Cheap Seats

Jupiter Journal: March 14, 7:40 p.m.

The Braves brought former Cardinals first baseman Andres Galarraga, who is with Atlanta this spring as a special instructor, along for the ride when they appeared against St. Louis Monday at Roger Dean Stadium.

I have always felt bad for the way things turned out with the Big Cat during his short stay with the Redbirds. A literal bad break spoiled what might have otherwise been a great relationship.

Only 13 games into his Cardinals career after the Birds swapped promising pitcher Ken Hill to get him. Galarraga had his wrist fractured when he was hit by an inside pitch. It seemed like he tried to come back too quickly to help his team and Galaragga struggled terribly before getting red hot in July with a .341 batting average and five homers. In August he hit the wall and that was it for his stay with St. Louis.

Restless fans booed as the strikeouts piled up and he left a boatload of runners in scoring position. So he left at the end of the season as a free agent, signing with Colorado. The rest was history.

Galarraga hit .316 for the next five years with Colorado and averaged 34 homers a season. Sure the air was thin and the balls were jumping in those days. But Galarraga's numbers were a lot better at Busch Stadium as a Cardinal than they were on the road. It seems like a lot of players -- Galarraga, Larry Walker and Matt Holliday included -- who hit well in the Rockies home park played well at Busch Stadium II and III.

I think if he wouldn't have been hit by that pitch Galarraga that he might have been the power source in the middle of the Redbirds lineup that they had been missing since Jack Clark left after the 1987 season.

Galarraga took the Braves lineup card to the plate Monday while Hall of Famer Bob Gibson took the Cardinals lineup to the umpires.

The former Braves, Cardinals, Rockies, Expos, Giants, Rangers and Angels slugger got a well deserved and long overdue hand by the St. Louis fans in a packed house.