South City Confessions: The one heroic deed that the St. Louis Cardinals did for the Manual Scoreboard crew

Troy Siade died too young.

He was the kind of the guy who came into a dark room and provided instant electricity. A guiding light for a slow day at the old ballpark. Old as in Busch Stadium 2.0, the outdated model that sat across the street and contained thousands of vivid memories for me. Most of them took place in the upper terrace level in a place known as the manual scoreboard.

I’d like to call it an island of extremely misfit yet loyal toys. We were baseball addicts who pulled off the ultimate heist: finding a way to get paid to watch baseball. Sure, we had to throw in the scores from games across the league, a practice that included many ounces of sweat and several cups of pink lemonade. We were the odd bunch, paid to keep the score while maintaining the peace inside our chests. What can I say… baseball is a romantic sport.

Troy came to the board a little late, but fit in a glove bought two weeks ago. He was a fast-talking lawyer-like our veteran Jim  Kleinschmidt yet shaken a different way-who acquainted himself with the group in an instant. We got very close. He took me in as the big brother that I was robbed of in my teenage years. We synced up like a phone music library would to a car. I’ve only laughed so hard that it hurt three times in my life. Troy accounts for two of them. He had an energy that was pure and addictive, but he also gave a shit.

That’s why Non-Hodgins Lymphoma is a villain to me. It’s my Hans Gruber. It’s my T-1000. It’s my Little Bill. A thing that robbed me and so many others of the formidable Troy years. He would have aged like a cabernet with extreme bite. He was destined for great things. I doubt he could have handled these past few years of Cardinals’ teams, but it would have been entertaining to see him complain about lineups, managers, game outcomes, and such. Troy missed two World Series titles, and that’s something I can never change.

Can you tell I miss him? As Bruce Dern once told a kid named Zak in a great movie, friends are the family you choose. When Kleinscdmidt brought Troy on the scoreboard, the whole environment changed. Troy pushed you not to be a better person, but to be more like YOU. He hated bullshit and craved authenticity in a person. We became instant friends and got very close. It’s that closeness that only stings you when tragedy strikes. You lose something that’s dire to tomorrow, and there’s not a single thing you can do about it. There’s no walking up to the door of death and making a bargain. I would if I could.

Troy was a smart man and a sharp lawyer for ten years, so he knew the odds of Non-Hodgins Lymphoma at an advanced stage. He didn’t tell us about the condition. All I can remember is him consistently rubbing his neck. We found out too late, like the heroes finding the safecracking code after the credits had already played. It was too late, and his death smashed into us like a ton of bricks. I took his death very hard, dealing with it in my own quiet way. I never liked to pour my emotions out on people. They were already dealing with their own shit, so why trouble them with your drama?

But I bet you’re wondering about the headline. What did the Cardinals do for us after Troy died that will never be lost on me, no matter what happens with this team moving forward? Well, first, I have to tell you about Jim Edmonds, and his effect on Troy.

Edmonds was his favorite player. Troy liked everything about him, all the way down to the way he aggressively spun out of the batter’s box when a pitch went too far inside. Edmonds would crumble away to the ground in dramatic fashion, and Troy ate it up like a young kid would an ice cream cone. It was the Edmonds show and that’s all that mattered to Troy. When you admire or like a player, you accept all their good, bad, ugly, and bullshit in one package.

As Troy once told me after I asked him if he watched porn, “No Danny, I just watch Jim Edmonds play baseball for three hours.”  After he was gone, someone had a great idea. What if we could pour some of Troy’s ashes on the field? What if we could pour some of Troy right around center field? The idea seemed preposterous at first. Pouring a dead man’s ashes into a tiny part of the grass at Busch? All of us on the scoreboard thought an instant no would be returned.

But the Cardinals, or someone high ranking enough, said we could do that. So, one lovely spring afternoon, in a near-empty Busch Stadium, we gathered with Troy’s lovely sister Bianca, and spread some of his ashes onto center field. We said a few words, cried our asses off, and just stood there. The thing about losing someone is clear: you’re helpless, so leaning on others who loved the passed soul is all you can do. That’s what we did. Gathered around Edmonds’ perch, we honored Troy.

The Cardinals aren’t a perfect franchise, but their first class action that day will never be forgotten. Maybe they knew. Maybe someone just said go ahead and do it, just don’t get caught. Frankly, I don’t give a damn.

Later that year, Edmonds made a glorious diving catch and hit a game-winning home run in an NLCS game, and the first thing that went through my head was Troy. He’s sitting there, under his favorite player’s spot, enjoying the electricity of October baseball in the after life. Sure, it’s bullshit most likely, but I bought that idea and stored it.

Troy died on April 23, 2004. He was 38 years old. The same age I am as I write this, which is shocking. I’m still here, and he’s gone. I’ll never understand why that is. Back then, I was a clean-shaven weird hairdo-carrying 22-year-old who was trying to make the right friends and was getting married in a year. I dreamt about Troy being at my wedding, dancing with every woman in the room, and making every man there laugh until it hurt. He was a bright light that a dark world could use right now. The manual scoreboard was so quiet the first game after Troy died. We all had nothing to say. A collective grief gathering. The scores didn’t matter. A game was in second place to a person.

16.5 years later, I wish he was here. I wish a lot of my favorite people were still here. I wish I could talk to Troy about Edmonds’ career as a broadcaster and hitting coach. I wish. That’s the gig. People die before you and you’re left trying with less than desirable puzzle pieces to complete the picture without them.

But that day, under the sun, in his favorite spot, we got to say goodbye together. Thanks, Cardinals.

If you want to know more about Troy, here’s a nice obituary the Belleville News Democrat posted.

I also wrote this ten years after his death, and this as well.

 

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