Welcome, St. Louis, to another glorious summer of Cardinals baseball. Opening day is Monday, April 13, when our beloved Redbirds take on the Brewers, and over the next six months we'll be riding the highs and suffering the lows along with Molina, Wainwright, Adams and the rest of the boys.
Because we will spend so much time during the season obsessing over the players, we wanted to pause for a moment to celebrate you, the fans. We've profiled the craziest, most superstitious and most dedicated Cards devotees we could find, and proved once again that St. Louisans truly are the Best Fans in Baseball.
Suck it, Deadspin. And let's play ball!
Baseball players are some of the world's most superstitious athletes. From playoff beards to ritual diets to unwashed jockstraps, these guys believe just about anything can be lucky (or unlucky). The fans are no different, and we set out to find out how far they go to give the Cardinals a supernatural edge on the competition.
We put out the call to Redbird boosters all over the country and collected some crazy tales. Here we present the winners of our Best Fanatic in Baseball contest.
Winner: Jordan Hebrank
It was the overalls' fault.
When Jordan Hebrank, a Webster Groves High School graduate and lifelong Cardinals fan, saw them at the store, she was certain they'd be lucky. They were brightly striped red and white, perfect for game days.
"My family's very sports-oriented. We were just born to be Cardinals fans," she says. "I've gone to every game possible."
Her fanaticism for the team was solidified when she went away to college in Florida. Far from the Midwest at a school populated mostly by East Coasters, she often found herself the only Cardinals fan in a sea of Red Sox and Yankee followers.
"I get so much hatred," says the 21-year-old environmental studies major. "I'm like, 'You guys are just jealous.'"
Hebrank was away at school during the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, and on October 30, the day of Game 6, she knew exactly what she had to do: bust out those lucky overalls. Confidence soaring, she told everyone -- including her best friend, a Bostonian -- that she was so confident in her beloved Redbirds that she was willing to double down in epic fashion.
"Whoever's team lost would get a tattoo of the winning team," Hebrank wrote in her original email to Riverfront Times. "I died at the thought of my friend with a STL tattoo."
"You're going to end up with a Red Sox tattoo," the friend countered.
As historians of that series well know, it turned out the overalls were very, very unlucky. A week later the friends found themselves at a local tattoo parlor. The tattoo artist was delighted -- he said he'd just inked a Cardinals logo on another luckless baseball fan. The Boston fan's mother offered to pay to have the Sox logo lasered off later on, but Hebrank had a better idea -- she would get the tattoo, a simple "Sox," inside her lower lip.
"The 'O' hit a nerve -- that's the one that made me tear up," she says.
Hebrank had done her homework. According to some websites, a tattoo on the inside of her mouth would fade naturally. The tattoo artist estimated six to eight months. But now, almost two years later, she's still branded.
"It's still looking good -- brand-new," she says. "Whenever I see someone with a Red Sox hat, I'm like, 'Hey, your team sucks, but I have a Sox tattoo, so props to you.'" The tattoo comes with some perks. Hebrank found it a handy tool for getting free beers in Boston. And she's shelved those cursed overalls for good -- they're obviously the reason we lost the 2013 World Series.
In honor of her title Best Fanatic in Baseball, Hebrank is going to the season opener on Monday, April 13, courtesy of Riverfront Times. Have fun, Jordan!
Runner-Up: Matthew Golden
Compared to our winner, runner-up Matthew Golden of Davenport, Iowa, has paid a considerably lesser price for his fandom. Rather, his new girlfriend will be paying for it. Golden tells us she didn't know about his special Redbirds ritual until he told her he was entering this contest. It involves, as so many Cardinals superstitions do, some very poor hygiene.
"Game 1 of the NLDS, I put on these pajama pants," he recalls of the 2011 season. "Five games later, it was Chris Carpenter versus Roy Halladay, and I kind of realized: This could be a lucky outfit."
The full outfit is a pair of Cardinals logo-print pajama bottoms, a baby-blue Cardinals T-shirt, a red cap and a silver rope chain. And since that fateful series in 2011, the entire ensemble has gone unwashed.
"I must explain that this outfit only gets used for Opening Day, all playoff games and important regular-season games, so perhaps it's not as stinky as it could be," Golden said in his entry. "But my girlfriend is somewhat disgusted by my dedication."
After seeing photos of the outfit -- which he estimates has seen 30 to 40 wears -- we tend to agree with her.
But to Golden, this is not a casual ritual. He truly believes that the sullied uniform holds some special power, as the Cardinals "seem to do something crazy" every time he puts it on. He even hangs it up at the front of his closet so that he sees it every day. He remembers watching one playoff game with a group of buddies.
"My friends all know about it, and they were mocking me for the first six innings when we were down. And then we had a comeback, and they all looked at me," Golden recalls. "One of them said, 'Well, maybe it is real.'"
And a Few More for Good Luck...
"Starting on opening day -- if we win -- I try to stick to doing all of the same things. If I wore my hair straight, I don't wear it curly on game days. If I took a certain way to work, I'll continue to go that direction. If I go to a game and it's a winner, I have to take all those same things with me, down to whether or not I take my glove..... Until they lose. Then it becomes a contrived (OCD fueled) effort of figuring out my own perfect combination of what to do/what not to do in order to make them win or lose." -- Amy Jo Plummer
"I always put on my left shoe before my right shoe. If I forget and put the right one on first in error, I start all over! It works! I started doing this in 2011." -- Mary Clausen (mlbvoice.com)
"Every time it rained where I live in Alaska, the Cardinals won. So the days that it wouldn't rain I would go outside in my Cards gear and perform a makeshift rain dance. It worked some times, even if it didn't rain that day. Coincidence? Probably. But I have to try something being thousands of miles away." -- Cody Lintez
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.