I’ve always been a Cardinals fan. Being born in St. Louis, I grew up idolizing Ozzie Smith and agreeing with the rest of the city that we had the best fans in baseball. I believed this to be true mainly because we weren’t hated by half the country like our friends in New York and Boston, and we also weren’t horrendous like our unfortunate rivals in Chicago. But it wasn’t until last Monday that I actually witnessed why STL has some of the best fans in baseball.

Nick and I used our friend Erin’s season tickets and took our seat in right field a few minutes before the first pitch against the Nationals. Erin had told us there was a lady named Karen who had the season tickets next to them, who came to every game and is probably the biggest fan around. Even though I’ve sat in these same seats twice before, I’ve never been able to meet her. That night, I noticed Karen’s seats were again empty, but this time there was a big ribbon tied to the railing in front of her seats. Not thinking much of it, we turned to watch the start of what would become a six-game winning streak.

It wasn’t until about the 2nd inning that one of the vendors approached us asking if we were friends of Karen’s. We explained that we weren’t, but we had heard a lot about her. She continued to explain that the ribbon was put there in honor of Karen – that Karen had lost her battle to cancer two days ago.

Each inning that went by, a different vendor would approach us, asking the same question,”Did you guys know Karen too?”

For the rest of the game we listened to at least ten different people talk about Karen and how great of a person she was, especially how great a fan she was. We learned that she had sat in these seats since day 1 of the new stadium. We learned that she would bring her rally squirrels, and always hang up the 2006 pennant on the railing. We learned that she was such a loyal fan, that she would sometimes schedule her work week around the Cardinals schedule, making sure to only be working when the Cardinals were either away, or off for the night. One man from a few sections over even came over and pulled out two pieces of paper – one of a picture of him and Karen at a baseball game, and another of an email she had wrote raving about how having dinner w/ Whitey Herzog was one of the best nights of her life.

Whether it was the beer man, the cotton candy lady, or the usher from the next section over, tons of people were affected by Karen’s passing. She hardly ever missed a game, and would sometimes even travel to see them play. She was loyal to her redbirds, and in turn she made a positive impact on those around her.

Cardinal nation lost one of their best fans last week, and it breaks my heart to think she won’t be in her seat to watch the Cards go after yet another World Series.

But what was truly remarkable was witnessing our section coming together to remember one of their own. And to me, that’s what makes us the best fans in baseball. That’s what makes us champions.