Wyche's St. Louis Cardinals memories
Best performance: Ottis Anderson rushing for 193 yards in his rookie debut against the Dallas Cowboys (1979). Of course, St. Louis lost 22-21.
Saddest moment: Promising tight end J.V. Cain dying from heart failure after a practice in training camp in 1979.
Most heralded part of the team: The great offensive line, with Tom Banks, Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler. Nasty, nasty, nasty.
Least heralded part of the team: The personnel department.
Best wide receiver before Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin: Mel Gray.
Most electrifying player: Terry Metcalf.
Favorite defensive player: E.J. Junior.
Let me make it clear that I am not a fan of the Arizona Cardinals. I am not a hater, either. It's just that when you cover pro sports, you don't cover teams as much as you cover issues and personalities, so loyalties are a myth. Besides, as a kid, the Vikings were my team -- Chuck Foreman, Fran Tarkenton, Carl Eller and Allen Page. Trust me, having the Vikings lose four Super Bowls was less painful than emotionally investing in the St. Louis Cardinals.
Still, the Cardinals were a part of St. Louis, and for those of us who've grown up in blue-collar regions -- where intentions are usually pretty noble, and people appreciate all that's given to them and, even more, what is earned -- the Big Red was part of the fabric. So anything that was St. Louis meant something to us. Jim Hart, Terry Metcalf, Jackie Smith, Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler, Roger Wehrli, Ottis "O.J." Anderson, J.V. Cain, Don Coryell -- these were guys we saw on our local highlight programs, because they certainly weren't getting much national publicity -- plus, this was a pre-"Total Access" era, pre-"SportsCenter."
This was when we had to go to old Busch Stadium to see the Cardinals play. I was lucky -- or in some cases, not so lucky -- to go to plenty of games, usually in the freezing cold. Regardless, memories were forged, despite the losses.
When the Cardinals moved to Phoenix, there wasn't the fan outcry like in Cleveland or Baltimore -- the team hadn't given us much to hang onto, besides a lovable group of personalities and a schedule that brought the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles and Redskins to town every year. Plus, the fan base had grown very disenchanted with ownership, which didn't seem to provide much hope or love for a city dying to give it back.
As a teenager, we felt we could shrug off the void of the Big Red's departure because we had the other Cardinals -- our baseball Redbirds with Willie McGee, Whitey Herzog, Bruce Sutter, Ozzie Smith, Joaquin Andujar, Tommy Herr, Terry Pendleton, Keith Hernandez, Ted Simmons and others. Baseball season didn't run long enough, though.