Devoted Cardinals fan Marty Prather is known around Busch Stadium as the "Sign Man" for obvious reasons.
It all started back in 1985 during the World Series, when Prather brought a sign to the ballpark that read, "The Fat Lady is Singing." He was picked out of the crowd by television cameras and his image was broadcast across the country. The next day, his father phoned in from Florida to let him know he caught a glimpse of his son on national TV.
"I couldn't believe how many people responded to that sign," Prather says. "I thought, 'You know what, I might be on to something here.'"
The next season, Prather began making signs for individual players and his notoriety around St. Louis began to grow, year after year as Prather's sign collection expanded. His signs are visible in images of the Busch Stadium crowd that have appeared in USA Today, The New York Times and Sports Illustrated. And while Prather says he never turns down the opportunity to get his signs on TV broadcasts, nothing compares to the joy he gets when a Cardinals player recognizes his newest slogan.
"I get more satisfaction out of that now than being on the tube," Prather says.
But Prather's love for the Cardinals isn't confined to his notorious signs. In the basement of his home in Springfield, Prather displays the wide array of Cardinals memorabilia he's been collecting for nearly half a century. The room is a baseball haven, complete with eight seats from Busch Stadium II and three from Sportsman's Park, not to mention the replica dugouts that house the sofas and recreate a ballpark experience.
"The collection is just out of control," Prather says.
Prather attends 20 games in St. Louis each year and never misses a chance to see ex-Cardinals players when they come to town. While he also makes signs for the Cards' Double-A team in Springfield, Prather's favorite placard of all time is devoted to Cardinals great Ozzie Smith and reads, "St. Louis will always be the Land of Oz."
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.