It’s mid-May, and the Cardinals are jockeying for position in the National League Central Division with the Cubs, the Brewers and other diamond rivals.
For Cardinal Nation, a principality that encompasses much of the Midwest and a broad swath of the South, hope always springs eternal, and that goes for Len Panneri, a member of the Sunset Hills Historical Society, as well.
“They should do OK this year. Some ups and downs so far. Hopefully, they’ll be there at the end,” said the retired United Parcel Service manager and Sunset Hills resident.
But even if the current flock of Redbirds pulls it all together and claims a 12th World Series title this October, it will be a fleeting thrill for Panneri, whose focus remains on past Cardinal glories.
Panneri’s collection of more than 1,000 bits of St. Louis Cardinal memorabilia will be on display at Sunset Hills City Hall at a May 20 “Birds on the Bats” presentation by the Sunset Hills Historical Society. The speaker will be Gary Kodner, author of “1882-2016 — Uniforms & Logos — An Illustrated History.”
The 2001-2011 era when slugger Albert Pujols led the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series wins is still longingly remembered by the current generation of local fans. But with all due deference to those great millennial Cardinals, there is one team that remains Panneri’s favorite — the 1964 team that got hot when the Philadelphia Phillies floundered in September, then battled the Yankees for seven games to take the World Series.
“They had come so close the year before, but the Dodgers pulled away by winning a late series in St. Louis. They carried over to the next year and hung in until the Phillies folded. The Reds were charging at the end, too, and the Cardinals closed the season with a series against the Mets. (The Mets) weren’t very good at that time, but the Cardinals lost Friday and Saturday and didn’t clinch until they won on Sunday. It was so exciting,” Panneri recalled.
Panneri’s favorite part of his collection is from the 1920s through the 1960s, mostly pin-back buttons featuring Cardinal logos and player portraits and pennants of various sizes and designs. He also has collectible photos of Frankie Frisch and Dizzy Dean and a “home plate” bearing the signatures of stars, some of them Hall of Famers, from around the league from the 1970s and 1980s.
“I got them from a lot of sources. Some are original buttons and pennants I got at Sportsman’s Park or Busch Stadium when I attended games. You never leave the ballpark without a souvenir,” he said.
Other items he traded for or purchased at collectibles show at Orlando Gardens and other venues. Of late, some have come from eBay.
“And friends and family know I’m a collector, so if they see something at a garage sale, often times they’ll pick it up for me,” he explained. “Once you become a collector, you never stop collecting.”
Panneri said Kodner’s book, which will be available at the May 20 presentation, “is something that anyone who is a Cardinals fan or who collects Cardinals memorabilia will like.
“It shows how the birds-on-the-bat logo and the STL logo have changed over the years and what year they changed. Some of the changes were slight, but definitely they changed. The book also talks about some of the teams and players of those different eras,” Panneri said.
A side note: Panneri was born Oct. 3, 1951. Baseball aficionados recall that as the day when “The Shot Heard Round The World” was struck by the Giants’ Bobby Thomson off of Ralph Branca. “My mother had to miss one of the greatest calls in baseball history that day,” Panneri said.
Yet another postscript: Panneri is also a member of the St. Louis Browns Fan Club & Historical Society, which is a subject for another article.
The Sunset Hills Historical Society meetings typically take place on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Sunset Hills City Hall’s chambers, 3939 S. Lindbergh Blvd. Parking and seating are limited.