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My favorite baseball memory: 5 On Your Side Executive Sports Producer Andy Mohler's summer road trip to remember

5 On Your Side Executive Sports Director Andy Mohler has seen about as much baseball as anyone. Now he's sharing some of his favorite stories from the game we love
Credit: KSDK

I’ve been blessed to have had baseball in my life now going into a seventh decade now, so when someone asks about my favorite baseball memory I have a treasure trove to go through to answer the question.

I could regale you with grand memories of straight-A ticket nights from junior high school and particular games ending in walkoffs (before they were even referred to as “walkoffs”). 

Roger Freed (look him up, kids) capping an untypical Cardinals rally (back in the lackluster pre-Whiteyball days) with a bottom-of-the-ninth grand slam to beat Houston is one, and then there was a real doozie of a game against the two-time defending champion Cincinnati Reds... yeah, I’ve got to tell you about this one. The Cardinals trailed in the bottom of the eighth, 5-4, when Keith Hernandez hit a homer to tie the game. Al Hrabosky (yes, the broadcaster who had a real flair for the dramatics as a relief pitcher... again, look it up) came in to pitch the ninth and loaded the bases with nobody out. He then struck out the side to get out of trouble, and as if to flick the nose of fate he gave up a two-out double to Ken Griffey with Ray Knight at first in the tenth. Knight tried to come all the way around to score but he was thrown out at the plate. 

The crowd of 17,000 plus (yes, this was back in the days when 17,000 fans in the park was pretty good) and the ABC Monday Night Baseball television audience had gotten a pretty good show, but then Ted Simmons, who applied the tag on Knight a few minutes earlier, hit a blast over the right field wall for a 6-5 Cardinals win.

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Hop into the time machine and fast forward to 2011. Everybody remembers Game Six of the World Series, right? Epic comebacks by the Cardinals against Texas with the Redbirds facing their last strike, what, three times? Then David Freese, who hasn’t had to buy a drink or pay for a meal in our town since, hit a shot to straightaway center. Joe Buck echoed his father and said, “We will see you tomorrow night!” and pandemonium reigned. We were on hold at the station, getting ready to break into programming when the game ended with a postgame show. I was producing said show, and I needed to edit the winning hit for the show open. When Freese’s shot left the yard, everyone in the newsroom erupted into spontaneous displays of jubilation. Well, all but two people. One, the person who smartly took video of the celebration, and two, the person in the background of the celebration feverishly trying to get the video clip edited so he could run into the control room in time for the show to start. Yes, me.  The video aired on Today the next morning.

So many memories happened in between; meeting baseball heroes Stan Musial, Henry Aaron, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson, collecting boxes upon boxes of baseball cards and programs from the past, and having the ability to remember just about all of it.

So that’s merely the preamble to my two most heartfelt memories, one of my youth, and one as a father, which one realizes is the most important when he has the chance to share a mutual love with someone he helped bring into the world.

For this exercise, let’s begin in my youth. October 14, 1985, to be exact.

I remember Stan the Man telling the story of career hit 3,000, and how 50,000 people came up to him over the years and told him they were at that game. Well, Stan went on to say with a chuckle that there were only 15 or so thousand at Wrigley Field that day in 1958. 

Which brings me to perhaps the most famous home run ever hit by a St. Louis Cardinal not named Freese: Ozzie Smith’s improbable “Go Crazy, folks!” homer in the NLCS. 

Thanks to television, millions have seen that homer and maybe 50,000 were at that game, including me. I went over to Busch with one mission; I was instructed to help Jay Randolph get a guest to interview live at the top of the five o'clock news. Since NBC carried that game we knew that we didn’t have to worry about when the show would start after the game ended. All I had to do was to meet Jay in the concourse outside the Cardinals locker room at the end of the game. Whenever. 

Easy, right?

My vantage point was in the auxiliary press box. (Ooh, how exotic – auxiliary press box!) That was a term for seats in the second level in right field for those not important enough to belong in the main press box behind home plate. Nonetheless, I sat and watched the tense game go into the bottom of the ninth. Ozzie led off against righthander Tom Niedenfuer, and a hat tip to the NBC producer who had the foresight to put up a graphic saying the Wizard had never hit a home run batting lefthanded. I didn’t see that until later, but what I did see was Ozzie lift a fly ball headed right towards me. Obviously it wasn’t going to carry to the second deck, and I had to look for reaction to see where exactly the ball did come down. The second base umpire whirled his right arm around to signal home run, and I had about two seconds to get excited. (Apparently, there is cheering in the {auxiliary} press box) Then it was a mad dash to meet up with Jay. And that’s where a great memory got even better.

When I got there, I was one of about 500 people crammed into that concourse. I found Jay, and he told me, “Just let me know when you see Ozzie.” I looked at my watch and it was a little after five o’clock, so I deduced that NBC was still on the air and the Wizard was still on the field being interviewed. When the interview was over there is TV footage of Ozzie saluting the fans that had stuck around and then dashing down the dugout steps and into the tunnel towards the locker room.

That’s when I spotted Ozzie coming up the other end of the tunnel to join the 500 (and me) folks waiting for him. I told Jay, “There he is". Then Jay somehow managed to get Ozzie's attention in the throng of people, and he veered off his path right to where Jay was standing. Being the TV voice of the team had its perks, right? Jay put his hand on Ozzie’s back, and almost as if Providence had set the tumblers of time into perfect order, the next thing I heard was Jay saying, “Thank you, Mike (Bush). Ozzie, my oh my, indeed, indeed.” Ozzie arrived just in time for Mike to send the newscast live to the ballpark and Jay interviewed the hero of the game in perfect timing - exquisitely perfect timing. In my mind I brushed my hands on my shirt to wipe off the dust of my obviously tedious “job” and said, “Mission accomplished.”

I would have liked to have believed that version.  In actuality I think I stood there is utter amazement at how sometimes things just work out – explanation unnecessary.

We hop back into the time machine now and set the dial for 2004. A lot happened in those 19 years – marriage, two kids, life. A good friend of mine came up with the great idea to take our sons on a baseball trip – both of our boys were 13 and so it wouldn’t be much longer before they’d want no part of such a trip with their fathers. 

We planned the course: St. Louis to Wrigley Field for a Cubs-Cardinals afternoon game, then to Cleveland for the Indians and White Sox, a side trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and then on to Boston for a Saturday afternoon Yankees-Red Sox tilt at Fenway Park, and then we’d finish in Cincinnati to see the Reds host the Cardinals. Four games, one week, and I’d be back at work in time for the week of coverage for the PGA Senior Championship.

Bob Costas has said that if you need proof of the existence of God then you merely look at the game of baseball: perfect in its design, the essential rules unchanged in going on two centuries. He’s got a point but I’d say the existence of God was cemented for me during the week of that trip. The Cards-Cubs game was an amazing Cardinals comeback, fueled by three Albert Pujols home runs, preserved by an amazing So Taguchi catch at the wall, and a Taguchi home run, to boot. We took the El on the way back to our hotel and we were the only ones in the car wearing Cardinals gear; I’ve never had a more enjoyable rattle down the tracks.

The new (at the time) ballpark in Cleveland was nice, the Pro Football Hall of Fame was cool (and we even managed an unallowed game of catch on the turf at Fawcett Stadium – the statute of limitations has run out, right?) and we even managed to divert off course and spend a Friday afternoon in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame. And then there was Boston.

We woke up on Saturday to clouds in Albany, New York. We got to the outskirts of Boston in a pouring rain, which didn’t let up for another couple of hours. By the time we got to Fenway, the rain had stopped but the seats were soaked. The crowd kept coming in but there was no activity on the field. Time zoomed past the scheduled start of the game with no word, until finally the p.a. announcer came on to say the game would get underway in another 45 minutes. (As it turned out, the game was thisclose to being called off, but the players said no, we want to play.) What a game we saw – the Yankees broke out to the lead, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek was the main event in a bench-clearing melee, the Red Sox chipped away at the lead, the Yankees appeared to put the game away and then the bottom of the ninth happened.

Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera had come in the inning before, but it was one of those rare occasions where he didn’t have a typically dominating outing. The home team scored a run to make it a 10-9 game, and then with a man on, St. Louisan Bill Mueller came to the plate. The same Bill Mueller whose uncle lived catty-corner from us.

We had told some folks we would meet them out on Yawkey Way after the game and we’d go somewhere for dinner. They were not big sports fans, and so I again was doing a watch check as we were getting close to our appointed meeting time.  My son and I went down to the opening from the main concourse to the seats behind home plate. The gate was open to the street and so I dashed out every couple of minutes to check and see if the other folks were there – they weren’t – and then dash back behind the plate to see the next couple of pitches. It was there that Mueller connected with one of Mariano’s cutters and sent it deep into the night – WALKOFF HOME RUN! We dashed out on to Yawkey Way to celebrate with the Red Sox fans and then went off to dinner and marvel over our good fortune.

From there it was out of Boston in time to beat the crowd coming for the Democratic Party convention, and on to Cincinnati for a big Cardinal win over the Reds, where we had a great vantage point to see a few Cardinals homers soar out of the yard.  We drove back to St. Louis the next day and life went on.

When October came that year I couldn’t help but think back to the summer as the Red Sox did the improbable – make the playoffs as a wild card team, come back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS and then sweep the favored Cardinals in the World Series. No, it stunk that the Cardinals had their season come to such an inglorious end, but there were several Boston and national writers who pointed to that Red Sox comeback win on a Saturday in Boston as the game that sent them on their way to ending an 86-year championship drought.  And we were there.

My son and I went onto disagree about a lot of things in the years since.  But one thing we most assuredly agree with: that trip was something we’ll both remember.

Thanks to baseball, we have at least one shared memory that will live forever.

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