Marty Prather, 53
For the Cardinals' home opener series against the Cubs last weekend, "Sign Man," also known as Marty Prather, came prepared. Well, Prather always comes prepared -- the Springfield resident has upward of 40 hand-painted signs jammed in beside his seat along the first-base line -- but he goes all out when the Cubs are in town. During Saturday's game, we counted ten different signs meant to humiliate the Cubs, not to mention the white banner with a dark blue "W" on it, not unlike the one that flies over Wrigley Field after a Cubs' victory, only Prather's says "When?"
"What is the source of this hatred?" we wondered. Why go to such efforts to denigrate the opposing team? We maneuvered our way through the crowd to ask him. We were wearing a Cubs cap and T-shirt, but the Cards had just scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth, so we figured he'd be in a good mood. Anyway, being a Cubs fan makes you strong and immune to most heckling.
Whence this hatred, Marty? What did the Cubs ever do to you? I'm really more of a Card lover than a Cub hater.
Hm. You sure go to a lot of effort to make those signs. My buddy paints them for me. I come up with the ideas and he does the work.
Which one is your favorite?
Of course. It took a while to make that one.
What's the back of your jersey say? Bartman? [Cubs fans and nemeses no doubt recall that Steve Bartman was the fan who knocked a fly ball out of the reach of Cubs left fielder Moises Alou, thus helping the Cubs blow a 3-0 lead against the Florida Marlins and, eventually, the entire 2003 National League Championship Series.] I bought it back in 2003. I get one every year. I hang them on my mantle, all in order.
They make those? I buy 'em blank and have 'em embroidered.
Why did you choose the number 104? [Prather leans forward.] It says "104 Years And Counting."