I've been a diehard St. Louis sports fan for 51 years, or since I began feeling joy and pain transmitted via the unblinking eye of the TV screen. What follows are the top 10 lows (I'll post the highs some other time; for some reason, they're harder to remember than the defeats). They are my attempt to purge the suffering that never seems to let go of me.
1) Game 6, 1985 World Series. October 26, 1985. The Denkinger game, of course. 500 years from now this may be long forgotten, but not in the lifetime of any Cards' fan who saw it. I know, I know. Jack Clark and Darrell Porter misplayed the foul pop after the blown call; still, if Denkinger gets the call right, we are probably world champs for the second time in four years. Kansas City 2, St. Louis 1.
2) Orange Bowl, Jan. 1, 1970. Penn St. 10, Missouri 3. This game has been overlooked and/or forgotten by many St. Louis-area fans, especially those who don't follow Mizzou. But I live and die with the Tigers, going back to Dan Devine's first year. And this game will haunt me until I die. No one will ever convince me that Missouri was not the best team in college football in 1969. Texas won the mythical national championship by beating Arkansas 15-14 in December, but, in an era when most southern teams were lilly white, Texas did not have the best athletes. Missouri, on the other hand, had Jon Staggers, Mel Gray, Joe Moore, Jim Harrison, Ty Walls, Henry Brown and other great African-American football players. Devine was color-blind. The Tigers ran up and down the field on Penn State, but turned the ball over 9 times. NINE.
3) Game 7, 1957, NBA finals. April 13, 1957. Boston 125, St. Louis 123 (double overtime). Red Auerbach always called this one of the greatest games ever played. The Hawks had the ball with one second left. Alex Hannum threw an inbounds pass the length of the court, intentionally banging it off the backboard. Pettit caught the rebound and missed a 10-footer that rimmed the basket. This was the beginning of the Celtics' dynasty.
4) Game 7, 1968 World Series, Ocotober 10, 1968. Detroit 4, St. Louis 1. The always-reliable Curt Flood misplayed a fly ball, and Gibby got beat for one of the few times in the World Series. Like in '85, the Cardinals blew a 3-1 series lead.
5) Game 4, 2002 NLCS. October 13, 2002. San Francisco 4, St. Louis 3. My son and I will forever after refer to this game simply as the Rick White game. LaRussa horribly mismanaged this game, and hung White out to die against J.T. Snow. The next day SF clinched 2-1, when Matt Morris pitched a 1-0 gem into the eighth before the Cards lost it in the ninth.
6) Game 7, 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs, Western Conference Semifinals. May 16, 1996. Detroit 1, St. Louis 0 (OT). With Hull and Gretzky, the Blues were poised to go to the finals, and they have not come as close since.
7) Nebraska 45, Missouri 38. Nov. 8, 1997. The flea-kicker game. Someone named Matt Davison caught an illegal pass to tie the game at the end of regulation. The ball was kicked by Shevin Wiggen, and I felt like I'd had a shiv stuck in my side. It should have been ruled an incomplete pass, game over, Tigers win. The referee was J. Laurie, the umpire R. Whittenburg, the linesman D. Alexander, the line judge P. Brown, the back judge L. Girouard, the field judge JD Cleavinger, and the side judge L. Williams. How could all of them have missed it?
8) Thanksgiving Day, 1976. Dallas 19, St. Louis 14. The lying, cheating, thieving zebras stole another one from us this day. Our football team, the old Big Red, were called the Cardiac Cards then for their habit of winning games late. And they would have done it again had pass interference been called on Charlie Waters for clocking Mel Gray before Jim Hart's pass got to him.
9) April 15, 1966. Game 7, NBA Western Conference Finals. Los Angeles 130, St. Louis 121. Had the Hawks won this game they might have beaten the Celtics in the finals and saved the franchise. At least, that's what I've always imagined. But Jerry West could not miss that night.
10) March 1961. NIT championship game. Providence 62, St. Louis 59. The NIT meant something then, and, believe it or not, the Billikens were a perennial power. To this day, I remember the Luechtefelds, Dave Harris, Donnell Reid, and the Nordmanns.
Next time, the sweet moments.