Sooooo…the 90’s. Another great sports decade for St. Louis, capped by being named America’s Best Sports City by the (then) St. Louis based Sporting News.
My top five things about the 90’s…
1) The Rams journey to Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta, and win it all. An incredible journey it was, with Kurt Warner taking over for an injured Trent Green and the start of the Greatest Show on Turf. Among the thrills were a home win against San Francisco that snapped a seventeen game losing streak to the 49ers, the first home playoff game in St. Louis history, and Ricky Proehl’s catch to win the NFC Championship. The Super Bowl itself was won by a Kurt Warner-to-Isaac Bruce touchdown bomb with just under two minutes left, and preserved by Mike Jones “The Tackle” of Kevin Dyson
of Tennessee at the Rams’ one yard line as time expired. It’s one of the great stories in USA sports history, and we got to see it up close and personal right here in St. Louis.
2) The Rams arrival in 1995. Seven years without the NFL was more than enough for me.
And we upgraded! The Rams were a better franchise than the Cardinals. The first few home games at Busch Stadium were particularly memorable. That was a day that gave me chills and got me misty eyed. It was awesome having an NFL team again. After being dissed by the league in the expansion of 1993, the Rams were our only chance. And we got ‘em.
3) Brett Hull’s 1991 season. I was working late nights then, and was at every game. I’d get home at 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning and say to my wife…who was out like a light…”guess who scored for the Blues?”
And as the Pavlov’s Dog theory works, she’d say “Brett Hull.” And he had. He scored EVERY night, it seemed. What a joy ride that was. We expected the Blues to win the Cup that year, but Gaetan Duchesne and Stewart Gavin of the Stars crosschecked Hullie into submission, and the Blues were knocked out of the playoffs. But the season was unforgettable.
4) Mark McGwire in 1998. Another instance of a guy seemingly coming up big EVERY game. And the cool thing about it was that, because of 1997, we actually expected Big Mac to break Roger Maris’ record. He hit a grand slam off the Dodgers’ Ramon Martinez on opening day and rolled from there. The night McGwire hit #62,
September 8, 1998 was the best event I’ve ever been at. In terms of sheer mental toughness, what McGwire did in ’98 was the best I’ve ever seen.
5) The Cardinals return to the playoffs in 1996. Having missed post-season every season since losing the 1987 World Series, Cardinal fans were starved for a winner. New ownership came aboard before the ’96 season, hiring Tony LaRussa and adding Ron Gant, Andy Benes, Dennis Eckersley, Gary Gaetti and Royce Clayton. The next mixture worked, as the Cards won the NL Central. After beating San Diego in the NLDS, they should have advanced to the World Series. But LaRussa played with fire. After taking a 3-1 lead over Atlanta
in the series with Andy Benes pitching on three days’ rest, Todd Stottlemyre went on three games rest in game five and was rocked for seven runs in an inning-plus, and the Braves won 14-0. Alan Benes, who should have pitched game five, was representative in game six, but the Cardinals lost 3-1. Because of being spooked by Stottlemyre’s outing, Donovan Osborne started game seven and, sweating profusely, allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning. The Braves rolled 15-0 and went to the World Series.
Other items…the baseball strike of ’94 killed the game, and it took years to recover. In the summer of ’94, O.J. Simpson was charged in the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and the trial of the century ensued. Joe Torre was a great manager for the Cardinals but didn’t get support from ownership and front office. He was fired in mid-’95, and then went on to win four World Series with the Yankees starting the next year. Tiger Woods stormed onto the scene with a win in the ’97 Masters. The Buffalo Bills had a dynasty that they didn’t have any Super Bowl wins to show for it, going to four straight Super Bowls in the decade. Magic Johnson disclosed that he was HIV positive, and it was thought that he would soon die. Instead, a year later, he joined the 1992 USA Dream Team in Barcelona…the greatest basketball team ever assembled. The star of that team, Michael Jordan, would win six NBA Championships. And, Fantasy Football became a reality, enriching the lives of millions of Americans.