ST. LOUIS — Saying 2020 has been hard is like saying Yadier Molina is tough. Pretty obvious. The coronavirus pandemic has changed how we all live, and touched nearly every aspect of our day-to-day functions.
It's also given people a chance to slow down a bit, and think about what's really important to them.
Like everyone else, the St. Louis Cardinals have had a rough 2020.
Of course the current version of the team actually battled COVID-19 in the middle of their 60-game season before eventually falling in the first round of the playoffs, but the biggest losses came away from the field.
In the span of a month, the Cardinals lost two pillars of franchise in Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.
The holes left by the loss of Gibson and Brock are large, and impossible to fill. The sadness is real, like we all lost two good friends. There's a reason for that.
People around the Cardinals have said this themselves over the years, but it rings truer than ever right now. The Cardinals' collection of Hall of Famers is the franchise's most precious resource.
The legends of the franchise really are everything.
They're the ones who put the fans in the stands over the years. They're the ones who make other players want to come to St. Louis. They're the ones who created the "Cardinals mystique".
The importance and love for the Cardinals' Hall of Famers is apparent every opening day as they drive around the warning track wearing their red jackets.
It's a special relationship between player and city I'm not sure any other team in baseball can match. That's why it hurts so much when we lose one of these legends. That's why right now it feels worse than ever, after losing two in such a short period of time.
If you grew up a Cardinals fan, you pretty much were guaranteed to have your own little era of heroes and Hall of Famers.
If you grew up on baseball in the '40s or '50s, you had Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and later Ken Boyer. If you grew up on baseball in the '60s and '70s you had Gibson, Brock and later Ted Simmons. If you grew up on baseball in the '80s and early '90s you had Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee and later Ray Lankford. If you grew up on baseball in the late '90s and '00s you had Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, and then of course Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. Maybe the next generation will have Jack Flaherty and Dylan Carlson?
We've been spoiled, folks. There's no doubt about it.
Every era pumps out a handful of guys who become legends at least in St. Louis, and sometimes in Cooperstown.
You walk into Busch Stadium and see their numbers retired on the wall. You know their stats by heart and it feels like they're these immortal figures that will live forever. And in a way, they kind of do.
We won't get to see Gibson and Brock make their trek around the warning track again, but their impact leaves a lasting legacy, as did Musial's, Schoendienst's and others before them.
Now, odd as it may feel, the '80s Cardinals of Ozzie, Willie, Bruce Sutter and Whitey Herzog are our elder statesmen legends. We need to cherish every time we're able to see them representing the franchise they became synonymous with.
How lucky are we to have the embarrassment of riches of Cardinals Hall of Famers?
Guys like Gibson and Brock have made Cardinals baseball what it is over the years. And while they may not be here any longer, their impact will never be forgotten. And if history proves any guide, there will always be another generation waiting in the wings.