I’ve never participated in the “get to know your friendly neighborhood blogger” project, but this seemed like the year to do it…and wouldn’t you know it, Daniel Shoptaw — the founder of the United Cardinal Bloggers (UCB) — decided the rookie gets the Big Cheese, the Head Honcho, the man responsible for organized Cardinal blogging as we know it. Yep, you guessed it…Daniel “The Godfather” himself.
Below are a few questions (CNS) for He-of-Many-Names. His wonderfully thoughtful answers are indicated by the tag “The Godfather.” And just because Daniel was terrified that his answers would be analyzed by “the therapist” of the group (me), we’ll do just that. So, each answer will be followed by a bit of “WHAT IT REALLY MEANS” commentary.
But enough introduction…AWAY WE GO!
CNS: Why do you blog? Why the UCB?
The Godfather: See, that’s not fair. Starting off with deep questions like this. I’ve really got to talk to the guy who made up these pairings.
I’d say that I blog because I’m better with the written word than the spoken. Watching the Cardinals and following them fairly intently has been a pastime of mine for a while and it got to the point where message boards just weren’t quite where I wanted to elaborate on what I was seeing and reading. I started writing, enjoyed doing it and now I can’t imagine quitting no matter what the readers want.
The second part of the question, why the UCB, probably plays into our need for community. It’s great to watch a game. It’s more fun to talk about the game with friends. That’s what the UCB provides, at least in part. The projects are nice and I think they help enliven everyone’s blog with something different, but the reason the UCB is still going six years on is the fact we’ve gotten a chance to know each other, to do radio shows or Tweet back and forth or exchange emails or even, gasp, meet each other in person. (Somehow the group survived a face-to-face encounter. I’d have lost a lot of money on that bet.) I’m glad that the idea came to me, but I’m much more glad of the people that have responded so enthusiastically.
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: “I got kicked off of every respectable social forum on the internet, so I decided to take my ball, go home, and start my OWN internet social group. Plus…my wife said she would leave me if I explained the double-switch one more time.”
CNS: What is important to you? Think, “If I had one hour to live and a tape recorder, what do people need to know about me?”
The Godfather: One of the great things about regularly writing places is that, assuming I keeled over tomorrow, people should be able to know a pretty good bit about me from reading my posts. They’d know that the faith, family and baseball mantra is strong with me (and in that order, before anyone gets any ideas). They’d know that baseball was the only game and that the Cardinals were really the only team. Plus they’d know about my sci-fi interests as well, so there’s really not much else I could say in a tape recorder. I’d probably waste it all wondering why Matheny was using three pitchers in the ninth inning of a five-run game.
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: “When they finally stick me in the ground, they’ll need a second casket for all my Star Wars and Star Trek action figures. God told me I get to take them with me. He didn’t mention your collection. Guess you got some work to do, eh…?”
CNS: What is your “why-I’m-a-Cardinals-fan” story?
The Godfather: I actually came to baseball pretty late. I never played the game (though I did do the statistics for my high school team and got a state championship ring out of the deal) and it probably wasn’t until about 1987 that I threw myself into reading, watching and thinking about the sport. Of course, that’d be right at the time the Cardinals were pretty good, but I don’t think it was all tied to that, though there’s nothing that I can put my finger on that says, “That’s why I’m a Cardinals fan.” My dad followed the Cards, though not necessarily as religiously as I do, so there was that influence. The minor league team in Little Rock was a Cardinal affiliate at the time and between that and KMOX influencing the last generation, this area has always been Cardinal country. I also remember my very first “favorite player” was Ozzie Smith, so put all that together and I was almost destined to be following the Redbirds.
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: “Dad came to me one day and said, ‘Son, it’s time to make a decision. Become a Cardinals fan…or move out. I won’t have a Royals or Cubs fan living under my roof at your age.’ Hey, what was a 6-year old to do?!”
CNS: Tell me about your “best Christmas ever” — especially as a child. What made it special? What was your best Christmas gift ever? Etc.
The Godfather: At least in my memory, faulty as it is, holidays blur. I can vaguely remember things about Christmases growing up, but I don’t remember any gift or outing that stood out as extra-special. I know I got a lot of my Star Wars toys in that manner, but I can’t quite put my finger on any one thing in particular.
So perhaps my best Christmas memory is from about 5 years ago. My son had started to get into Star Wars and, after I had bestowed upon him so many of my old toys on his birthday, wanted the new Millennium Falcon for Christmas. Now, every year my grandmother gives money for us to get gifts for us and the kids, so I took my portion and his portion and got the Falcon for him. We hid it away, of course, and given the way the schedule worked out that year, he’d had two other Christmases before we got together with my mom’s side of the family. I think he’d thought it wasn’t coming, but when he started taking off the paper and saw what it was, he went running around the room and hugging on the box. That’s a Christmas memory I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget!
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: “I wanted the new Millennium Falcon. My son got some money. I informed him he was now a Star Wars fan. Hey…I gotta’ feed and clothe him for 18 years. It’s time for him to give back a little. Now, excuse me while Han, Chewie, and I spend some quality time together.” (I should note, I also have the new Millennium Falcon. It’s pretty cool. – Kevin)
CNS: What is your favorite/best St. Louis Cardinals experience/memory?
The Godfather: There are lots of great memories from watching the Cardinals. I can still remember pretty much where I was Labor Day weekend in 1998 when McGwire hit 59 and 60 and 61 and then 62. Pacing and Tweeting during Chris Carpenter’s start against the Phillies in 2011 was amazingly intense. Seeing two World Championships come to St. Louis has been incredible as well.
The experiences, save a couple, have all been related to the UCB. UCB Weekend is now the highlight of my year, what with dinner the night before with the various bloggers and then going to the game the next day with them, sitting in the suites, talking baseball or anything else, and watching the Cardinals play ball. How the organization has treated us as valued friends has been outstanding and is something that I’m extremely grateful for.
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: “They like me!!! They really, REALLY like me!!!!!”
CNS: Which piece of Cardinals memorabilia would you love to own?
The Godfather: Why, is Ozzie selling some more stuff?
I would have liked to have had the money to get some of the stuff out of his collections. The Gold Gloves or maybe something from the “Go Crazy” homer. If I was limited to only one thing, though, I’d think it’d have to be something related to Stan Musial. Maybe one of his bats, maybe the one he got 3630 with. Maybe a glove or a cap. Whatever the piece, just knowing that it came from the greatest Cardinal ever to play the game would make it an amazingly treasured possession.
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: “In baseball, as in life, there are times when you earn your base…and there are times when you steal it. Guess which one this is. What? Uh…no…that is absolutely NOT Ozzie’s junk mail in my backpack. Hey! He wasn’t using it!!!”
CNS: Who is your favorite Cardinal of all time and why?
The Godfather: I will say that the current group of Cardinals are threatening to rewrite any rankings I might have of favorite players. I am a huge Adam Wainwright fan for what he does on and off the field, plus his humble and honest personality. You can’t fail to appreciate what Yadier Molina does or what Chris Carpenter has brought to the team. And I can only imagine what we’ll be thinking of people like Shelby Miller or Michael Wacha or Oscar Taveras in a few years.
If it’s overall, though, I think you probably still have to go with Ozzie, just because, to modify the saying used about Doctor Who, “You never forget your first Cardinal.” Ozzie was the one that I latched on to when I began watching baseball and, even if he’s not been perfect in the years since then, it’s going to be tough to topple him from that top spot. Albert Pujols had a shot before he left, Adam Wainwright might get there before it’s all said and done. But right now, it’s the Wizard.
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: “I have my own personal spot picked out in Ozzie’s bushes. It’s amazing how well you can see the game on his TV from here.”
CNS: What are your three favorite television shows right now and why? What is your one favorite show of all time?
The Godfather: Three favorites? Hmmm. I don’t watch just a ton of TV, so listing three favorites would just about be listing the entirety of my watching experience on a weekly basis. I love Castle, because of the humor and because Nathan Fillion is still Captain Mal to me. As I wrote in both of the posts transitioning from my old site to the current one, my wife finally got me to watch Doctor Who and given that I went through seven seasons (granted, British seasons aren’t quite as long, but still) in about six months, you could say that it took. We also tended to record most of CBS Thursday (Big Bang Theory, Person of Interest, Elementary) and enjoy all of those as well.
All-time? I’d be remiss in not mentioning Friends, given the fact that my fandom of that indirectly (it’s about a six degree of separation, but it’s there) led to me meeting my wife. I’d probably say Deep Space Nine, though, because not only was that the best Star Trek, it also was the only Star Trek with baseball on it (and the actor who played Jake Sisco was actually related to Kenny Lofton, which I tried not to hold against him).
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: “Uh…yes. I liked ‘Friends.’ I’m sorry. No, I was not in favor of N-Sync getting back together. Why do you ask?” (I should note that Daniel and I could geek out for a VERY long time over DS9 and Star Wars.)
CNS: If you could have dinner with three people from all of history (or current), who would they be and why?
The Godfather: I once had dinner with my family, Ron Watermon, and Lindsey Weber. That was a pretty good meal, even if I just talked all the way through it and didn’t bother eating.
Oh, right, the fantasy “who comes to your best dinner party” scenario. Sorry. While many of the standard answers are quite relevant (Jesus, Benjamin Franklin, Brendan Ryan….oh, wait, that’s just Erika), we know they are pretty much all going to be baseball. George Lucas could be fun to talk to, but I think I’d still want to have Ozzie, maybe Red Schoendienst, and someone like Waino at the table. Various eras, various positions, but all willing to tell stories and talk about the game. (Though from what I understand, if I want stories perhaps I should invite Steve Kline……)
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: “Yes, I have written Ozzie Smith several love letters over the last few years. No, I have not mailed all of them…more than twice. Why do you keep asking these odd questions. Are you a cop?!”
CNS: If you could just have a few beers with three people, who would they be and why?
The Godfather: You know I don’t drink, Kevin. Though sitting around a table with some Killebrews and any combination of the UCB, such as yourself, Bob Netherton, and Dathan Brooks or Dathan, Bill Ivie, and Dennis Lawson or Christine Coleman, Matt Whitener and Josh Gilliam….the combinations are endless. I could list out every member of the UCB here and not go wrong. But as we find out every year, when we get together, the conversations are great and the fun is tremendous.
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: “I like to sit at a table while everyone else gets hammered…and then laugh at them and take their shoes. Dathan’s shoes are very small…which makes everyone laugh harder. I love my job.” (I have to say that my list would include Mike Rowe, Gordon Ramsey, Stan Musial, and Jesus. Talk about sharin’ a pitcher with some fun dudes. – Kevin)
CNS: What does baseball — past and present — mean to you?
The Godfather: Seriously? I asked Scott Turner questions like “Adam Wainwright or Chris Carpenter” and you are asking me to wax philosophical on the game itself? I’m not sure this well is deep enough to take on that one!
Baseball means continuity. It means the day to day. It means what’s going on in the background of your life. You may be having a terrible day, but from April to October, you can pretty much guarantee that you can flip on your TV and see a game. You can put it on and do other things or you can sit there and watch every pitch. No matter how high or how low, how great the walkoff or how devastating the blown save, it’ll be there again the next day. It keeps going on and on and on.
Baseball stands for life and, for me, it also stands for faith. The ball is stitched with red stitches, just like my life is stitched up with the blood of Christ. The object of baseball, like life, is a short trip around the bases and then to come home. Your family is your team. You take your cuts in life and, whether you strike out or lace a solid single to left and then trip over your own feet trying to go to second, you get back in there when your time comes up again. Keep plugging. Keep working. We don’t live life once a week. We live it every day.
The one constant in all the years, Kevin, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. Oh, people will…..sorry. Got carried away. There’s a reason that speech still reverberates, though, and it’s not because of the deep bass of James Earl Jones. It’s because it’s true. Baseball DOES mark the time. May it never forget it.
WHAT IT REALLY MEANS: Exactly what it says, yo.
You can read Daniel at his blog, www.cardinal70.com. You can also check out all of the UCB Interviews over at the United Cardinal Bloggers site. If the post and links ain’t up yet, keep checkin’. They’ll be there soon.