03/29/11 10:00 AM ET
Cards fan pushes home-opener streak to 60
Players change, but Tarantola, 83, remains constant in crowd
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
"No, no," he says, and explains that in fact the more accurate statement is that the tickets have been in his family nearly that long, dating to 1937. Tarantola, you see, has only been to every Cardinals home opener since he finished up college and his time in the service. For "the last few years" since then, he says over the phone from his winter home in Fort Myers, Fla.
Only every one since 1952.
When the Cardinals and Padres face off at Busch Stadium on Thursday afternoon, Tarantola will be attending his 60th consecutive lid-lifter in St. Louis. That's a string covering three stadiums, 10 managers (not counting in-season replacements) and 36 different starting pitchers. He's seen Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Albert Pujols and even former President George W. Bush. And he has no plans to slow down any time soon.
"My favorite when I was a kid was Dizzy Dean and Paul Dean, who were outstanding pitchers," Tarantola recalls. "And I always did like the two Cooper brothers, Mort and Walker. But my favorite was Stan Musial."
He enjoys today's players, too, and loves his Cardinals as much as ever. But he preferred the pregame ceremonies in the old days. A modern St. Louis home opener includes the Budweiser Clydesdales, a motorcade around the warning track and appearances by the club's Hall of Famers. Decades ago, though, Tarantola recalls a different scene.
"It was not like that at Sportsman's Park," he recalls. "They always came out and introduced the players years ago, then they'd come out and do tricks on the field, with bats and balls."
He recalls something almost like a carnival on the field -- certainly the sort of thing that would have appealed to a youngster. Tarantola is 83 and recalls Cardinals games from his school days.
For Tarantola's 60th straight home opener, he's planning to attend with three of his best friends: Mike Danna, Leonard Griggs and former St. Louis mayor Jim Conway. In past years he would attend with clients from his banking business, but anymore he doesn't have to worry about such matters. He goes with who he wants to go with, sits in his seats four rows behind the home dugout and takes it all in.
Just like he has for six decades.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.