Baseball is a game of second chances, so let's just forget all the late-inning blown leads and the appalling dearth of timely hitting the Cardinals have exhibited lately and focus instead on the wealth of second chances facing the Cards this week. This is IT for the Birds -- the last home series against the Cubs, a weekend trip to hopeless Cincinnati and then the payoff: the final trip of the season to the Friendly Confines. Baseball fans couldn't ask for a better late-season schedule, and Cardinals fans wouldn't have it any other way. Not only can the Cards determine their own fate with this home-and-home, they can ruin Chicago's season (again, suckers!) in the same span. Win both series against the Cubs and the home nine still have a shot at the postseason -- but, even better, they doom the Cubs to another fall of golf. If for no other reason than that the Cardinals can stick the knife in the pizza-clogged heart of ol' Big Shoulders, every man wearing the Bird-and-Bat should be playing all-out. Of course, if the Cardinals squander this last chance, then St. Louis faces a long off-season saddled with the guilt of being the team that rolled over and allowed the Cubs into the playoffs. Please, Cardinals -- for the fans, for the city, for the sanctity and tradition of the game we all hold so dear: don't blow it. The last stand against the Cubs at Busch Stadium (Broadway at Walnut Street, 314-421-2400) happens at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday, August 27, and 7:10 p.m. Thursday, August 28. For the devoted daytrippers, the series in Chicago starts at 1:20 p.m. Monday, September 1, followed by a Tuesday doubleheader. Tickets for the St. Louis games cost $9-$55. -- Paul Friswold
Objectivity aside: You try to steal our baseball team. You nail us for open alcohol during our early-morning treks to your tittie bars. You mock our national monument (a giant paper clip stuck in the ground, huh?). It's on, bro -- Missouri vs. Illinois football, 11 a.m., in the Jones Dome (Broadway at Washington Avenue, $15-$50, 314-241-1888).
Other opportunities to whale on your collegiate rival can be had at the Mizzou Tailgate Party, 9 a.m.-kickoff at America's Center Hall; or the Illini Pep Rally, 9 a.m.-kickoff at Baer Plaza (both located in or near the Dome). For more sportsmanlike information about this event, try the St. Louis Sports Commission at www.stlouissports.org. -- Tom R. Arterburn
The Wistful Toilet Paper of Farewell
While most of us are wondering if the Cardinals' pitching can carry them into the post-season (and if the Rams can find the magic again), a small hardcore group mourns the passing of another great season of minor-league baseball. The River City Rascals blow a goodbye kiss to O'Fallon, Mo. (T.R. Hughes Stadium, Tom Ginnever Avenue, $4-$8, 636-240-BATS) with their usual round of wacky promotions, including the Truman Mortgage $75,000 Target Toss (Friday), the Bite Me Bass Club Shirt-Off-Your-Back Night (Saturday) and the City of O'Fallon Soccer Ball Giveaway (Sunday). The Gateway Grizzlies leave GMC Stadium for the year (I-255 between I-270 and I-64 in Sauget, $5-$8, 618-337-3000) with CR Frank Popcorn Lunchbox Night (Wednesday) and Toilet-Paper-the-Ballpark Night (Thursday). Goodbye, summer. -- Byron Kerman
Advantage of a float trip over a waterpark: You can bring all the beer and Boone's Farm you like. Advantage, waterpark: 30,000 square-foot pools! A half-million gallons of water! Four-hundred-foot slides! Maybe some chick's top will come flying off!
This high-octane aqua fun can be found at Six Flags' Hurricane Harbor in Eureka (I-44 at Six Flags Allenton Road). And with summer winding down, this weekend is your last chance to spot that chick with the wandering top and to catch those killer waves before the only outdoor hijinks to be had is jumping into piles of dead leaves. Hours, directions and pricing info can be obtained at www.sixflags.com or by calling 636-938-4800. -- Rose Martelli