Saxon: Excited to cover my hometown St. Louis Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- They say the losses stick with you longer than the wins. The bitterest loss I’ve felt rooting on a team came Oct. 27, 1985.

People remember that middle-of-the-country World Series, if they remember it at all, mostly as the setting for an egregious officiating mistake, Don Denkinger’s blown “safe” call at first base in the ninth inning of Game 6.

As a high school sophomore in West St. Louis County, I didn’t think the Cardinals were dead against the Kansas City Royals in the series, not with ace John Tudor on the mound. All day long at school, when I thought about it, which was a lot, I felt pretty good about Game 7, for some odd reason.

It didn’t take long to show what I knew. The St. Louis Cardinals got blown out 11-0. Tudor was bad and Bret Saberhagen was really, really good.

The tension in our house that night still lingers in my memory. I had had to spend a lot of the evening in the basement working on a school essay. I put it off until the night before it was due, which – in retrospect – was pretty good training for a career on deadline. I kept hoping for a turnaround, but every time I opened the door to our family room, the news was worse. It was 2-0 Royals after the second inning, 5-0 after the third and over by the fifth.

My father, who grew up rooting on the Gashouse Gang as a toddler and Stan Musial as a teenager, made it clear his path was to be generally avoided that evening, his mood and all of ours darkened by a series that felt like it was ripped from our hands.

In 18 years covering baseball, I’ve never loved the term, “Best Fans in Baseball,” that somebody slapped on St. Louis at some point. It just feels too vague. If you think fans on the West Coast are barely engaged, you haven’t been to a game lately at AT&T Park or Dodger Stadium, especially when the Giants and Dodgers are playing.

No city has better-informed fans than New York or Boston. I’ve had baseball discussions on subway trips to Yankee Stadium and stepped onto the platform wondering how a random guy 2,500 miles away seems to know as much about the players I cover as I do.

What’s unique about St. Louis, to me, is the breadth of the bond between the area and the team. I barely know a soul in St. Louis who goes to sleep without knowing the details of that night’s game. The whole region’s mood rises and falls, every day, with the fortunes of a team for more than six months every spring, summer and, usually, fall.

That widespread passion is among the reasons I’m so thrilled to be coming home to cover the Cardinals. I was 12 when Willie McGee made his major-league debut. I loved Jack Buck’s wry humor and gravelly voice. I still miss it.

When my ESPN.com editors asked me if I was interested in changing beats a year ago, I basically said, “Sort of, but not really.” I have a family, including two young boys and a pit mix named Moe. We have roots in L.A., good, deep ones that we’ll miss.

When the editors approached me again in November, I was more interested, and so were they.

So it’s time to launch this blog and start providing daily, multi-platform coverage of the Cardinals, from the first day of spring training until their final out, whenever and wherever that may be. We’ll analyze what offseason moves general manager John Mozeliak has up his sleeve, if he does, between now and spring training. We’ll be on the ground in Jupiter when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 17. We’ll be there through the ups and downs of a season, every day.

I couldn’t be prouder to be the person they’ve appointed as the messenger. I think my hometown deserves it.