NLCS a family affair in St. Louis

NLCS a family affair in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have never had to search very far to find a nationally recognized celebrity or Hall of Fame athlete. There are plenty making their homes in St. Louis.

So when it was announced that two Hall of Fame baseball players would throw out the ceremonial first pitch in Games 1 and 2 of the National League Championship Series, a Hall of Fame football player would be singing the National Anthem in Game 1 and a well-recognized American Idol finalist would be singing "God Bless America" in Game 2, one would think the Cardinals are going all out. The truth is, it will look more like a family reunion than the "We are the World" concert it sounds like.

Hall of Fame baseball players and former St. Louis Cardinals Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith will throw out the ceremonial first pitch in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Hall of Fame football player and former St. Louis Cardinals football player Jackie Smith will sing the National anthem in Game 1 and country music singer Erika Jo will sing the anthem in Game 1. Nikko Smith, son of Ozzie and American Idol finalist, will sing God Bless America in Game 2 and Gospel Quartet will sing the song in Game 1.

"There aren't too many ballteams with the tradition we have [in St. Louis]," said Marty Hendin, vice president of community relations for the Cardinals. "You look at the four teams in the playoffs; the Angels and the Astros are former expansion teams and the White Sox haven't won [the World Series] since 1917."

Along with singing the National Anthem, Jackie Smith -- who played with the St. Louis football team from 1963-1977 and finished his career as the all-time leader in receptions for tight ends at the time (1978) -- will be honored with about 16 other former Cardinals football players during Game 1.

"They are a big part of Busch [Stadium]," Hendin said. "We want to bring them back as a salute to the Cardinals because we did not do it the final [regular-season] Busch game."

Jo is a new artist that was recently signed to Universal South and is only 18 years old. She gained popularity earlier this year when she won the USA Network's Nashville Star talent comepetition. Her debut single is called "I Break Things," from her eponymous debut album.

The plan for Game 2 is to have the Smith father-son duo take part in ceremonies on the same day.

"Nikko is very popular here," Hendin said. "He grew up in the ballpark and everyone knows him."

Stephen A. Norris is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.