Baseball playoffs stir old memories

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 3, 2013

Like many young girls, Sylvia Cardwell didn’t know or care much about baseball when she was growing up.
But a ninth-grade Civics class, of all things, changed that. She eventually became high school sweethearts with a guy who told the class he wanted to be a major league baseball pitcher.
Sylvia didn’t know at the time that those words would come true and that she would eventually be the wife of Don Cardwell, a Gray High School pitcher who would throw a no-hitter for the Chicago Cubs and be part of the pitching staff for the 1969 World Series Champion New York Mets.
He ended up winning 102 games in the major leagues in a 14-year career in the big leagues. Don Cardwell passed away at the age of 72 in January 2008, leaving behind his wife of 53 years and a lifetime of memories.
It all began in that Civics class when all the students were required to write a paper about what they planned to do with their lives after high school.
When Don told the class he was going to be a major league baseball player, “Everybody laughed,” Sylvia recalled. “I laughed, too.”
As fate would have it, that came right before the first baseball game of the season, and Sylvia went to the game with some of her friends.
“Don pitched and was the winning pitcher,” she said. “After the game, I said, ‘You pitched a good game, Don.’ But what did I know? That day, soon after I got home from school, Don called and wanted to know if he could come to my house and see me. Basically, that’s what started it all.”
Today, Sylvia still lives in the same house she and Don built in Old Meadowbrook in 1966.
In the driveway is her vehicle with a “1969 Met” license plate. When you ring the doorbell, it plays “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Inside, she still is surrounded by all those baseball memories — photos, caps, baseballs, bats, uniforms, scorecards and all kinds of knick-knacks take up a section of the living room.
“It is a baseball museum,” Sylvia said.
One wall includes photos of all the Miracle Mets of that magical 1969 season when the old rag-tag expansion team from earlier in the decade came out of nowhere to win it all.
Don played a key role down the stretch on the mound as a veteran on a young pitching staff that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan. He appeared in the first game of the World Series in relief of Seaver.
“It started off typical New York Mets style,” Sylvia said of 1969, which was Don’s third season with the Mets. “I thought they weren’t …