Reading posts here can be a little on the depressing side. But sometimes I come across a nice story. Usually not even directly, or even indirectly related to politics that makes me smile. Well if you are a baseball and/or sports fan, or you just would like a short feel good story, then follow me below the fold for more.
You have to either be a St. Louis Cardinals fan or a baseball geek to have heard of Rick Ankiel before this weekend. Rick Ankiel just a few years ago was the Cardinals fresh-faced phenom with a jaw-dropping curveball and blistering fastball. It was thought he would be the best lefthanded pitcher the Cardinals ever had.
In 2000, during Ankiel’s rookie season with the St. Louis Cardinals, the young left-hander struck out 194 batters in 175 innings. His fastball topped out in the mid-90 mph range, complemented by a curve that had the aerodynamic action of a Whiffle ball.
Then it all came undone, against Atlanta, in Game 1 of a 2000 NL Division Series. Taking a 6-0 lead into the top of the third, Ankiel became the first major-leaguer in 110 years to throw five wild pitches in an inning.
It was one of the most painful things I've ever watched. My friends, even those die-hard fans of the Braves called and emailed to say how sorry, yes how sorry they were. These were not just wild pitches, several hit the backstop without bouncing. With every pitch that went to the backstop, you could see the look of helplessness on Ankiel's face. It was gut-wrenching. And not once, until he was pulled, did manager Tony LaRussa ever visit the mound. In the minds of many Cardinals fans Tony could win 10 World Championships in a row and he'd never be forgiven for this.
He tried to come back in 2001 but was ineffective in six starts. He was sent down to the minors. To make matters worse he then blew out his elbow and required surgery that sidelined him for most of the next two seasons. When he threw only three strikes in a 23-pitch "simulated" training game in 2005, Ankiel was put on waivers. No takers.
Everybody thought his short career was done. Everybody but Rick Ankiel. He told the organization he wanted a chance to become an outfielder. Well, a few days ago he was called up from the Cardinal's AAA Memphis team. He'd been playing excellent defensive in the outfield. But he also had 32 home runs (leading the league) and 87 RBIs (leading the league).
In his first game, home run. Second game, two home runs and an RBI hit. Ankiel is 6-for-16 with three homers and six RBI and a 375 BA. The three curtain calls at Busch had to be nice for both Ankiel and the Cardinal faithful. It is still early, and there may be more sad days ahead for Ankiel and Cardinal Nation, but right now everything is as it should be.
Oh, did I mentioned the Cardinals have another failed pitcher-turned-outfielder in their history, his name was Stan Musial!