7/26/2005

 

The Legend of Mike Laga

For those of you who have never heard the story, here goes:

The year was 1986. A young nation learned how to grieve after the tragedy of losing the Challenger Space Shuttle. Perfect Strangers made it's debut on ABC, starting a Mypos-tinged pop culture explosion which (unfortunately) quickly fizzled out. Bon Jovi made us look deeper inside of ourselves then we ever had before. Perhaps, in fact, we actually did give love a bad name.

And on September 15, 1986, Mike Laga of the Saint Louis Cardinals became the first, and to this date the only, baseball player to hit a ball literally out of Busch Stadium. Although the ball was foul, Laga still received a standing ovation from the crowd, thus beginning a love affair between Cardinals Fans and standing ovations which continues to this day (Last Friday my buddy Dave gave David Eckstein a standing-o for "having a decent at bat.")

This is a great story that's passed along amongst generations of Cardinals fans. A story about a marginal at best baseball player with limited power (the man hit 19 home runs in 9 seasons) who once mustered together all his strength and in his one shining moment, hit a ball out of the cavernous ashtray that is Busch Stadium.

I have only one problem with this story: I have never met, nor spoke with, any human being who remembers seeing Laga's accomplishment first hand. Nobody seems to have any footage of the at bat.

I want proof that this once happened.

I NEED proof that it happened.

Hours of scouring the internet in hopes of finding video, a picture, ANYTHING which could definitively offer me proof that Mike Laga once did the impossible have been in vain, instead leaving me with a lower credit score and a chafed penis. But no proof.

Rather, I run into brainwashed Cardinals fans who sit around Paddy O's, raising their 24 ounce cans a Budweiser's to the sky and praise Mike Laga as if he was Bill Brasky ("TO MIKE LAGA!!! HE ONCE HIT A BASEBALL OUT OF BUSCH STADIUM!!! TO MIKE LAGA!!! HIS POOP IS USED AS CURRENCY IN ARGENTINA!!!")

To these people I say "Don't be so naive. And you can't pee there. And, no, I don't think the beer-girl wants to 'eff' you."

As Josh Bacott at JoeSportsFan pointed out to me "Maybe Laga was the one who started this rumor and no one has ever been able to prove otherwise."

As the Cardinals play out the remainder of their final season at the soon to be torn down Busch Stadium, sentiment and ardor are at an all time peak. And that's saying something. Scott Cooper used to get standing ovations for putting the donut on the right end of his bat while he was in the on-deck circle.

It seems as if everywhere I turn people are discussing their favorite Busch Stadium memories. And every time, right near the top of that list, sits Mr. Mike Laga, hitting a ball out of Busch, whether they actually saw it or not.

I opened up this morning's Saint Louis Post Dispatch to find a Mike Laga poster on the back page of the Sports section. Conveniently enough, there is not a picture of the ball actually leaving the stadium, but a picture of Laga's "reaction" after he hit it.

Real responsible journalism, Post Dispatch. Instead of spending the money and manpower to find out exactly what happened that September night (Perhaps there was a momentary change in gravity that science could explain? Was David Copperfield in attendance that night and feeling more illusion-y then usual?) the Post just throws in a Laga poster, celebrating what I believe could never have happened.

My fascination with Mike Laga is beginning to ruin my life. Most of my waking hours are now spent thinking about him. I've created a scale model of Busch Stadium and have been working on geometric equations hoping to prove that it is truely impossible to hit a ball out of the stadium. My girlfriend left me last Monday night, after I screamed "LAGA!" when I orgasmed and demanded that she did the same.

Damn you, Laga. Damn you to hell.

Hopefully my skepticism will help me redeem myself. The way I see this whole thing going down, is at the final regular season game at Busch Stadium, Mike Laga will be brought out to throw the ceremonial first pitch.

On the Jumbo-Tron in right field, a grainy video from September 1986 will begin to air. The crowd will see Mike Laga at bat, he swings at the first pitch, it's a long foul ball! As the fans get worked up into a fever pitch, readying themselves to give Mike Laga a standing ovation for a foul ball he hit 19 years earlier.

On the Jumbo-Tron the ball rises higher and higher...The video suddenly cuts off.

Five seconds of silence have passed.

"Technical difficulties" everyone in attendance assumes.

Wrong, Busch Stadium.

Dead wrong.

Suddenly appearing on the Jumbo-Tron, it's everyone's arch nemesis. Perhaps the most hated man in America. The man who made me stop wearing mesh hats. Ashton Fucking Kutcher.

That's right, Busch Stadium, Mike Laga never hit a ball out of the stadium.

"Saint Louis...Ya'll just got Punk'd "

Comments:
I KNOW PEOPLE WHO WERE AT THE GAME.


LOVE,

TOLAXOR
 
I was at the game. It did happen.
jtc@nyemaaster.com
 
make that nyemaster.com
 
Mike Shannon was there and has talked about it many times. Good enough for me.
 
If you believe every story that Mike Shannon has told, then I've got some prem-o land to sell you. And that's coming from a guy who has a "Shannon 18" jersey.
 
Why don't you contact Mike Laga and see if he has the tape. He lives in MA.
 
I, too, was there. It was an unforgettable moment. I was sitting down the first base line and saw the ball just clear the roor over my left shoulder. Then I caught a glimpse of it rolling off the roof past one of the arches.
 
Mike Laga grew up in Ramsey, NJ. His father was a TV repair man. I watched him play baseball in High School. Mike had tremendous home run power. His lack of success in the Majors was because he could not hit a curve ball. He ended up playing pro ball in Japan for a few years after the majors.
 
Check out ESPN Classics show Cheap Seats on the destruction of Busch Stadium. As one of the highlights, they show the full clip of the foul ball.
 
The last time I spoke to Ron Darling in the fall of 1999 he told me he pitched the ball that Mike Laga hit out of Busch Stadium in September 1986. He made a point that he did strike Mr. Laga out in that AB. - JoeSav
 
Here again is your crap. Just so everyone that doesn't know "knows"....Mike Laga played in the majors for 9 seasons but was not an everyday player as your stupid "the man hit 19 home runs in 9 seasons" comment would suggest. He was a MAJOR power-hitter. 6 of his 19 TOTAL hits in 1986 were home runs. He could have easily been the first 50-homer guy since George Foster if he were playing full-time. Get your facts straight. Your little spiel here just makes you look like a complete idiot. :)
 
I was working for VWR Graphics out of Philly and was visting St.Louis on a business trip. Several of us went to the game that night because we had a couple of guys in the group from NY who were Mets fans. To this day, when ever we get together, we ask each other this trivia question.
 
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I was there! I was 8 years old, and my dad had to explain why people were cheering
 
http://leitch.tumblr.com/post/8777687796/footage-of-the-legendary-mike-laga-foul-ball

Here's your proof :)
 
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