An L.A. story
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 19, 2009 - Esteemed Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote last week on L.A. Times sports columnist T.J. Simers and where he did (or didn't) sit during the Oct. 11 game at the Edward Jones Dome that featured the St. Louis Rams vs. the Minnesota Vikings.
Guess who sat next to Simers on Saturday night as the St. Louis Cardinals' season came to a dismal close?
Yep, lil' ole me.
Unlike any post-season series I have attended during the Tony La Russa run in St. Louis, there was no auxiliary press box. I've grown accustomed to being booted from my regular season seat in the main press box and sent packing to an auxiliary set up for the post season. It happened during the All-Star Game in July.
Not this time, my friends. Every member of the media was assigned to the main press box on Busch Stadium's fourth level. Some of us were in "the bullpen" which meant our seats were in work rooms, not actually viewing the field.
But hey, there was standing room in the press box and I found a spot. After the first half inning, Simers invited me to sit down at an empty seat among the LA Times crew.
There were about eight or nine L.A. media folks sitting on the press box front row and I was right in the middle of them.
What could have been a total drag as the Cardinals played dead for the Dodgers and were swept out of the playoffs turned out to be a truly entertaining evening.
Simers and his cohorts were a riot.
As all St. Louis became sadder and sadder, the L.A. crew was giddy and checking PDAs to see whether any seats were left on an 8:35 a.m. flight back to the City of Angels on Sunday morning. As the seats disappeared one at a time, they would alert each other.
As the Dodgers' lead grew, the quest for the few remaining seats became more hysterical.
Simers told his crew he was staying for the Vikings and Rams game so he was not in the contest to get one of those last few seats. Who knew his attendance at the game on Sunday would add fuel to the "could the Rams move back to L.A." fire? But it did, thanks to a Miklasz column.
But on Saturday night, Simers was all about baseball.
As the Dodgers' lead reached 5-0, several L.A. types asked me, "You think it's safe to book it?"
Several times I said, "Hang on."
But when Yadier Molina made his base-running blunder late in the game, I told all involved, "Go for it."
I knew at that point the Cards' season was over.
But my fascination with the Dodgers didn't end with the final out. Yes, I intended to go to the Cardinals clubhouse at the climax of the season, but I had to make a stop first.
I had to say hi to the man I replaced as a sports reporter at my first newspaper, the Danville (Ill.) Commercial-News.
This guy had left the C-N in spring of 1983 to take the lowest of low level front-office media jobs with the Chicago Cubs. I was hired that summer.
He would work for the Cubs for several years before leaving to take other front office jobs for other teams.
He climbed the ranks and worked his way to more and more responsibility and power. Years later, he became an assistant general manger. Then, he got his big chance. He was named general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
His name is Ned Colletti, and I met him for the first time as champagne was whizzing through the air and the Dodgers were in full celebration mode.
After joining two L.A. reporters in asking him questions outside the Dodgers' clubhouse, I introduced myself and told him the story of Alvin A. Reid.
He gave me a bear hug and laughed.
"Danville?!?!? Man, you're talking 30 years ago!!!," he yelled as the clubhouse celebration spilled into the hallway and champagne sprayed against my neck.
This was a special moment for Colletti - the Dodgers advancing to the NLCS - and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
Meanwhile, I was not a part of what was going down in the Cards' clubhouse. Superstar Albert Pujols had snuck out the back door.
He didn't say a word to the St. Louis media. He was reportedly the first player to leave the stadium. Rick Ankiel told reporters that he would be back after taking some gear to his car. He never returned. Pitiful.
Forget Ankiel because I'm sure he has played his last game as a Redbird. Let's talk about Sir Albert.
Yes, I'm sure he was disappointed at the series outcome and in his own performance. But if you are truly going to be "The Man," you have to act like one when the chips are down.
Pujols races to the microphone after a game-winning walk-off home run. He ran from it after his team lost to the Dodgers.
Last week, he told a Dominican radio interviewer that he was not in a hurry to sign a contract extension with the Cardinals. He said this after having nothing to say to the St. Louis media.
I have no doubt that he will sign with the Cards for the long term. I hope that it will signal an end to the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week carousel of behind kissing that Pujols receives from most of the media members that cover the team in St. Louis. He is not above criticism, regardless of his talent.
As the Dodgers celebrated, the Cardinals sulked. That was understandable.
But refusing to speak with the media seems like the action of a spoiled child, not the game's best player.
As it turns out, I had a fun evening thanks to Simers and Colletti.
And I'm glad I missed Pujols' sorry exit because it was beneath him. And he should be a tad bit ashamed.
Alvin A. Reid is editor of the St. Louis Argus and a weekend host on the new ESPN 101.1 FM. His weekly Major League Baseball - St. Louis Cardinals column, which is now published on The Beacon website, was honored by the Missouri Press Association as Best Sports Column in 2004 and 1999. He is co-author of the book, "Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was a member of the inaugural staff of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly.