It has been about twenty months since being diagnosed with Stage Four Colon Cancer. I am now at the point in which most of the cancer is gone. I now live with cancer that will remain with me but controlled through chemo. I have found my peace of mind and comfort from memories of my dad and 1970s Cardinals baseball.
My dad Mac McBrayer loved sports, his roots started from playing stick ball with his brothers in the dusty fields of Texas. When World War II was over he left Texas to be with my mom Mitzie in St. Louis where they married and lived their lives. He was a true Cardinal Baseball Fan but would not give up his Dallas Cowboys for the Cardinals Football team. I always remember my dad telling me that the most exciting part of his life was when his nephew Charlie James signed with the Cardinals.
My earliest memory of my Dad and the Cardinals was when he would work outside pulling weeds or cleaning up the yard, he would have KMOX on listening to the Cardinals game. I would sit on the porch and play with my toys while I heard names like, Ted Simmons, Jose Cruz, Bob Gibson and Joe Torre. I was fascinated by the commentary of Jack Buck and Mike Shannon but when the games where televised I became all eyes and ears. The towering homeruns from Reggie Smith , the stolen bases by Brock, the defensive skills of Kenny Reitz and The Mad Hungarian’s intensity was inspiring to me.
I don’t recall my first Cardinal Baseball game but I can still visualize me and my dad way up behind home plate taking in a Cardinals game. I can close my eyes and see him cracking open peanuts from the shell and drinking Cocoa-Cola. The peanut shells would be all over the concrete floor and he looked so happy being there with me. I remember dad showing me the right way in cracking open a peanut. I would get it right or make a big mess but my mind was on Keith Hernandez’s at bat.
As a pre-teen my dad eventually signed me up for youth baseball. I was interested in the catchers position since I was a Ted Simmons fan. It took me a while to develop the skills but I recall the coaches seeing potential in me. The weapon of choice was my Joe Torre bat. I recall my dad and one of the coaches working with my hitting skills. It paid off for me. It was a hot sunny day I remember my mom and dad watching the game but I would never look over to see them. I was up at bat waiting for a high fast ball for me to crank. The pitch was in my zone and I swung my Joe Torre bat like Thor’s hammer. The ball flew into the sunlight in which I couldn’t see where it was going or if it was caught, all I can hear is Run, Joe, Run!!!! Well I have no idea if it was a home run or if our team won or not what was important to me was that I touched home plate. I also got big hugs from mom and dad plus a look from mom, she had broke her glasses when she jumped up from her seat when I hit that ball. It was then I kept my George Hendrick baseball card on my night stand.
My memories are important to me. I believe it helps the healing process.
I can proudly say I have finally got to meet Ted Simmons, Lou Brock, Joe Torre, and Al Habrosky.
Run Joe Run