This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 5, 2011 - Happy members of Cardinal Nation wore big smiles and bright shades of red, jerseys of their favorite players and homemade headgear as they gathered inside and outside Busch Stadium Tuesday for Game 3 of the best-of-five National League Division Series.
The faithful journeyed from across the region and from across the country to cheer and hoot and wave rally towels -- willing a win from their seats, as the Cardinals battled the Philadelphia Phillies. It was a well-pitched, well-played contest that took a wrong turn in the top of the seventh when Cards pitcher Jaime Garcia gave up a three-run homer to pinch hitter Ben Francisco. Though the Cards picked up one run in the bottom of the seventh and another in the ninth, they fell to the Phillies 3-2.
The Cards and Phillies will meet again in Game 4 Wednesday at Busch. Now down 2-1 games in the series, the resilient Redbirds face another do-or-die situation; they must win to avoid postseason elimination.
Redbird fans left the stadium disappointed but still hopeful that their Comeback Cards will come back again.
As David Hicks of Granite City noted, "The last time I didn't believe they'd win they won the World Series."
Hicks and his wife Jennifer watched the late inning action on a giant screen TV in the stadium's Ford Plaza concession area. They had standing-room-only tickets, but Hicks said he dislikes crowds and preferred the quiet seating in the plaza.
While the crowd went crazy inside, Hicks didn't mind that he was watching the action on TV, something he could be doing at home.
"I don't come for the baseball, I come for the hot dogs," he joked.
Hicks said they have seats for Game 4 on Wednesday -- and will probably use them, but he added that if the Cardinals sold tickets for Ford Plaza seating he'd buy them.
The Beacon spent the day hanging out with the best fans in baseball. Here are some of their stories:
Best photo spot for members of Cardinal Nation
The fountains in Kiener Plaza are now a winning shade of red. Cardinals fans joined tourists in admiring the scene before Game 3. Among them were Stephanie Monroe, who is holding Bella, 3, and smiling as her husband Joseph takes a shot for the family album. Monroe said she wasn't surprised the Redbirds snatched the Wild Card spot even though the team was 10.5 games out in late August. "I never give up. Ever," she said.
Best fake hair And best good luck charm
Kerry Ward, 53, of Taylorville, Ill., wore a fluffy crown of red and white that he bought for the 2006 World Series. Ward, a self-proclaimed "diehard" fan, was pleased that the Cards had made it to the postseason, but he acknowledged that he had been frustrated with the team at times this season. "We're here because of Tony LaRussa,'' he said. "But I don't always agree with what he does and how he does it.''
Bella, a Maltese Pomeranian, came to the pregame pep rally outside Busch Stadium with Kaitlyn Olsen, 19, of St. Charles. According to Olsen, the Cardinals were behind in a Wild Card game against Houston -- until Bella donned her Cardinals T-shirt. The real reason the Redbirds made it into the postseason? "It's because of little Bella,'' said Olsen.
Best Torty Craig sign
Chase Cupp, 15, of Sumter S.C., and his parents Rebecca and Shane Cupp drove 16 hours to attend Game 3. Chase is a fan of Cardinals outfielder Allen Craig and his pet tortoise, TortyCraig, who has been tweeting insider information from the Cardinals clubhouse. TortyCraig is a big hit with Cardinals fans on Twitter, though Craig says he is not the author of the tweets. Chase said attending the playoff game was even more special because his mom, a captain in the Air Force, had just returned from deployment in Honduras.
Best fan jersey and fans with lots of reasons to celebrate
Dustin Savage, 36, of St. Louis said he had his jersey custom-made to pay homage to Jack Buck, the late great Hall of Fame broadcaster. "I grew up listening to Jack Buck on the radio," he said. "His voice reminds me of my childhood."
Ann and Matthew Wiegand of Affton were not only celebrating the Redbirds' end-of-the-season comeback rally to the postseason, they were also marking their second wedding anniversary -- and the pending birth of their first child, who they are certain will be a Cardinals fan.
Best non-Torty Craig sign
Chelsea Bachmann and Will Lynch drove 14 hours from Sandestin, Fla., spent $180 in gas and paid $150 for their tickets to Game 3. They were hoping this sign would land them on TV. But even if it didn't, the two said the trip was worth it because they are both loyal Cardinals fans. "The Phillies may have a city, but the Cardinals have a nation,'' Lynch said.
Best jab at Cardinal Nation's favorite rivals
Tim Barker, 43, of Dubuque, Iowa, couldn't resist poking some postseason fun at the Chicago Cubs. Barker said he has been a Cardinals fan for all of his life -- a loyalty inherited from his family -- but he grew up around Cubs fans. "You've got to be this way," he said.
Nicest Phillies fans
Though Tracey Claxton of Maryville and her 10-year-old daughter Emily live just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, they are loyal Phillies fans "because they're awesome.'' Claxton said she was born in south Jersey, where most of her family still lives. Here's what made them the nicest Phillies fans in the house on Tuesday. "If Philadelphia doesn't win the World Series, I hope the Cards do," she said.
Best use of a rally towel when there's no rally
We can't identify this fan who was using a rally towel to avoid the sun's glare in Section 331 during the bottom of the fifth inning because she pleaded for anonymity. Looked like a wise alternate use of a rally towel to us.
Best shoes in the stadium
While tennis shoes and sandals were the footwear of choice for most fans on this 80-ish October day, Marisa Diaz, 38, of Granite City stepped out in strappy wedges in Redbird red. Diaz, who works in Event Services for the Cardinals, said this is her first playoff experience with the team. "The atmosphere is tremendous," she said.
Alana Marie Henry, 17 months, was enjoying the October sunshine in Kiener Plaza and keeping her grandmother Marie Henry on her toes. Henry, a loyal member of Cardinal Nation, said she took Alana to her first Cardinals game when she was just 6 months old.