Favorite

Of birds and Cardinals 

observer1-1.jpg

The Observer's photographer pal, a born and raised St. Louisian who bleeds Cardinals red, recently got the chance to meet his idol, the great Cardinal Lou Brock, during an event at the Clinton Center. His account of that dream-meeting is a humdinger:

"Why are they booing that guy?" my little sister asked. Sisters are stupid and watching a baseball game in a packed stadium in the July heat in St. Louis is miserable, but there was nowhere I'd rather have been. I rolled my eyes and smirked. "They aren't booing him," I said. "They're chanting LOOOUUUUU!" Lou Freaking Brock was coming to the plate. Lou was 40 then — old for a baseball player, and ancient for a base stealer — and the calls for his retirement had been loud the previous year. But Lou was on a tear that season. He'd go on to hit .304 over 120 games and end his storied career with a lifetime .293 batting average. But he'd only steal 21 bases that year, 1979, his last as a player. Twenty-one was a fraction of his 1974 single-season record (at the time THE record) of 118. That record inspired a special edition Converse sneaker, the "Lou Brock 118." I had a pair, which I wore to everything but church until I just couldn't stuff my growing feet into them anymore. The stadium was fuller than usual that day, not because the Cardinals were doing well, but because this was it: Lou was leaving the sport and any game could be it. We all wanted to be there.

Last week, much older and my 118's long gone, I got an e-mail from The Boss. My assignment: Photo op at the Clinton Presidential Center for the opening of a new St. Louis Cardinals exhibit. Special guest: Lou Brock.

Lou. Freaking. Brock. I read it a couple of times. I was gonna meet Lou. I didn't tell anyone, just in case it didn't really happen. When the day came, I fumbled with my gear at the security check point. Had I remembered the right lenses? Did I put memory cards in the cameras? The guard told me to wait by the metal detector for an escort, but I'd gone almost around the corner to see if I could see Lou. As I was escorted to the waiting area in the lobby where the rest of the press was gathered, I tried to hold back a little. There's a fine line between enthusiastic fan and psycho, and I was very close to stepping over it.

Then there he was: Lou. He walked toward me, much older than I remembered and wearing his Cardinals Blazer. He put out his hand, and I shook it. "Mr. Brock," I said, "I grew up in Busch Stadium watching you play." That was all I could muster. Words failed me past that.

We were taken to the exhibit, where reporters asked all the questions you ask a legend, which can be summed up thusly: "Tell us some stories, Lou." I loved every minute of it. The other photographers and I buzzed around each other, snapping away, looking for angles, expressions, something the other guy hadn't done. The questions tapered off, and I had turned to leave when a TV photographer sped past me and said, "Hey, you should ask him to sign your hat!" My hat? MY HAT! I was wearing a St. Louis Cardinals 2011 Championship hat! I whipped the hat off my head, then walked back toward Lou and thrust it toward him like a 10-year-old trying to get his glove signed. He happily obliged, and one of the handlers took our photo. As I stepped away to leave, I noticed a display he'd been standing beside the entire time. Inside: An original pair of Lou Brock 118's, just like my once-treasured pair. Only these were on display in a presidential library, with The Man Himself standing beside them.

Standing outside watching Junior play kickball with his cousins at our Auntie's summer retreat in North Pulaski County last sunny Sunday, we were startled to see a crowd of shadows flit over us: thousands of them, enough to gray out the sun for a moment. A few seconds later, a great, dark flock passed overhead at an altitude of maybe 75 feet, the mass of tiny birds folding in and out on itself like a porous liquid suspended against the blue sky. Even with the chance of getting a nasty surprise from above, we couldn't help but stand with mouth agape for a second as they flowed over the tree line, taking their crawling, hazy shadow with them.

The world, we thought, is so beautiful at times.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Tags:

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • The Arkansas Traveler

    The Observer gets letters from folks, either directly or through the grapevine. Recently, somebody forwarded us one written by a former schoolteacher, writing to her granddaughter, who is a new student at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs.
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • The Grand Old Flag

    The Observer, like nearly everyone else with access to an internet connection, routinely sees our personal lighthouse battered by Hurricane Outrage, which — on a planet where billions of people struggle to find water and a crumb of daily bread — seems more like a tempest in a teapot inside a series of other, progressively larger teapots the longer we weather it.
    • Sep 1, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in The Observer

  • Heart of the city

    The Observer pulled a gun on a guy in my driveway Saturday night. It was the first time in 43 years that I've ever pointed a firearm at another human being on purpose.
    • Nov 16, 2017
  • Boo

    If you've watched this space for a while, you know that a few Halloweens back, we 'fessed up to one of the slightly more embarrassing secrets in our life: that for most of The Observer's 20s, Yours Truly and his brother looked for Things That Go Bump in the Night all over the state.
    • Nov 2, 2017
  • Last

    This whole "raising a kid" thing is closing up shop now, Junior somehow 18 years old this coming December and graduating soon after that.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

November

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30  

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas joint ventures

    With dispensary and cultivation applications pending, hundreds of Arkansas entrepreneurs are sitting on go for a medical cannabis gold rush. How will it pan out?
  • Heart of the city

    The Observer pulled a gun on a guy in my driveway Saturday night. It was the first time in 43 years that I've ever pointed a firearm at another human being on purpose.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Heart of the city

    • Oddly enough, given that the General Assembly is bought and paid for by the NRA,…

    • on November 17, 2017
  • Re: Arkansas joint ventures

    • Lots of great information. I look forward to more great articles from this source.

    • on November 17, 2017
  • Re: Heart of the city

    • Don't EVER go outside to confront someone unless they're committing a violent felony while you…

    • on November 17, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation