ST. LOUIS — The couple at the next table is sorry to interrupt, but they've noticed Travis Sheridan's jersey and they must say something.
The husband is a Boston Red Sox fan. The wife is originally from St. Louis. They're here for the World Series, loyalties split. So they can relate to Sheridan when they see him sitting in this downtown St. Louis restaurant wearing a jersey that's half Red Sox and half Cardinals. He's one person and his loyalties are split.
"Red Louis" the jersey says. There's a "St. Sox" one at home too. He wore it a day earlier and earned similar reactions. He shares stories with the couple for a few minutes, they laugh and take a picture together.
"That's why," Sheridan says, "baseball fans from these two teams are really awesome."
* * *
This is Bill Buckner's fault.
Sheridan was in fifth grade when the Red Sox played the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series. He lived in the Central California town of Madera and had a friend who was a Mets fan. His friend wanted to bet someone — anyone — that the Mets would win the series. Sheridan didn't know much about the Red Sox, but put $10 on them because that's what kids do. When that ball went through Buckner's legs, the hard-luck Red Sox made themselves a new fan. He'd spent $10 on them, might as well not give up now.
Fast-forward 27 years later and Sheridan lives in St. Louis. His wife is from the area, so they moved to Missouri a little under two years ago. Travis became a friend of mine when he lived in Central California and I can attest two things: (1) He really was a Red Sox fan and (2) the "Best Fans in Baseball" have cast their spell over him.
"The Cardinals are indicative of St. Louis itself," Sheridan says. He came out for a visit with his wife and after three days, asked her if she wanted to move back. "It's easy to fall in love with the city, so you might as well fall in love with the Cardinals and the Blues. Not so much the Rams, but they can't go 3-for-3."
He hatched the idea for his split jersey while watching Game 1 of the World Series. He then found a tailor that would cut two jerseys up and sew together two new ones. Total price? $100.
"People are either 'Hey, that's pretty funny' or 'Where did you get that?' " Sheridan says. "Nobody has gotten mad at me yet. It's that midwestern charm."
This is a place, after all, that had a welcome sign for Boston Red Sox fans at its airport when the series came here on Friday. But surely someone somewhere, maybe right here on the Internet, is going to call Sheridan disloyal or a sellout. To those people, he offers this:
"What other decisions do we make in our youth that we're expected to stick to our entire lives? It's sports teams and the religion you choose. If you vary from either one of those, it's like 'Oh, you're a sell out.' I think of this jersey like this: I made this decision young in life, I was baptized a Red Sox fan, but I've grown and I'm in a new environment so now I'll root for the Cardinals. I'm not forgetting my roots and how I started in baseball."
Now, the important question. Who does he want to win the World Series? Can't split that. One team is going to lose.
"With the series as crazy as it is, and back and forth, the bipolar jersey is making more sense," Sheridan says. "I want the Cards to win because I want to celebrate with the community. Cards in 7."
* * *
We're standing on Spruce Street, just a few blocks from Busch Stadium. Fans are starting to file in, a few hours before Game 3. In a matter of five minutes, three different groups of Cardinals fans stop to take pictures with Sheridan and his split jersey. The jersey is catching so many eyes that he joked he may need to sell the other one.
One guy is a Red Sox fan who lives in St. Louis. Another is a man named Spero Canton. He lived in St. Louis for four years, a long time ago. Now he lives in Miami and still roots for the Cards.
"Once you live in St. Louis," he tells Sheridan after they take a picture together, "you're indoctrinated."
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