Cardinal fans break out 'Tomahawk Chop'

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Red-clad Cardinal fans were in a party mood prior to the start of Sunday's season finale in St. Louis.

Joni and I were among them. We were ready to celebrate a win on the field that would give the baseball team another Central Division championship.

But the Milwaukee Brewers didn't get the memo. Rather, they proceeded to shut out the Cardinals for eight innings before giving up three meaningless runs in the ninth that made the score more respectable. Final score: 5 to 3.

But none of that mattered to us or the thousands of other fans crowded into the ballpark on a beautiful fall afternoon.

Halfway through the game, we all stood up and cheered because the Atlanta Braves had just defeated the Houston Astros, assuring the Cardinalsa role in the post season.

We did the "Tomahawk Chop," made famous by fans of the Atlanta Braves. Admittedly, our hand gestures weren't as fluid as one sees from fans of the Braves. But then we hadn't had any practice with such a politically incorrect activity.

Still, I thought we did a pretty good job with it.

On this day, Cardinal fans were clearly behind the Braves. We watched the scoreboard for the latest update on the Braves game more than we watched our players swing and miss. In our section, I'm sure a lot of fans simply wished the Braves-Astros game would have been broadcast on the stadium scoreboard.

I'm sure that sentiment was even stronger after the Brewers pounded our starting pitcher in the first inning.

But thankfully we didn't have to care about the game on the field. It was the one played in Georgia that had our full attention.

It was a strange scene -- the crowd cheering a division championship in between futile at-bats by Cardinal players in the middle of an inning.

Still, the crowd hung around for the rest of the game. We all wanted to see just how many relief pitchers Tony La Russa would call on.

The Cardinals did manage three home runs in the ninth inning, prompting the discharge of stadium fireworks. But it was little more than punctuation on a topsy-turvy season.

When the Brewers recorded the final out, their players quietly congratulated each other on the field. But the real party was off the field, along the first base line as Cardinal players celebrated getting to post-season play.

It's a luxury when you can lose and still win.

The crowd applauded loudly. But there was no spontaneous excitement to it.

Cardinal fans already had done their celebrating with the "Tomahawk Chop."

The rest of the game was little more than a footnote.

Still, Joni and I left the stadium feeling great. Particularly since prior to the first pitch we had uncovered the most affordable thing at the new Busch Stadium: A necklace with two flattened pennies with the stadium image pressed into them.

It cost only $2, clearly a bargain in a place where even bottled water sells for a premium price.

And to think, it took us a whole baseball season to find such a bargain.

The Cardinals couldn't buy a hit Sunday, but we certainly could afford a few flattened pennies.

The change may be crushed, but not Cardinal fans.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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