By Sally Tippett Rains
Cardinals fans Donna and Hank Tomlinson are traveling right now, but wherever they are on Opening Day, they will be searching for a way to watch the game. They know it won’t be in St. Louis, but wherever they are, it won’t be in the strangest place they have watched a Cardinals game—Hanoi. Yes, that Hanoi, in northern Vietnam, more on that in a bit.
“We are currently making our way home from Angel Fire, New Mexico after a month or so of skiing with the grandkids and our nephew’s family,” said Hank. “We’re headed to Easton, Pennsylvania—and plan to be home and in front of a TV or computer for the Cardinals home opener.”
No matter where they are they search the channels for the Cardinals games because they have been fans since their days in St. Louis.
Those were the days of the Redbird Express—which took off from Crestwood Plaza, not too far from Hank’s childhood home. Those were also the days of Straight “A” Tickets—if you made good grades you got two free tickets to a game.
“I grew up a Cardinal fan and went to games as a kid starting in Sportsman Park and then Busch Stadium #1,” said Hank. “My wife Donna also grew up in St. Louis where her family members were Cardinal fans– so we have a great Cardinals base.”
They grew up listening to Jack Buck on the radio, and watching Cardinals greats from Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Keith Hernandez to Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith; and continuing with the current team.
As with many Cardinals fans, they started out in St. Louis but life has taken them out of town. With the Tomlinsons, their life has literally taken them around the world.
They are very adventurous and always take advantage of whatever the area they are in has going as far as outdoor life. Whether it’s bike riding, hiking or skiing if it’s an outdoor activity they are quick to join. Donna also adds weaving to her enjoyment.
During their 45 year of marriage, they have lived in seven countries, seven states, requiring 23 different residences all due to relocating because of his job with Chevron.
They have settled, (at least they hope they are settled house-wise) in Easton, Pennsylvania to be near family– while they continue traveling and doing exciting things.
“We’re hopefully in our forever house, near where three of our five grandkids, and their parents live.”
Grandpa and Grandma have tried to instill their love for the St. Louis Cardinals into their grandchildren.
“The grandkids all have Cardinal gear, but their dad is working to pull them toward the Phillies!” he said. “With all the streaming options available now, we get to see as many games on TV as we want.”
Hank Tomlinson spent the last 22 years of his 35-year career with Chevron working overseas, so staying current on baseball was not always
“When the playoffs came along you could usually find a feed somewhere to watch the games,” said Hank who retired in 2015. “The only challenge was that the game times might be late at night or early in the morning, since a big part of my career was in Southeast Asia.”
This brings us to watching the game in Hanoi.“We lived and worked in Hanoi from 2007 until 2013,” he said. “In early 2011 we attended an Operation Smile Fundraiser where we won the auction for a weekend getaway at the Metropole Hotel.”
The Metropole Hotel is a five star historical, luxury hotel; very chic and in an area called the Old Quarter. To win a stay at this hotel would be quite a prize as it is is connected to a shopping center, with the Hanoi Opera House and other notable landmarks nearby.
An online description of the hotel says it “ provides a nightclub and a swim-up bar. Treat yourself to a body scrub, a massage, or a body wrap at the onsite spa. Be sure to enjoy a meal at any of the 3 onsite restaurants, which feature a poolside location and garden views.”
What a trip it would be; nd included in the prize was a couples massage and a grand breakfast.
And then reality set in.
“When we booked the weekend, we did not know the Cardinals would be in the playoffs and everything else that would happen,” he said. “When the date arrived, we were glad to find out that the playoff games were going to be carried on one of the cable channels in the hotel. The hotel has a fabulous breakfast buffet but we ordered room service to watch the game.”
Room service over a fabulous buffet– as any diehard Cardinals fan would do. But there was more.
“We were booked for a couples massage as part of the weekend getaway package that morning at 9:30.”
Turns out the Cardinals game was on in Hanoi at 9:30 in the morning, so they decided to call the spa and push the massage back.
“As the game went back and forth, we had to call and reschedule it three times to get us through the game!” said Tomlinson. “We both enjoyed the wackiness of watching a Cardinal playoff game on a Saturday morning, in a French hotel, in Hanoi Vietnam!”
“It was sure fun to be a Cardinal fan that day– even if there was no one else cheering but us.”
The Tomlinsons have something else on their Cardinals bucket list and that is seeing a game at the current stadium.
“We have not seen a game at the new Busch Stadium,” he said. “We hope to make it there sometime.”
But that probably could not top the memories of that game they watched in their hotel room in Vietnam.
Hank and Donna Tomlinson with their son-in-law Mike Psathas, daughter Addie Psathas,