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Fallen soldier's family raises Cards' title flag

Fallen soldier's family raises Cards' title flag

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Matheny Musial

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny welcomes the greatest Cardinal of them all, Stan Musial, to the pregame ceremony at Busch Stadium. (Photo by Robert Cohen / rcohen@post-dispatch.com)

Less than a week before he planned to return home to Missouri and attend today's opener, Army Specialist Jeff White was killed while on patrol in Afghanistan.

His family attended today's opener in his place.

The Cardinals invited Spc. White's surviving family members -- Paula, Jeff, Michael and Kyle -- to raise the championship flag that will fly over left-center field this season. The pennant-shaped flag flies to the right of the American flag and at the same height as the Missouri state flag. The championship flag is red, bordered in blue, and it features the date and the bird-on-the-bat logo.

White, a 2008 grad of Pacific High, was on leave and in attendance in October as the Cardinals rallied for and clinched the World Series titles.

According to the Cardinals, White was scheduled to return home from Afghanistan within the past week and he was set to attend opening day at Busch Stadium after his return. He was killed when his vehicle struck an IED. White was 21.

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Title reps throw out four ceremonial first pitches

To handle the ceremonial first pitch, one arm wasn't enough for the Cardinals, not with so many rings and MVPs and October All-Stars and such on the field at one time. So instead of settling for just one, the Cardinals had four different ceremonial first pitches thrown at the same time, each featuring a World Series-themed battery, of sorts.

Gibson threw (underhand) to Schoendienst

Sutter threw to Herzog

Eckstein threw to La Russa

Motte tossed to Duncan

A quick note: The crowd showed a remarkable ability to shift gears quickly from root, root, rooting for the home team as it made its way onto the field and into a line along the first-base line to booing, heartily, the Chicago Cubs as they took their place on the third-base line.

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Wainwright, Molina take quiet stroll to bullpen

As Skip Schumaker hopped out of his truck, approached the Hall of Famers at the trophies, and was introduced to the crowd, two of his teammates quietly walked out to the bullpen to get ready for their day at the office.

With trucks circling the field, the organ at full throat, and their teammates arriving at home plate to be introduced to the home crowd, catcher Yadier Molina and starter Adam Wainwright took their slow walk out to the bullpen.

It was 3:32 p.m. St. Louis time.

Time to warmup.

Some of the loudest ovations for players during the ceremony went to the MVP David Freese, Schumaker, Lance Berkman and, when it came time at the tail end of the parade, Wainwright, who is making his first start at home since Sept. 2010.

***

Trophies arrive with some surprises

Major League Baseball has not always had the trophy that we know so well for the World Series champions -- the ones with the pennants spoking out from a circular base and the logos of the two teams featured near the front of the Tiffany & Co.-designed award.

The 2011 title was the Cardinals' organization's 11th World Series title, but only the fourth trophy for the team.

All four are on display right now on the field.

And that surprise was who brought them, especially the two most recent trophies:

1967 trophy -- carried out by Mike Shannon

1982 trophy -- carried out by Tommy Herr, accompanied by Glenn Brummer

2006 trophy -- carried out by Jim Edmonds, joined by World Series MVP David Eckstein

2011 trophy -- carried out by former manager Tony La Russa, joined by pitching coach Dave Duncan

The Cardinals began the intros of the trophies and their escorts with a short highlight video from the 2011 season, narrated by Dan McLaughlin. The video featured a brief photo of David Freese as a Lafayette High Lancer.

With the trophies still on the temporary pedestals, the parade of current Cardinals has started.

Chris Carpenter's arrival at home plate -- in a blue pickup truck -- was announced by a highlight from the World Series played on the big screen. The highlight? Why his dive into first base for a groundout in Game 1 of the World Series, of course.

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Musial takes the field to an ovation

Cardinals great and Hall of Famer Stan Musial hit cleanup for his peers, coming out after the other living Hall of Fame Cardinals and riding in a golf cart around the entire circuit of the warning track and foul territory.

The order of Hall of Famers entering the field was:

Lou Brock

Bob Gibson

Red Schoendienst

Ozzie Smith

Bruce Sutter

Whitey Herzog

and Stan Musial

Musial apparently waited out the rain delay in manager Mike Matheny's office. He spoke with the manager -- who has become a friend through the years -- before the game, and he spent time in the manager's office talking with World Series MVP and St. Louis native David Freese.

***

Clydesdales called off because of conditions

The Cardinals altered one element of the annual pre-game celebration -- and it just happened to be a late rewrite of the lineup that meant changing the leadoff hitters.

The Clydesdales missed their appointed rounds.

The Budweiser Clydesdales did appear on Clark Street before the game, but because of the wet conditions on the field and concern for the horses and the outfield they did not take the field to lead the parade of players, per usual.

Team Fredbird, led by the mascot, replaced the Clydesdales.

The living Hall of Famers followed, standing in the back of pickup trucks and wearing the red sportscoats.

***

Players gathering at the gate

The St. Louis Cardinals, wearing their golden-laced threads, have gathered at the wagon gate for the start of today's pregame ceremony.

Weather delayed the start of the annual parade of players and other opening day celebrations by 90 minutes. The original plan was for the events to begin at 1:30 p.m. St. Louis time.

Players started gathering about 10 till 3 p.m.

The Cardinals are wearing special jerseys for today's game and Saturday's ring ceremony. The jerseys, similar to those worn on opening day in 2007, feature gold lettering, gold numbers and gold applique "CARDINALS" on the front logo. (In 2007, the team wore jerseys that had gold highlights, with lacing around the names and lettering to highlight their championship.) If you squint, you'll also see the interlocking STL on their hats is done in gold stitching.

Former manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan are in attendance for today's festivities and will have some role in the proceedings.

The Cardinals have draped a carpet of sorts around home plate that reads: "11 TIME WORLD CHAMPIONS." Four pedestals have been placed near home plate to hold the four World Series titles that will be on display, accompanied by members of the past four World Series teams.

Check back here for updates throughout the ceremony.

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