ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Cardinals appear to be developing a bit of a Cubbie complex, even if Joe Maddon won’t admit he’s in their heads now.
“I did not say that,” Maddon said, trying to suppress a grin near the end of a media session that lasted 20-plus minutes before Wednesday’s rivalry game.
The star manager of the team with the best record in baseball started rolling when a reporter asked if he had heard about the crackdown on “Try Not To Suck” T-shirts at Busch Stadium.
“I’d love to know the definition of why they’re offensive in any way, shape or form,” Maddon said. “Whoever thinks they’re offensive has a dirty mind.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the Cardinals will likely relax a ballpark policy that instructs ushers to have fans remove – or turn inside-out – clothing with explicit language. “Sucks” has been on the list of banned words for apparel and signs.
The blue T-shirts feature Maddon’s iconic glasses and the advice he gave last September to Javier Baez, who went on to hit the big three-run homer in Game 4 at Wrigley Field, helping eliminate the Cardinals from the National League division series.
How Maddon heard about fans getting hassled at Busch Stadium sounds like an episode from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” one of his favorite TV shows starring his buddy Jeff Garlin.
“We went to Hooters for some wings and some beer,” Maddon said. “A guy came in with the shirt on – a Cubs fan – and he told me he was denied access at the ballpark.
“I was debating all kinds of methods to combat all that. But then I decided to let it fly and I think the fans are responding. That’s the best way to indicate how foolish it is.”
This series has already seen a Busch Stadium sound system mix-up where classical music played while the Cubs took batting practice. And then it shut down and turned back on when assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske brought out a portable speaker.
Jason Heyward got booed throughout for switching sides in the rivalry – and then had to respond to unconfirmed tweets that fans yelled racial slurs at the $184 million outfielder.
Maddon – who grew up as a Cardinals fan in Pennsylvania’s coal-mining territory and got to meet Hall of Famer Bob Gibson before Tuesday night’s game – thought about wearing the T-shirt on purpose.
“I think it’s much better if the fans make a big deal out of it,” Maddon said. “Let somebody else blow your horn and the sound travels twice as far.”
A reporter sarcastically suggested the Cubs should respond by banning jorts at Wrigley Field.
“I would love to know where the original concept or thought came from, because it’s not a unilateral decision made by an usher,” Maddon said. “It’s got to be an edict among the powers that be here. Was it the mayor of St. Louis? Is it the president?
“It’s interesting. It speaks to the politics of the area a little bit also. I think you have to be careful with that.
“I’d love a full explanation as to why they find it offensive. And I said if you do find it offensive, you really have to dig down deeply and understand why you find that dirty in some way. I’d love to know why it’s dirty. Because that’s what it comes down to – somebody finds it dirty. And I don’t find it that way at all.”
Maddon is still thinking bigger and better, because sales of the T-shirts benefit charities affiliated with the Cubs and the Hazleton Integration Project in his hometown. This free publicity won’t suck.
“If you look it up in the dictionary,” Maddon said, “I think it’s very appropriate to utilize that word in a lot of different moments in our daily adventures. We’re also trying to tone it down a bit for kids. I’m trying to come up with the kids’ version of ‘Try Not To Suck.’
“Actually, for those that are really interested, the ladies’ versions came out today. We have both tank top and a V-neck and they’re fabulous.
“We’re also looking into the potential of doing it in every team’s colors, and that would be kind of interesting to absolutely inundate the market with ‘Try Not To Suck’ T-shirts.”