ST. LOUIS — No true Cardinals home opener is complete without the red jacket club making an appearance. The love St. Louis has for its Hall of Famers is unlike anything else in sports.
And when one of those greats leaves us, and we don't get to celebrate them on Opening Day, it feels like we've lost a member of our own family. When two of them leave us in the span of less than a month, it's devastating.
That's what happened when we lost Lou Brock in Sept. and Bob Gibson on the last day of the Cardinals' season in Oct. last year. Devastating.
Brock and Gibson weren't simply Hall of Famers. They were the luminaries who carried the torch for what it meant to be a Cardinal.
“They presented so much excitement and stuff for generations of Cardinals fans and they were always part of the winning tradition of what St. Louis Cardinals baseball is all about," fellow Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith said. "They’re the people that were part of the foundation and legacy of what makes this legacy so great.”
I could list off this incomparable duo's accolades and stats that you've no doubt heard a hundred times, but the truth is that their legacy lies in the emotions they inspired.
Whether it was a nasty Gibson slider or an exhilarating Brock trip around the bases, these two will always live on in the hearts and minds of fans who loved them so dearly.
And that legacy is secure in the current Cardinals team as well, and in future players to come.
“Their identity of who they were on the field and off the field especially with Lou and Bob, Mr. Gibson, is pretty well documented it’s still entrenched in our culture and clubhouse," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "It’s respected. It’s held onto. It’s revered.”
And for that next generation of legends who now have to take up the mantle as "elder statesman", it's about carrying on what guys like Gibson and Brock helped build.
“They’ve always had great leaders starting with people like Red and Stan and then Lou and Bob who are gone," Smith said. "So it’s just kind of a natural transition for all of us as we go forward to be around long enough hopefully to remind people of how good it was and how much excitement and joy we were able to bring to people."
So this Opening Day at Busch Stadium, even though Gibby and Sweet Lou won't be there in person, the legacy their careers built live on through the guys currently wearing the birds on the bat, and in everyone watching in the stands and at home who loved them like family.