10/22/2004 5:30 PM ET
Mueller faces hometown Cards
Missouri native grew up Cards fan but a Sox fan now
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
|Third baseman Bill Mueller will have his own cheering section in St. Louis. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
BOSTON -- Anyone who plays for the Red Sox and grew up in a suburb just outside of St. Louis knows all about passionate baseball cities. While Sox third baseman Bill Mueller's loyalty will certainly not be divided in a World Series between these two tradition-laden teams, he knows that his family and friends will be a little less decisive.
Mueller is the pride of Maryland Heights, Missouri. When he was growing up, the Cardinals were his team. In those days before DirectTV, was there really much other choice?
"Back then, it was like, you didn't have the ability to have all these channels, like buying a sports package so you could see a different team, so you locked in on your home team," said Mueller. "I was always a Cardinals fan because that's really all I ever saw."
The Cardinals last won the World Series in 1982. Up in some not-so-choice seats during Game 7 of that Fall Classic against the Brewers at Busch Stadium was none other than little Billy Mueller, who was all of 11 years old at the time.
"I was with my dad up in the right field nosebleed section," said Mueller. "Cecil Cooper hit a homer up by us, we were sitting by the right-field foul pole and that's the last World Series I ever went to. The Cardinals won, so that was pretty cool."
The switch-hitter and 2003 American League batting champion knows two things heading into this, the first World Series of his career.
From third base and the batter's box, he will have a far better view of these games than he did in 1982. And, as much as he once loved those Cardinals, Mueller has no choice but to root heavily against his hometown team.
Mueller knows the ticket requests figure to be enormous when the series returns to St. Louis for Game 3, which is why, as he said half-jokingly, "I don't answer my phone right now."
He hasn't spoken to enough of his hometown folk to know where their allegiances lie at the moment, but he can only ponder how awkward it must be.
"They're torn," said Mueller. "I guarantee you. There's some confusion right now. I'm going to find out who my true friends are, I know that, and/or family members."
Mueller was a baseball star in his youth at DeSemet High School and then went on to play at Southwest Missouri State. While he moved on to the nomadic life of Major League Baseball, opening with the Giants, then going to the Cubs and eventually to Boston, the bulk of his family remains where it all started.
"Cousins, grandma, parents, aunts and uncles, not too many people have moved out of [the St. Louis area]," said Mueller.
Because Mueller is only human, he can't help but feel a little nostalgic as the Redbirds make their way to Fenway Park.
"My favorite player when I was growing up was Willie McGee," said Mueller. "I just liked how he went about his business. He seemed like a very humble guy. He had a lot of success. He was one of those guys who used the whole field and hit balls where they were pitched. He was just one of those successful people that I gravitated to."
Then Mueller quickly shifted his attention back to the real story.
"The World Series in itself is pretty major," said Mueller. "To go back to St. Louis, it's nice because I'm familiar with things. Other than that, it's still the World Series."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.