I picked this 70s/80s vintage St. Louis Cardinals tee the other day:
And, it reminded me of a story….
I’m a lover of baseball. I have been since I was seven years old. In fact, I’ve mentioned several times that my penchant for meticulous organization came from my previously undiagnosed OCD tendencies to organize and then reorganize my baseball cards as a kid.
Inevitably, if you’ve been around me when I’ve had a few drinks and we’re swapping stories then this will escape my lips:
“You know, I struck out Matt Holliday in high school!”
Matt Holliday, for those of you that don’t know, is a professional baseball player who currently plays with the St. Louis Cardinals.
See the connection with the Cardinals tee now?
Anyway, I was the starting pitcher for the Ponca City Wildcats in our home opener my senior year. Our opponent was our cross-town rivals: The Stillwater Pioneers.
Among the Stillwater Pioneers was the legendary Matt Holliday himself. Everyone on the team knew back then the kind of skills Matt possessed. We faced Stillwater often and every time we did there were Major League scouts with radar guns in the stands. They would come to see Matt exhibit his God-given gifts.
The lesser, more inept players like myself (whose future consisted of rummaging through old T-shirts instead of playing baseball for a living) saw this as a chance to knock down the golden boy of Stillwater and steal some of his glory for ourselves.
Despite being naturally amped up because this was the first game of my Senior year in front of our home crowd, my adrenaline hit it’s peak when I saw Holliday step into the batters box after the first and second hitters grounded out.
Feeling good at my chances of at least getting out of the first inning unscathed I threw my 82 MPH heat right down the middle. Obviously a mistake pitch. You weren’t supposed to throw an 82 MPH meatball to Matt Holliday because he’d more than likely hit it right back through the back of your head.
Luckily for me the bat never left his shoulder.
“STRIKE ONE!” the umpire yelled.
I realized that I was INCREDIBLY lucky not to have a baseball shaped hole going through the middle of my face. I tried to be a little more accurate on the second fastball…. but I pretty much accidentally threw the same pitch a second time.
Again, the bat never left his shoulder.
“STRIKE TWO!” the umpire screamed.
I was slightly confused because Holliday wasn’t swinging. I knew that I probably looked like an ant throwing a bowling ball to him because his natural talent and immense size dwarfed all of us regular peons. I was merely a stepping stone for this kid to walk all over with his giant, size 200 cleats! Why didn’t he swing at my 82 mph gifts? Regardless, I stepped on the rubber and prepared my final pitch.
The catcher called for a curveball.
I threw the curve.
What materialized out of this pitch was probably the worst curveball I’d ever thrown. The minute it came out of my hand I knew it wasn’t right. Its trajectory would put it in the general vicinity of the last two fastballs I had thrown… only much slower and easier to track. This kind of curveball is called a “hanging” curveball. Not exactly the kind of pitch you’d want to throw to a behemoth like Matt Holliday.
As the ball headed right for the future Major League Baseball All-Star’s wheelhouse I imagined one of two things:
1. He would hit the ball straight at me and it would shatter my testes into a million unintelligible pieces, or
2. the ball would go down in history as being the furthest ball hit at our baseball field
Luckily for me, neither of those happened.
What I assume happened was that I surprised him with such a tailor-made pitch to deposit somewhere between home plate and the planet Pluto that he wound up swinging with every ounce of strength he had and completely missed.
Strike three. Inning over.
Matt Holliday went on to be drafted by the Colorado Rockies, played in the World Series, played briefly for the Oakland Athletics and eventually became a superstar who agreed on a contract worth $120 million to play in St. Louis.
And I got this really cool article:
These days, while I’m digging for more cool tees to talk about on this blog, I think about Matt Holliday from time to time and wonder to myself, “Does Matt Holliday even remember being struck out by my skinny little punk ass?”
Quite frankly, the answer is, “Uh… hell no.” He’s too busy navigating around his jumbo-sized muscles to give a meaningless high school strikeout a second thought. However, what he doesn’t realize is that his ineptness to connect off any one of my pitches has given me a story that would make Uncle Rico proud.
For more baseball and/or sports related vintage tees simply go to my eBay store, click “VTG Sports Tees & Apparel” under the categories section and choose what sport you’re looking for.