Spieziomania reigns in St. Louis
Player who exudes Cardinal Soul a big hit at Busch Stadium
ST. LOUIS -- Josh Douglas and Troy Rhives, two Cardinals fans from Festus, Mo., were talking about Spieziomania and posing for a picture when a woman walked by wearing the same red Velcro soul patch as theirs.
"Look -- it's everybody, women as well as men," Rhives said. "Even women want to be a Spiezio. It's already a great time, and this makes it more fun."
Call it Spieziomania, call it "Cardinal Soul" as one sign-holder at Busch Stadium proclaimed Sunday night, but whatever it is, there is no mistaking what Scott Spiezio has brought to Redbird Nation. It is one of the things that make this National League Championship Series different than the ones St. Louis has been a part of the last two years. The red soul patches are everywhere.
They are being sold right outside of the ballpark. Just affix a small sticky piece beneath the lower lip, place the red patch on it, and you have the latest look in 2006 Heartland fashion for men and women, boys and girls.
These have been around for a while, but is has turned into a full-fledged happening at Busch because of what Spiezio has done in the NLCS. He tied that sensational Game 2 on Friday at Shea Stadium with a two-run triple in the seventh inning that nearly went over the wall, and later added an RBI double in the ninth during St. Louis' 9-6 victory. One night later back in St. Louis, Spiezio yanked another two-run triple past Shawn Green in right, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead in the first inning -- the only runs they would need behind Jeff Suppan.
By the end of that game, his postseason average with runners in scoring position was up to a staggering .682 (15-for-22). His clutch work is well remembered from Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, when he helped the Angels stay alive against the Giants and eventually win the Fall Classic.
"I was with him in Anaheim and he's the same guy -- he loves the game," said Cardinals teammate David Eckstein. "I remember that he used to dye his soul patch red with the Angels, too. He always did it for the team. He said, 'Hey, I'm gonna start doing that for the club,' and he's done it no matter what colors his team wears. It happened when he showed up at Spring Training with Anaheim that way."
Spiezio said he is having fun with the fans' participation in his style of facial hair. After the Cardinals' Game 3 victory, he stood in front of his locker answering questions about the soul patch. Look closely, and the roots were black like the rest of his hair, about a quarter-inch in need of being dyed red.
"I have to do it about every other day as it grows out," he said. "It's something I have fun with and I'm glad the fans are having fun with it, too."
Facial-hair frenzies are nothing new in recent Major League ballparks; witness the Joe Mauer sideburns that Twins fans were wearing in the American League Division Series, or those Matt Clement goatees that Cubs supporters used to wear. But this is a big deal in St. Louis. And it's a big deal whenever Spiezio's name appears in the starting lineup these days, as he has regenerated his postseason life since coming over from Seattle to play wherever manager Tony La Russa might be able to use him.
In Game 1, that was as a pinch-hitter while Preston Wilson started in left and Juan Encarnacion started in right. In Game 2, it was at third base while Scott Rolen was able to rest his ailing shoulder. In Game 3, it was in left field -- and that is where Spiezio showed up for Game 4. Amid that sea of fans who were emulating his appearance, Spiezio had another impact, this time drawing a third-inning walk and scoring a run that temporarily tied the score at 2-2.
Earlier this series, Spiezio became one of only three players in postseason history to triple in back-to-back games. The others were George Brett for Kansas City in the 1977 AL Championship Series and Devon White for Toronto in the 1993 World Series.
"Some of the guys were asking me when I became 'Triple Man,'" joked Spiezio, noting that he is not normally associated with a triple like Jose Reyes or Carl Crawford.
Nothing, though, is more stylish and sure to draw a following than hitting well in the postseason with men in scoring position. And there is another reason Busch Stadium fans are so crazy about this guy now. He really does have Cardinal Soul. Ed Spiezio, his father, was a third baseman-outfielder -- just like Scott -- on the St. Louis teams that beat Boston in the 1967 World Series and lost to Detroit in 1968.
"I always attribute a lot of that [clutch hitting] to my dad," Spiezio said. "Because he always ended batting practice in the backyard with a game-ending situation. It would be bottom of the ninth, 3-2 count, Game 7 of the World Series. He'd say, 'Here's the pitch. What are you gonna do with it?' Then I'd hit it and he'd say, 'OK, you've done it, there's your World Series ring.'
"He would set the game plan at the end of every BP."
Was the younger Spiezio as successful in those situations as he has been his past two postseasons?
"Maybe not," he said, as his red soul patch gleamed under the bright light atop his locker. "It just helped me so much in getting ready for it."
Josh Douglas, one of his newest fans, isn't surprised.
"He's Mr. Clutch, the next Mr. October," Douglas said. "You watch. Spiezio's going to have the World Series-winning hit."
In the meantime, come one, come all. And don't forget the patch.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.