One morning in May, The Post-Dispatch ran a photo illustration on its front page that depicted Albert Pujols in a Chicago Cubs uniform. This confused and unnerved by son, who had just turned 5. Ever since he’s been consumed by this notion that Pujols could — gasp! — play for another team. He has waffled from saying that he would find a new Cardinal to cheer to suggesting he would find a new team to root for if Pujols leaves. I tried to explain free agency in his terms:
To him, Ryan Howard may be from St. Louis but will always play for the Philadelphia Phillies. Derek Jeter and Mickey Mantle will always be New York Yankees because their pinstripes say so. Stan Musial might as well have just retired from the Cardinals, Ruth only played for the New York Yankees, and even Ian Kinsler “is now a Texas and not a (Mizzou) Tiger,” the little guy once said. To him, Pujols’ Cardinals jersey is part of his identity, as essential to the picture as Spider-Man’s webs. It’s how he first recognized Pujols on his baseball cards and on TV. I imagine it was the same for your kids, too. Free agency is not just a foreign concept, it contradicts his world view. Only bad guys change sides, like Anakin Skywalker did when he left the Jedi for a more lucrative lifetime deal with the Sith.
This article was the result of our ongoing conversations about what a 5-year-old fan is to think about a hero leaving for greener … cash.
The 2011 World Series display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., featuring items from “The Cardinals’ Comeback.” Look closely in the corners and you’ll see four editions of The Post-Dispatch. We were proud of our coverage during October, and it’s a nice nod from the Hall to include the paper with game-used bats, game-worn caps and one game-torn jersey (David Freese’s No. 23 in the center).