The Cardinals are home again, but they are never home alone. The fans are gathering to join them in a divine annual ritual, and it’s almost time to play ball at Busch Stadium.

We call it the home opener, and this is true if we go by the official title. But it is really a reopening of a tradition, our hearts, and even our habits.

Yes, habits. Do you have a scorecard in your hands during the offseason, logging history and making little notes on the side, tracking the action on a play-by-play basis?

(I dropped the carton of a dozen eggs. That will be an E-12. I tried to toss my towel into the laundry basket and missed. That’s an error on the throw.) 

No. We don’t do that in the offseason, making notes on the Redbirds — not unless you are a real birdwatcher. We have lots of birdwatchers in our state. According to the Audubon Society, Missouri “is home to more than 400 bird species and 50 Important Bird Areas that encompass wetlands, prairies and bottomland forests.”

Yeah, but there’s only one place to see the St. Louis Cardinals, and the habitat is Busch Stadium.

You may eat the occasional hot dog – say, Memorial Day and the 4th of July – but there’s nothing like a ballpark hot dog. And the favorite hot dog of the year is served on opening day.

The first ballpark beer of the season is the best ballpark beer of the season. Whitey Herzog isn’t stopping by your place to pour a cold one, but he might be sipping a Bud Light – just as you are sipping a Bud Light – as fans and dignitaries reconvene in a ballpark to celebrate the first of 81 home games.

The Budweiser Clydesdales don’t go clomping by on the street that you live – but they’ll be right on time at Busch Stadium today, in full and glorious display. In that way they will be at your home … the baseball home we all share.

You don’t meet at the Musial statue when you’re planning to have dinner with friends in Clayton, or Florissant, or South County.

You don’t have Ozzie Smith show up in your backyard in the middle of November. Ted Simmons doesn’t knock on your front door in January, wearing a red jacket, stopping by to wave and say hello. But they’ll be there today with the other red coats, representing all the great men who made this franchise special.

On opening day, we will think about baseball heroes that can no longer be with us. Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Red Schoendienst, Bruce Sutter, Mike Shannon, Tim McCarver and so many others.

Since the “new” Busch Stadium opened in 2006, this will be the first home opener without two beloved fixtures of the St. Louis baseball scene: Shannon and Hall of Fame baseball writer Rick Hummel. They are dearly missed. I’m going to watch Thursday’s game while wearing one of Hummel’s “newsboy” style caps. Thanks to his dear wife, Melissa, for giving it to me.

On this Opening Day, we will “hug” the returning Cardinals. We will make sure that the new Cardinals know – immediately – that this is our home base and they’re now part of the tribe. This cavalcade of convertibles on St. Louis Opening Day is a procession like no other in professional team sports.

It will be fun to see Lance Lynn on the mound with his burly frame, bearded countenance and competitive fire. It will be sweet to welcome Matt Carpenter back. This won’t be Lynn or Carpenter’s first time around the Busch Stadium track, but there are many first-time Cardinals to applaud including Kyle Gibson, Sonny Gray, Victor Scott II, Brandon Crawford, Andrew Kittredge, Ryan Fernandez. World Series winning STL second baseman Daniel Descalso returns —  this time as the team’s new bench coach.

Outside the ballpark and in the seating areas, we’ll greet old friends, make new friends, and probably talk to folks we may never see again. You won’t care about how anyone plans to vote in the 2024 presidential election. You won’t talk about politics. You won’t talk about how anyone is too old for the job … unless it has to do with members of the Cardinals’ starting rotation. (Smile.)

You will talk about baseball. No one will ask you about your position on a divisive political issue – but you may ask each other about the center field position and the future of rookie Victor Scott II.

This is one the most powerful aspects of the baseball experience in St. Louis. We live in a city divided, a state divided, and exist in a severely polarized nation. But all of that goes away when the ballpark safe space opens, and we stand and sit and cheer together in complete support of the Cardinals. We love the same things, we get disappointed about the same things, and we may even get angry over the same things. But all of that emotion will flow from the same well of passion for this ballclub.

We may have debates, but those discussions will be about the wisdom of a manager making a pitching change or if a sac bunt would make sense. We may have disagreements, but it will be about the construction of the Cardinals lineup. It won’t be about the controversial issues of the day outside of the ballpark. It won’t be personal and nasty.

Nothing in our culture can do this.


Nothing except the communal spirit of Cardinal baseball. It doesn’t matter how old you are. This has nothing to do with your religious affiliation. Your race doesn’t matter. Your ethnicity doesn’t matter. Your gender doesn’t matter. In this house, there’s only one identity, forged by allegiance to Cardinals baseball.

Where you live is not important. The city, the county, west county, north county, south county, Jefferson county in the middle of Missouri, in the Bootheel, or across the Mississippi River and Illinois in the metro east. It doesn’t matter if you drove in from Town & Country or Tennessee, Belleville or Indiana, Ballwin or Kentucky, Ferguson or Arkansas, Mehlville or Iowa, Oklahoma or Olivette, Chesterfield or Springfield. Both Springfields — be it Illinois or Missouri.

Hello, Paducah. Good to see ya again, Peoria. Greetings, Memphis. Welcome in, Hot Springs, and Biloxi and Mattoon and Wichita and those Cardinal-loyal counties in southeastern Iowa.

In these parts it’s a blissful day in a restless world.

Let there be anticipation and joy and some nachos.

I’d like to share one of my favorite observations on the charming renewal of Opening Day.

It’s from From Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mary Schmich:

“Opening day. All you have to do is say the words and you feel the shutters thrown wide, the room air out, the light pour in. In baseball, no other day is so pure with possibility. No scores yet, no losses, no blame or disappointment. No hangover, at least until the game’s over.”

She’s a Cubs fan.

She is forgiven.

Even Cubs and Cardinals fans can sit together when their teams resume their historic rivalry to sing songs, needle each other, buy a round of beers and share nine innings in peace.

The home opener is here to connect the generations, regenerate special memories, foster new memories, and remind us that fandom is deep and everlasting. Because even when we die, the aura goes with us. I am convinced of that. I don’t know what it’s like in your family. But in my family, when my father passed away, I slipped a baseball card of his favorite baseball player into the pocket of his suit coat.

Today there will be nostalgia and newness. In the days and months ahead, we will be treated to surprises and adventures and successes, and tormented by misadventures and losses and regrets. All of these things will make us feel alive and aligned. Open the gates. Let’s do this again. It is a cold day in St. Louis, but we will make it warm.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.