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Publisher's Gallery: IL lawmakers should have a backup plan if Cardinals don't move across the river

Mike Morsch
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I’m not sure anyone realistically thinks the St. Louis Cardinals will move across the river if Missouri lawmakers don’t meet the team’s demand for a new stadium. But that doesn’t mean Illinois shouldn’t have asked.

That’s just what Carlyle Democrat Rep. Kurt Granberg did last year. And Gov. George Ryan hasn’t let the idea get past him. Ryan met late in the summer with Cardinals president Mark Lamping to explore the possibilities of a Cardinals move.

One might surmise that Ryan and Granberg knew the Cubs and White Sox were going to stink in 2002 and were thinking Illinois ought to have at least one good baseball team within its borders. But even these politicians must realize the Cardinals’ flirtation with Illinois is just a wink and a nod designed to make Missouri act like a jealous boyfriend.

In fact, the city of St. Louis in particular would like to eliminate the Illinois factor altogether. According to published reports, Mayor Francis Slay hasn’t been coy about saying that he’d like the city to have a ballpark plan in front of the Cardinals before the Illinois legislature reconvenes in November.

If the Cardinals leave Illinois in the on-deck circle, then what happens? Metro East, and southern Illinois in general, could still use an economic and cultural boost. Peoria, Rockford, Schaumburg and Kane County are having some success with minor league baseball. But those areas have new stadiums and population bases to support them. 

Maybe it’s best that our friends south of Springfield are exposed to a different piece of the sports culture pie.

Like cricket. 

It’s a distant relative to baseball in that it is played with a ball and something resembling a bat, which looks more like a 1960s-era school principal’s paddle. The game is predominantly played in what was once the old British Empire — India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the West Indies and, of course, England. Since none of these places is within spitting distance of southern Illinois, one can assume that the region’s coal miners and farmers have not yet been introduced to the sport, and that an untapped market exists.

The first thing the state needs to do to advance this proposal is hire my friend Reg, a noted newspaperman and the only guy I know who has any knowledge whatsoever of cricket. Reg is Australian and would probably accept the assignment, if for no other reason than that he has not visited southern Illinois and would be happy to do so if cocktails were somehow included in the deal. 

According to Reg, the key to getting fans interested in cricket is the termin-ology, ever so important in baseball. For example, the cricket pitcher is called a “bowler” and the catcher is called a “wicketkeeper,” although I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation as to why the wicketkeepers get to keep all the wickets. After all, the second baseman does not get to keep second base, does he?

Other cricket phrases include “caught in the slips,” “out of his crease” and “out leg before wicket,” all perfectly enjoyable sounding and no doubt easily workable in a marketing campaign. On the defensive side, some of the position players are called “cover,” “extra cover” (presumably if it gets cold), “square leg,” “silly mid on” and “silly mid off.”

I assume, then, that the cricket equivalent to “Tinkers to Evers to Chance” would be “Square Leg to Silly Mid On to Silly Mid Off.” That’s going to need some work.

As we know, baseball is played with no clock and can drag on at times. One change we’d have to make in cricket, though, is the length of the contests. While games consist of only two innings, the scores can reach to 600 and one game can last up to five days. Even with longer attention spans and cleared schedules, it’s evident we are going to need better bowlers because nobody can give up 600 runs and expect to win a game.

Oh, and one last detail. There is a break in every cricket match around 3:45 p.m. for tea. One can’t sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while holding a cup of tea. Harry Caray certainly would never have put up with that. Leave it to the Brits to foul up the seventh-inning stretch. 

Whatever the odds of success, Illinois appears positioned to make the Cardinals an offer should the polls in the city of St. Louis and/or the state of Missouri strike out. Illinois lawmakers should have a backup plan, though, and form an advisory committee to explore the feasibility of cricket. 

Now if we can just figure out a way to work hunting rifles and fishing rods into cricket, then southern Illinois just might warm to the proposal.

Mike Morsch can be reached at 217-206-6521 or by e-mail at morsch.michael@uis.edu


Illinois Issues, October 2002

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