Riverfront Times April 9, 2015 : Page 14

Running Man ONE OF THE CARDINALS’ BIGGEST BOOSTERS NEVER SETS FOOT IN THE STADIUM — JUST ALL AROUND IT B Y D ANNY WI CENT O W SK I t’s the bottom of the eighth in the fi rst of a four-game series. The Cardinals are losing by four runs to the Philadelphia Phillies, and it’s not looking good. This is precisely the time that the Rally Runner feels he’s needed most. He jogs back and forth on Clark Avenue out-side of Busch Stadium, sweat dripping down his face and darkening the chest and armpits of his custom jersey, a No. 12 with “Rally Run-ner” stenciled on the back. He whips through another lap along the north end of the ball-park, sprinting past vendors and weaving his lanky, six-foot-fi ve-inch frame between fans, juking like a running back to avoid patrons exiting the pubs across the street. The Rally Runner returns a few high-fi ves, never slow-ing a step, and a smile fl ashes briefl y across his red-painted face. “There are games when everything is just dead, and you can feel that nothing is going to happen,” he says later. “That’s when I stand up, and I’m like, ‘Fuck no, we’re going to fucking go out here, and we’re going to wake up the Cardinals’ spirit somehow.’” That’s no gameday rah-rah platitude. The Rally Runner, a 35-year-old delivery driver from Soulard, believes in his heart that he can help the Cardinals win. He just has to keep running, creating a kind of spiritual energy he believes the players can utilize on the fi eld. There’s a sudden roar from the stadium crowd — third baseman Matt Carpenter has singled to right fi eld, bringing shortstop Jhonny Peralta home, and the Cards are, fi nally, on the scoreboard. But they’re still losing 4-1, and so the Rally Runner soldiers on. Joe the Balloon Man, a Busch Stadium staple who makes balloon animals for kids, watches from the sidewalk. He says he started seeing the red-clad fi gure back in 2012. “When I fi rst saw him, I didn’t know what he was doing. I just saw him running back and forth,” he says, just as the Rally Runner passes again. “I thought he was crazy. In a good way.” Like Joe and the spandex-wearing St. Louis Superman, the Rally Runner is one of the more memorable characters hanging around the sta-dium on game day. The Runner, who also intro-duces himself in a deep, halting voice as “Max Power,” has cultivated a singular mystique: He’s there at virtually every home game, seldom speaks and mostly keeps to himself. He doesn’t take time off when the team travels to other cities; during the away games he’s still there, outside an empty Busch Stadium, running. A shy man by nature, Power is cautious when it comes to discussing his reasons for running around outside Busch Stadium in red face paint. Basically, he says, the idea came to him in 2011, shortly after the World Series win. He had already been a Cardinals fan for 14 RIVERFR ONT TIMES I S TEVE TRUESDELL The rally runner, Max Power. more than a decade, but something changed in him after the magical postseason, the Game 6 comeback and the life the pennant brought to the city. “I had these visions of running for the Car-dinals. I didn’t know what it meant,” he says. “I felt like I had a connection. I kept having visions that I should run at the stadium.” It wasn’t until the 2012 playoffs that he fi nally followed through on the impulse. Af-ter running during the team’s epic, six-run comeback in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, he was hooked. “I see myself as an unseen player,” he says on the walk back to where he parked his scooter, shortly after three Cardinals batters strike out at the top of the ninth, one after the other. The losses are always painful, he says, but it doesn’t seem to faze him. “First off, I understand that it’s a long sea-son, I know that losing happens. The whole point of me running is to run the whole year, so that I can help them win the World Series. If the Cardinals are losing, I never give up. I keep my faith, keep visualizing them winning and com-ing back. I’ve had a lot of success,” he insists. Power takes detailed notes on each run, and by his count he “ran for the Cardinals” during 142 games last season, including the postsea-son. On most game days he arrives around the sixth inning, when the team most needs a spiritual boost, he says. Though he claims not to be much of a statistics guy, at our request Power went through his journal entries and crunched some numbers. According to his calculations, in 2014 he ran during 511 regular-season innings, during which the Cardinals batted in 243 runs. That works out to one score every 2.1 innings. The ratio was even better in 2013, when he ran during 322 innings over 98 games; during that time the Cardinals scored 173 runs, resulting in a run every 1.86 innings. In contrast, over the last two seasons, during the 937 innings when Power was otherwise occupied with delivering Chinese food or sick, the Cardinals only scored one run every 2.49 innings. “As I suspected,” Power says, “when I run, the Cardinals are better.” Amateur Sabermetics aside, it’s not always a picnic. He says he’s suffered sprains, back injuries, bashed toes and countless blisters. But he believes it’s all worth it. “I’m always praying,” he says. “I just have all the faith in the world that we’re going to turn this game around.” Q APRIL 9-15, 2 015 riverfronttimes.com


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