WASHINGTON -- More than 100 fans of the St. Louis Cardinals, including former membef Congress, government officials, media figures and business executives, jammed into a restaurant Friday to celebrate the coming baseball season and form 'The Stan Musial Society.'
The luncheon was an occasion for Washington-area fans to proclaim their undying fervor for the Cardinals and to engage in some good-natured bashing of National League rivals, especially the Chicago Cubs and their fan club, the Emil Verban Club. Telegrams were read from Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog and Augustus Busch III, the 90-year-old team president.
Frank Mankiewicz, co-organizer of the event and a life-long fan of the Cardinals, said he was stunned by the devotion to St. Louis found in the capital.
'We thought there was a secret underground of Cardinal fans in the Washington area. It turns out it was much deeper and broader than we thought,' said Mankiewicz, the former aide to Bobby Kennedy and George McGovern and past president of National Public Radio.
More Cardinal fans wanted to attend the luncheon than could be accommodated, Mankiewicz added. 'We thought if anybody tried to crash the event,' he joked, 'we were going to get Danny Cox to punch him.'
Cox is an injured Cardinal pitcher who recently took a highly publicized swing at a television cameraman.
Support for the Cardinals was clearly bipartisan.
'The Cardinals are one of the greatest traditions in sports,' said co-organizer Vic Gold, a Republican and a journalist who worked for President Bush and former Vice President Spiro Agnew.
It was Gold, who earned a reputation for political hardball as a speechwriter for Agnew, who took some of the hardest swings at the Emil Verban Club, an organization named deliberately after an obscure player with a lifetime .272 batting average.
'They name their club, not the Stan Hack club, not after a winner,' said Gold, talking in a jocular tone about a Cubs' star of years ago. 'They think like losers! They're so c, so effete!
The fans decided to call their newly created club the Stan Musial Society, in honor of the Cardinal Hall of Famer, after a shorebate, during which they considerd other options, including the 'Gas House Gang Irregulars' and the 'Ducky Medwick Club.'
McGovern, the South Dakota Democrat who was his party's 1972 president)al nominee, is a lifelong Cards' fan who attended the luncheon. So did former Rep. James Symington, D-Mo., and Public Broadcasting SystUm newsman Paul Duke, among others.