Tradition. Respect for the game. Hard work. These are some of the most mendacious lies said about baseball.
The Cardinals are probably one of the most trusted St. Louis institutions, right up there with whoever makes the bricks and whoever makes the fences. This has nothing to do with the players themselves, who are mostly very competent, very boring dudes from some of the most boring places in the Western Hemisphere. I have no ill will towards them! They're all going to be Reds in 5-8 years anyways!
But the Cardinals are St. Louis. And not the fun, devil-may-care St. Louis of El Lenador's Mexican rock bands or Bosna Gold's David Lynch-on-the-Drina, or barbecued snoots. The Cards are rather the be-polo shirted St. Louis of the county seeping back into the city like fetid bilge water. The Cardinals are the Ballpark Village where tall tees are illegal. The Cardinals are Bailey's godforsaken chocolate-liquor bar. You know those jokes about how "the German language has a word for [awesome concept English lacks]?" St. Louisians go to Bar Louie and say shit like "Yeah, did you know that those folks in Cincinnati use this word 'fun'? It's weird, right. I guess the closest we can come is 'smiling with propriety."
St. Louis has been part of the United States for 210 years now, and every one of those years has been marked by White fears of Black people ever imagining that they are of equal worth. Missouri had slavery outlawed in 1865, and literally every generation since then has seen Whites dispossessing Blacks of their financial and emotional worth, be it through outright violence, freezing out from the American Dream, destruction of Black neighborhoods, or mortgage theft. This is the St. Louis we have today.
It's not all that different from the Cincinnati we have today, the San Francisco we have today, or the pretty much every American city. Which is kind of the joke; what St. Louis prides itself most on is what it shares with every city in America. This faux and flimsy concept of tradition and stick-to-it-iveness is literally the awfulness and racism that built this country.
When protestors came to Busch III a couple weeks ago to suggest to the city that Black Lives Matter, they were standing on property that was taken from Black families to build a stadium. Sportsman's Park was the last stadium around to enforce Jim Crow laws, like a glowing radioactive chunk of apartheid stuck in America's Game. This was the Musial years; this is the history that the Cardinals hearken back to.
So it was probably a bit much to ask that the Cardinals do something to respect or even acknowledge why the country's attention has been focused on St. Louis for the past few months. Asking the Cardinals to question or even acknowledge their institutional involvement with anti-Black violence is going to be a step too far. It'd be like asking the mayor why there's so little public transportation in the north side, asking WUSTL about their role in the Nuisance Abatement on Delmar, or even wondering why it's so hard to find a bank and not a check-cashing joint in certain neighborhoods. This is just the way things are, of course. Blacks have always been poor and angry and trying to get in the way of our good time, of course. It has nothing to do with any semblance of Black success and power-wielding being destroyed in every single generation of American history. Of course.
This way of painting normality with the broad brush of tradition is a way to forget and disappear not just how we got here but who didn't make the trip with us. The Cardinals can choose, I suppose, to be Thomas Kinkade's Ball Club. And I'll keep on hoping to find Jacob Lawrence's team (which, no, probably isn't the Reds but when it's ever made it will feature Eric Davis in some format). The Cardinals succeed on this lukewarm wave of normcore achievement which isn't just boring but actively destructive towards huge swathes of St. Louis and not to mention the country and considering Monsanto's actively involved more than that too.
Do black lives matter? To me and you, yeah, but to a whole lot of others the answer is more like "not unless they can throw a slider." The Cardinals hearken back to a time when that question wasn't worth acknowledging and, once again, refuse to answer the question today. The whole entire concept of tradition in baseball is to try and hide the Bob Gibsons under a blanket of Clyde Sukeforths.
The Cardinals – again, on an institutional level – represent the retrograde, fuddy-duddy and in case it bears repeating violent disposession in history. They were kind of forced to own up to it in October, but they did so proudly. This whole article may have made more sense if I was able to finish it during the NLCS, but since I wasn't, let me be clear: bury St. Louis.