am hoping to plan next years spring training in advance this time, and bring more friends,” she said.

Even if she doesn’t plan it, she’ll probably have the luck of the Irish with whoever she goes with.

Editor’s note: If you have a story about a Cardinals fan—or about yourself, please let us know. We love to spotlight Cardinals fans. Everyone has an interesting story.

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out Rob Rains, Editor.