October 20, 2011
ST. LOUIS — The walls of Pappy's Smokehouse are papered with barbecue menus signed by the celebrities who have devoured the ribs and downed the beans there.
Yes, the one and the same, confirms Pappy's ZZ Top-bearded owner, Mike Emerson.
OK, so the free agent-to-be has been on the premises before. But let's not to jump to conclusions. Perhaps he was just fooled by the name and thought it was a place to refresh his stash of chewing tobacco.
Once there, he must have enjoyed one of the vegetarian side dishes like the deep-fried corn on the cob or the sweet potato fries, both of which are excellent.
"He had a rack of ribs," Emerson says.
As our table laughs, Emerson takes the opportunity to tell a funny story, the veracity of which doesn't really matter because it's a boastful tale told by a barbecue joint owner and who doesn't like one of those? Emerson says that before Fielder came into Pappy's, he had been mired in a slump "like 1 for 20 or something."
"After he ate here, I think he went something like 4 for 8," Emerson says. "I told [Cards pitcher] Adam Wainwright(notes) about it and that night he yelled at Prince from the dugout and asked how he liked our ribs."
While that story was from awhile back, a recent Twitter report and Urban Spoon review placed Prince at Pappy's last week during the NLCS. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, it's probably worthwhile to ask these questions: Did the Pappy's visit weigh down Prince's play? Is Emerson the real NLCS MVP? Should he get a ring?
The evidence sticks as much as our sauce-stained fingers: Over the three games in St. Louis, Fielder went 1 for 10 with four strikeouts with his damage limited to one double and one run. Over his entire career, he has a .855 OPS at Busch Stadium, compared to a .929 mark overall.
On the flip side, Fielder did win the 2009 Home Run Derby at Busch Stadium.
Truth is, this rib revelation shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Rumors of Prince forsaking veggies go as far back as fall of 2008 and he sure doesn't look (or hit) like a fella who's been subsisting on bean sprouts the past four years. He confirmed that he is no longer a vegetarian to Anthony Witrado of the Sporting News last August, saying "nope, no more of that any more."
Given the way that Pappy's ribs fall off the bone, I'd like to think they had a little something to do with Fielder's decision. Perhaps the Cardinals can use Pappy's as a way to lure Fielder to St. Louis if Albert Pujols(notes) bolts elsewhere?
Or just to soften up the demands of Scott Boras?
Emerson better get back to smoking, just in case.
Bonus: Fielder is far from the only ballplayer with a hankering for Pappy's delicious food. Members of the Cardinals are frequent visitors and on Thursday, we saw closer Jason Motte(notes) there for the second time in a week. He even brought along an MLB Productions crew for this visit.