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Revisiting the Big Red: St. Louis' Enduring Love Affair with the Football Team 31 Years Later

Updated: Feb 19

Howard Balzer
Howard Balzer speaking with a fan about Big Red memories (Photo Derek King)

Even though the football Cardinals left St. Louis in 1988, the memories still live on with fans all over the St. Louis market. The Big Red was a centerpiece of St. Louis sports tradition from 1960 to 1987 when, in 1988, the team was relocated to Phoenix, Arizona.

Thanks to a grassroots social media page dedicated to memories of St. Louis' Big Red football past, organizer Bob Underwood has worked hard with former players to host fan meet and greets to allow fans the opportunity to engage with players from the past and talk about St. Louis football history. Guests at the latest meet included the likes of Howard Balzer, Arizona Cardinals SI beat reporter, who has been covering football for over 40 years, Randy Karraker 101 ESPN St. Louis, Todd Blackstock of STL TV, Tom Wylie of 590 The Fan, and so many more great people who join in on the fun.

I attended the most recent fan meet and greet that was held at Circa Pub & Grill 1865, 1090 Old Des Peres Rd, Des Peres, MO 63131, owned and operated by former Rams Quarterback Jamie Martin. The hope is to have a meet-up once a month during football season. Please ensure you follow the St. Louis Football Cardinals fan page on Facebook and Twitter for all updates on the meet and greets, plus other events related to the fan page. Links below

These events help a younger generation learn about St. Louis' rich football history that many are unaware of. I have often had conversations with younger NFL fans who had yet to learn of the Cardinals NFL team ever being in St. Louis. I had a personal instance at Battlefield Mall in Springfield, Missouri, where I walked around wearing a 1983 Neil Lomax away jersey. A gentleman in his 60s approached me and said that h loved my jersey, but he needed me to settle an argument between his granddaughter and himself. She didn't believe him when he told her the Arizona Cardinals, as far as she knew them, were never in St. Louis. I had to tell the young lady who was about 16-17 years old that your grandfather is 100% telling the truth! She was blown away to know that her favorite NFL team once existed in St. Louis.

When we concluded our conversation and went our separate ways, the gentleman shook my hand and said, "Thank you for keeping the memory alive." I'll admit, it nearly brought a tear to my eye. That's the point when I knew that more needed to be done to bring the Big Red past to light.

Jim Hart, Dan Dierdorf
Jim Hart dropping back to pass, protected by Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf

Saint Louisans are far too familiar with the stink that still hangs in the air with the Cardinals being taken away from them in 1988, but time has managed to heal some wounds, and most are starting to look past the hurtful departure of the team and remember the better times. Being able to sit and talk with fans, new and old, always makes me smile. Talking about a shared love for the Big Red and reminiscing about our favorite players or plays during the team's time in St. Louis is something special.

This is something that I know St. Louis football fans need right now after the Rams' tumultuous layover in St. Louis. When the Rams left, I can personally say that my sadness surrounding the Rams' departure had more to do with the Cardinals' scab leaving being ripped off instead of the Rams bouncing town. I accepted the Rams when they came to St. Louis, and the Big Red football Cardinals had my heart.

Thanks for reading

Hope to see YOU at the next event!

Derek King

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