We had a chance to catch up with St. Louis Cardinals All-Time Saves Leader and Hall of Fame Inductee, Jason Isringhausen, near his home town of Brighton, Illinois. A local guy who grew up idolizing the 1980s Cardinals players, some of whom he will now share the same Hall of Famer distinction.
In the crowded Edwardsville HotShots, Jason told Dan that although he has some notes jotted down, he doesn’t want to think about the HOF speech until it is very close. He’ll be battling a lump in his throat that day so he’s trying not to stress about it just yet.
Reflecting back on his start in professional baseball, a personal phone call from Bill Dewitt Jr. made him change his mind about signing with the Rangers. An absurd number to him at the time, a “million dollars” was what he asked for to join the St. Louis team. Although he said he’d have been a Cardinal if they offered him only a hundred. Jason reminisced about the “Pond Scum” Mets that his family, in particular his grandma, had to learn to love since they originally drafted him. Jason said he owes so much to the Mets and Billie Bean with the Oakland As. He wouldn’t usually call himself a crier but Jason said once he sees his family there on that Induction Day, he won’t rule it out. Because his family has been through so much, seeing them will be the most important part of that day for him.
Speaking of going through a lot, Jason has undergone 18 surgeries related to baseball. Two knees, his back, his hip, 3 Tommy Johns, 6 on his elbow and more. Currently, he says, “The only thing that doesn’t hurt is his elbow.”
Overcoming stressful situations was a big part of Jason’s baseball career. When asked how he handled the blown saves and bad outings he said, “I knew the sun would come out tomorrow and Tony would put me right back in there.” He said sometimes he thought Tony Larussa had more confidence in him than he had in himself. Even when Jason wasn’t feeling his best, Tony would rely on him for a good outing. It might have taken “an extra pill or extra shot, but he would get out there for the guys.”
Being a local guy, the rough outings were difficult for some of his family and friends. Jason dreaded the phone calls from his dad the day after a mishap because he knew his dad was getting flack for it. Jason’s mom hasn’t been back to a game since and some of his friends were known to use choice words in the stands to his defense.
It’s not a save that gets Jason’s vote for his favorite memory though. It’s quite the memorable NLCS win he tallied against Houston in October 2005 the night Albert Pujols hit a bomb off the “unhittable” Brad Lidge. Jason pitched both the 8th and 9th innings of that game to help the Cardinals cement the win, although it couldn’t get them to take the series.
Since Jason is working in the Cardinals organization currently, he got to witness Pujols’ return to St. Louis over the weekend. In his opinion, the city handled it great but he’d have cut the ovations down by a few. Jason said, “I really hope Pujols is wearing a Cardinals hat when he enters Cooperstown”.
The minor league players have been a focus lately in Jason’s current role with the Cardinals. He’s worked a lot with Jordan Hicks in, what Dan called “helping him become a man in the big leagues.” Earlier this week when Hicks got the news that he’d need surgery, Izzy was one of his first phone calls. Izzy said Hicks is one of the most talented pitchers in baseball but that talent comes with a curse. Now Hicks will get the best treatment in baseball and “come back throwing 104”.
Jason emphatically said the fans have been everything for him. “You live and die with the fans. They pump you up when you’re running out of that bull pun with their cheers or they let you have it with boos if you deserve it.”
Wearing his 2006 ring is a “maybe” for Jason at that Induction ceremony because he was hurt and didn’t technically play in that series. Adam Wainwright cut his teeth that year due to Jason’s injury. Either way, 2006 ring or not, Jason Isringhausen will join the likes of his boyhood idols this year in the Cardinals Hall of Fame. A storybook ending for a guy who was almost never a Cardinal.