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Joy Is Where You Find It, Even If That Means In St. Louis

General view of Busch Stadium during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Oakland Athletics on August 14, 2023 in St Louis, Missouri.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The decrepit old laundry hamper with shoes typing this had always pegged (or maybe just pigeonholed) Defector Comrade Ellis as a keen and practiced skeptic, someone who viewed the world with equal parts misplaced hope and jaundiced weariness. But that shows how much appearances can deceive. At least that's how we choose to view his two-day-old dare to us to write about something that produces joy; it also could have been just second-level sadism, but we prefer to think that, all things considered, he just likes people being happy and sharing it. So we took him up on his challenge ... and failed.

Sort of. We don't have Comrade Theisen's rapturous view of the Detroit Lions, nor Comrade Nathan's slack-jawed admiration of Coco Gauff, nor Comrade McKinney's parental devotion to various Phillies, most recently Trea Turner. But a task is a task, and he did not specify who must be experiencing said joy, so we chose to turn our eyes toward Adam Wainwright and the most extravagant end-of-season promotion put on by any team in the modern era. This isn't joy for us, per se, but it is fascination—and maybe it works its way into something more. You can never tell with affairs of the heart, even if the heart, in this case, is being played by a coal bin.

Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals' last vestige of the grand old days, is entering the final few starts of a career spent entirely in Missouri. He is a win away from his 200th, and he has been trotted out start after start through a difficult final season to get it. He is currently at 199 after besting the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday and, assuming he pitches every fifth day, he has three more starts to hit the round number. In an otherwise fetid heap of oil rags for a season, the Cardinals are committed to this for him—but not just this. They are also turning their final three days of the season into a festival of Wainwright, and not just Wainwright the pitcher, or Wainwright the teammate, or Wainwright the family man, a.k.a. all the traditional avenues for feting a 19-year servant of the club.

It turns out Adam Wainwright is also a musical artist, and the Cardinals are turning their final series of the season against Cincinnati into a full-blown Wain-o-fest. Friday is mostly just a T-shirt giveaway (as we think he might be pitching that night). On Saturday, he will perform three original songs in a postgame concert. And on Sunday the first 25,000 fans over the age of 16 will receive a playable guitar with Wainwright's face on it. And if that is too long a wait, you can buy one on eBay for $79.99.

This seems to the distant observer like a little too much, but the guitar giveaway isn't really aimed at us (though one supposes it depends on how obnoxious we're being). This is for Cardinal fans, who eat this stuff up and ask for seconds and, if it is a little outside the box for the tradition-bound franchise, so it must be. They need this Grand Slam Opry after what will be their worst season in 33 years and their worst without firing at least one manager in midseason since 1924 and, unlike most appreciation days, this one has instruments. One suspects the Cardinals are pleased that Wainwright never took up the tuba.

Either way, a grand time is expected to be had by all in the Cardinals' stadium that weekend, starting with Wainwright himself. This will, we presume, achieve exactly the level of joy Comrade Ellis seeks to capture. So there it is—Cardinals-Reds, with the bottom of the NL Central and the future of ballpark music at stake. Maybe this will get him to pipe down about joy for a while.

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