May 5, 2006: Cinco De Mayo - the Mexican National holiday the St Louis Cardinals had celebrated each year by losing for thirteen consecutive years (1993-2005) - turned out to be a winner for the Redbirds seven years ago today, beating the Florida Marlins - in Florida, at their hideous old ballpark, before they moved to their hideous new ballpark, before they changed their name and uniforms, and before they spent millions of dollars on overpriced free agents that enabled them to finish last again in 2012 - by a score of 7-2. Strangely enough, the Cardinals (18-12) scored all 7 runs in one inning - the fifth. Inning cinco. Coincidence? Perhaps.
Strangely enough, the Cardinals scored those 7 runs on 11 hits on May 5, 2006, and they also scored 7 runs on 11 hits the last time they won a game on Cinco De Mayo - May 5, 1992 - 7-5 over the San Francisco Giants, at Busch Stadium II during the post-Whitey Herzog-pre Tony LaRussa - Joe Torre regime.
The significance of 7/11 is obvious. My birthday happens to be July 11. The significance of thirteen straight Cinco De Mayo losses became apparent the following year, when the Cardinals were defeated by the Houston Astros at Busch Stadium III, by a score of 13-0. Since that May 5, 2007 13-0 defeat, the Cardinals have won twice and lost three times on Cinco De Mayo. Their most recent May 5 victory was two years ago - in 2011- another World Championship year. In case you were wondering, the last time the Cardinals were World Champions prior to 2006 - in 1982 - the Redbirds were victorious on Cinco De Mayo, beating the Chicago Cubs in St Louis, by a score of 7-6. Somehow, they had 14 - not 11 - hits that day, so they obviously didn't get the memo.
Getting back to May 5, 2006 - Albert Pujols - who wore #5 - hit a three-run home run to start the fifth-inning hit parade. Backup catcher Gary Bennett had a two-run single, pitcher Jeff Suppan had a run-scoring single, and David Eckstein ended the scoring with a sacrifice fly which turned into a double play when Suppan (naturally) was thrown out trying to advance from first base to second base on the play. Base-running was never his forte.
Gary Bennett had a well-travelled 13-year career as a backup catcher, making stops in Philadelphia, New York, Colorado, San Diego, Milwaukee, Washington, St Louis, and Los Angeles, before retiring after the 2008 season. All told, he appeared in 587 games, including his one game career as a New York Met in 2001. He had one AB, got a single, then was traded to the Rockies. Gary Bennett can now tell his grandkids he had the highest career batting average in New York Mets history: 1.000.
That's all there is to know about Cinco De Mayo - the weirdest holiday in St Louis Cardinals history.
Update: Cinco De Mayo proved to be lucky for Mexican-born Jaime Garcia in 2013. After losing to the Houston Astros, May 5, 2012, Jaime tamed the Milwaukee Brewers one year later, as the Redbirds flew out of Milwaukee with a four-game series sweep after pounding the Brew Crew 10-1.
Yes, the Cardinals have quietly compiled the best record in the National League (20-11); but flying under the radar is what Cardinals do.