Cardinals fans try to keep the faith

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- The first two games of the World Series have left St. Louis Cardinals fans red-faced, and a little blue-hearted.

"I'm depressed, but still hopeful," said 56-year-old insurance broker Ginger Krieshok, a self-described die-hard Cardinals fan. "They're a much better team than they looked."

St. Louis office worker Jerry Williams, 30, added: "They need to get out of Boston. I think they've got a better chance here."

The series shifts to St. Louis today after the Cardinals were swept in the first two games at Fenway Park, leaving the Red Sox two wins away from their first World Series title since Babe Ruth pitched for them in 1918. He was sold to the New York Yankees a year later, presumably the beginning of a curse that Cardinals fans don't want to see end at their team's expense.

"All my friends and I hope not," said Ray Karasek, 23, a red-dressed marketing manager who posted Cardinals signs in his downtown loft, in violation of the loft association bylaws. "This team has all the right chemistry."

Monday's World Series edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was headlined, "Road Block" and showed a dejected Game 2 losing pitcher Matt Morris leaving the mound. Sports talk radio found little time to hammer football's Rams for losing to previously winless Miami, instead offering a mix of resolute optimism and virtual despair over the baseball club.

Even on an off-day, and even with the sluggish start for the Cardinals, red remained the color of this autumn season in St. Louis

In downtown offices, coat-and-tie dress codes are being waived in favor of red Cardinals T-shirts. Women wore full-length red dresses and suits to downtown offices. Some wore red and white Mardi Gras beads over workplace apparel. Cashiers at grocery stores are wearing the home colors. Cars, minivans and pickup trucks wore "Go Cards" bumper stickers and some flew small Cardinals team flags attached to their windows.

Downtown was dressed up and ready for its first World Series since 1987. Red-lettered banners and signs dotted windows and rooftops. The fountain in Kiener Plaza spewed red water. The city's Bi-state buses flashed "Go Cardinals!" from their window message boards.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's faith was unshaken.

"The Cardinals are the best team out there," Slay said. "They can still win the World Series. We've got to put our bats and our pitching together."

Fans milling downtown on their lunch break or outside the Cardinals store at Busch Stadium hadn't lost hope either. They blamed the series' first two losses on Boston's brisk temperatures, the shape of Fenway's field, a decision or two by manager Tony La Russa, and the obvious lack of Cardinals supporters in Fenway's stands.

That'll change Tuesday. Temperatures are expected to be in the 70s -- though rain is possible -- and the Cardinals will return to an equally warm fan base.

"They need to get some home cookin'," said Roland Jones, 52, of St. Louis. "We'll be OK."

Jones, a business manger for SBC Communications, will help provide the hometown warmth. He has World Series tickets for the next three games.

"I feel optimistic," he said, sporting a Cardinals hat and button. "We weren't playing Cardinals baseball the first two games."

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