In recent months, the success of the St. Louis Cardinals has led to attacks from outside as well as inside the Cardinal Nation.
Some have been fostered by the organization itself. An example is the marketing of the slogan “Best Fans in Baseball” by the team. The derisive “BFIB” tag has been coined by those who use it as a vehicle to mock the Cardinals fan base.
“The Cardinal Way” is another term that has led to unintended backlash. The title of a working document to ensure consistent teaching across the organization has been twisted by some into a perceived smug attitude of superiority. Club officials are now doing their best to reposition and downplay the entire matter.
I understand it in a way, but it also disappoints me on several fronts.
As the Cardinals announced their 2014 Hall of Fame class last Wednesday, former player and long-time broadcaster Mike Shannon was awarded the one spot per year held back by ownership for a selection of their choice.
I really like the concept, as it was designed to ensure deserving non-players are not left out of the Hall. That population could include coaches, broadcasters or front-office personnel. Still, because these are non-players, the selections must be made wisely.
I certainly appreciate why Shannon was named to the Hall via this method for 2014. His highly-visible (and audible) contributions to the major league club over the years have been substantial, making it a very popular selection with the fan base. It would not have been my first choice, however.
Not related to this particular subject, but in a more general sense, I have often said that I wished more people were recognized while still alive. I am not suggesting “Moon Man” will leave us soon, but the 74-year-old has had heart problems and cut back his work schedule.
Kissell is far lesser-known than Shannon, but to those who are aware of him, his impact on generations of Cardinals players is appreciated more than any other teacher in organization history. It began in 1940 and continued for 69 seasons.
The Cardinals top player development award is named after Kissell, as is the quad in Jupiter, Florida where the minor leaguers compete. A permanent plaque outside the Jupiter clubhouse reads, in part: “Every player in the Cardinals’ Organization since 1940 has had contact with George Kissell and they have all been better for it. … Well known for his emphasis on fundamentals, George taught several generations of Redbirds how to play baseball.”
Sadly, Kissell passed away in October 2008 due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident so would not be able to acknowledge such recognition personally. Even so, I really hope ownership commissions another Kissell plaque, this one to commemorate him joining the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2015.