With apologies to Clark Gable as Rhett Butler…
Back at the end of the 2011, when Albert Pujols left the Cardinals, I wasn’t very charitable. As a matter of fact, I was convinced I was going to hate him forever. In retrospect, it’s kind of embarrassing just how angry I was and just how personally I took it. I think that goes to show how much our local athletes mean to us, when that sense of betrayal cuts so deep. At the time, I didn’t want him to be happy or successful without the Cardinals, and I certainly didn’t want to see his team win.
But as the years went by, I realized how ridiculous that was. I mean, I wasn’t going to cheer for him, but I realized I didn’t hate him, and never actually had. Time heals all wounds, I guess, and time did indeed march on, and my resentment faded, to the point that when he returned to Busch Stadium in an opposing uniform, I was actually happy to see him back in “Baseball Heaven.” It made me smile to see the ovation he got from the people of St. Louis, because he deserved it.
And then more recently, the rumors started swirling that he and the Cardinals were talking…we are going to need a DH this season after all (not thrilled about the DH development, but at least now there’s a silver lining to it!). At first it started out as a near-impossibility, as he was also in talks with other teams. But then the rumors started to ramp up, and it sounded like maybe, against all odds, he was going to come home to finish his career. A fairytale ending that baseball and the city of St. Louis needed.
The words that Bernie Miklasz wrote over a decade ago about Albert’s departure suddenly flipped the narrative:
“…but I still suffer from the disease of naiveté. Baseball does this to a lot of people, me included. Makes us all sappy and romantic. You want the hero to stay and complete the storybook. But it doesn’t work that way in modern sports. Not very often, anyway.”
I guess just this once, in the end, it did work out exactly that way. The hero may not have spent his entire career here, but he was here when it counted, and he returned to complete the storybook. A fairytale ending.