(Originally performed at Second-Hand Stories.)
Patrick John Redmond the first is my grandfather, and he’s 94 years old.
By now, he’s been retired longer than he worked. He has the kindest blue eyes and the sweetest laugh. He’s probably the best human on the planet, and I’ve only really come to appreciate that in the last couple years.
So now, whenever I go home to visit my family in Omaha, Nebraska, I make sure to set aside some time to spend with my grandpa, and most of his stories, I’ve just recently learned. It makes me wish I’d started asking him questions and letting him do all the talking years ago. I mean, seriously, I’d trade all of our conversations about my stupid high school soccer games and college English courses for more stories of his time overseas during World War II or his life with my grandmother, who died six years ago.
Anyway, last Christmas, I spent a solid 2 hours listening to my grandpa, and this story in particular stood out to me, especially because he and I have always bonded over sports.
In 1964, my grandpa and grandma and another couple, Jim and Judy, planned a week-long trip to St. Louis and they had tickets to see the St. Louis Cardinals football team play the Baltimore Colts at old Busch Stadium that October.
My grandpa says, “The Colts had that famous quarterback, oh, what was his name?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
Hey, it was 50 years ago. Give him a break.
Well that October, the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team made an incredible late push for the National League pennant. With 12 games to play, the Cards trailed the Phillies by 6½ games and four teams still had a mathematical chance to win the pennant. On the last day of the season, the Cardinals came from behind to beat the Mets to win the National League and earn a trip to the World Series to face the American League champion New York Yankees.
It was amazing for St. Louis fans, but it also meant the NFL would have to move the Cardinals vs. Colts football game to Baltimore because the World Series took priority for use of Busch Stadium.
My grandparents and their friends already had their vacation planned, and the football game was only part of it, so they went to St. Louis anyway.
But, my grandpa and his buddy, Jim, also loved baseball. So they decided, what the heck, let’s go down to Busch Stadium and see if we can get some tickets to Game 1 of the World Series. It was Oct. 7, 1964. “The girls didn’t mind,” my grandpa says. “They went shopping.”
My grandpa and Jim found a scalper and bought two tickets in the upper deck, first base side. My grandpa doesn’t remember how much they paid for the tickets, but “we were on vacation, and it was the World Series.”
They went in early to watch batting practice and to get all of their money’s worth for the day. Before the game started, my grandpa and Jim hit up the concession stand for a couple of oat sodas and hot dogs. While standing in line, they struck up a conversation with the man behind them. He was from New York and in town for business, so it just worked out for him to come to the game. However, when he bought his World Series tickets, they made him buy tickets for all four games in St. Louis, and he was only going to be there for games 1 and 2, and then he’d go back to New York. He asked my grandpa if they wanted to buy the tickets for games 6 and 7 tickets from him. He had four seats together in the lower deck, first base side.
“There was no guarantee the series would even go to 6 or 7 games, so it was a risk,” my grandpa says. “But he offered us a reasonable price and we couldn’t pass it up.” Like he said before, they were on vacation, and it was the World Series.
My grandpa and Jim took their seats and settled in for Game 1. “The ballpark was jumpin,” my grandpa says. They had a great time watching the Cardinals come from behind to win. “I couldn’t tell you the score, but everyone was drinking and cheering, and it was hard not to be excited.” The final score was 9-5.
The next day, the Yankees won game 2 when the Cardinals’ bullpen blew it for starting pitcher Bob Gibson. My grandpa wasn’t in the stands for that one, but they were still in St. Louis, and now he had a lot more riding on the outcome of each game.
“Bunch of bums,” my grandpa says of the bullpen, shaking his head. “But Bob Gibson, he was something else.”
My grandpa loves Bob Gibson. Bob Gibson is from Omaha, and like most mid-sized cities, any local sports hero transcends team fandom. So even if you didn’t like the Cardinals, you liked Bob Gibson. And it was easy to be a fan of Bob Gibson. He went to Omaha Technical High School and Creighton University, where he actually played basketball. After graduation, he played for the Harlem Globetrotters for a year before joining the Cardinals baseball organization. Nine-time all-star, 1968 National League MVP, two Cy Young Awards and inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981. You know, not bad.
The World Series went to New York for game 3, and the Yankees took that one on a walk-off Mickey Mantle home run during what would be the baseball legend’s final World Series. St. Louis won game 4 to tie the series at two games apiece, which meant it would at least go to a Game 6. My grandparents extended their stay in St. Louis by a couple days.
Bob Gibson pitched again in Game 5 and this time, he went the distance. He pitched a 10-inning complete game, and the Cardinals won it on Tim McCarver’s three-run homer in the 10th.
Oct. 14, 1964, and my grandpa and grandma along with their friends, Jim and Judy, were in the lower deck, first base side at old Busch Stadium.
“Your grandmother didn’t care much about baseball,” my grandpa says, “but she knew it was historic and that we’d spent money on the tickets. She had a ball. We all did. And we were secretly rooting against the Cardinals, just so we could come back for Game 7.”
My grandpa got his wish. The Yankees took Game 6, powered by another Mickey Mantle home run, and tied the series at three games apiece.
The next day, Oct. 15, 1964, the fearsome foursome from Omaha, Nebraska, was back at old Busch Stadium. And wouldn’t you know it, Bob Gibson was back on the mound on two days’ rest. He started three World Series games in a span of eight days.
“It was incredible,” my grandpa says, shaking his head. “I don’t know how that guy did it, but it was masterful.”
Bob Gibson pitched another complete game and the Cardinals won the World Series against the New York Yankees. Bob Gibson was of course named the World Series MVP.
Perhaps the most incredible thing about this story is the way my grandfather tells it. The twinkle in his eye and the smile on his face shows how much he loves baseball, but even more than that, it’s the way he shakes his head and chuckles at how the stars perfectly aligned to give him an amazing life experience.
“We never did get that fella’s name who sold us the tickets. I sure would’ve loved to send him a thank you card in New York. … And I never did get to see that Johnny Unitas play.”
Did I mention that my grandfather has a great laugh?