There wasn’t a more bittersweet moment in my eight years up on the Manual Scoreboard at Old Busch Stadium than when Rick Ankiel lost control on the mound on October 3rd, 2000.
15 years later to the day, I think back about that fall.
When I think about Rick Ankiel’s story, I think of three parts. The rise in the Cardinals farm system as a premier pitching prospect, the fall due to the wildness in the 2000 playoffs, and the rise as a hitter in the Major Leagues. No matter how you cut it, his tale is bittersweet. Ankiel turned 36 years old on Sunday and is out of baseball. He has a book coming out later this year about his experiences as a professional baseball player, but when I think about Rick, one moment comes to mind.
1999. His arrival against the Montreal Expos on August 23rd on the road. In a season dictated by Mark McGwire’s encore show, Ankiel struck out 6 batters, walked 2, threw 82 pitches and went five innings. The debut showed a unique talent. It wasn’t a flash in the pan. In 2000, Ankiel came into his own as a legit talent. He won 11 games, struck out 190 batters in 175 innings and seemed to be a future #2 or ace. He was 21 years old and full of untapped potential. He possessed the greatest curveball I’ve ever seen thrown by a baseball player. It was nasty and had a 12-6 descent that aggravated hitters. (more…)