In my high school days back in the mid early 2000s, my older brother Jeff used to tell me about one of his favorite local hangout spots, a street in west St. Louis County affectionately known to everyone as “Zombie Road”. It’s a dark and heavily wooded trail that runs along the Meramec River and was used to transport sediments from the river bottom decades ago. It is eerily silent and the inclines and declines of the trail coupled with the drastic changes in temperature create an ominous and at times downright creepy ambiance. They say that on some nights, when a full moon hangs in the brightly speckled Midwest sky and the barometric pressure is just right, one can see dark figures, hear voices, and feel the touch of icy fingers (although I’m sure the only strange occurrences Jeff ever experienced were induced by whatever the cheapest tall beer at the local gas station was that night). The rumors about Zombie Road have been around for years, although almost all of them remain, to this day, unsubstantiated.
Last April, a similar rumor began swirling about the Gateway to the West. Around the start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season, St. Louisans reported seeing a strange figure in and around Busch Stadium. A story started to spread that on nights that Matt Holliday‘s batting average hovered around .300 and Jason Motte‘s fastball broke 100mph, an old St. Louis Cardinal, one of the most polarizing baseball figures from the 1980s, could be spotted drinking ice cold draft beers, autographing baseball cards, and making every 50-year-old woman in the city’s heart melt like it was 1982 all over again. It was the ghost of Keith Hernandez.
Okay, okay, I’ll admit that Hernandez has neither passed on, nor does he have any ties to the organization. But St. Louis native Dom Palumbo is using the oft-embattled former National League MVP’s identity to put on quite a spectacle and give fans yet another reason to come out to the ballpark. A chipper and colorful young man, Dom has cooked up a new alter-ego and is having a blast bringing it to life. “People bought me beers, I got to hang out with Billy Busch, and so many pictures were taken. I had quite a few “Cougars”, as Matt Damon called them in Ocean’s 13, who loved it too, because they used to crush on Hernandez” says Dom when asked about the perks of his new-found celebrity.
It’s curious that Dom has selected Hernandez to become one of the focal points of his life, considering the Birds traded the first baseman to The New York Mets after the ’82 season-six years before Dom was born. His inspiration for the Hernandez garb was almost as amusing as the get-up itself. “Well, last year I had shaved my beard into a mustache for a Disco themed trivia night in January and never got rid of it. So when Opening Day came around, I knew that I had all the makings of a Cards ’82 uniform (powder blue jersey, real powder blue pants, stirrups, red cleats) so I got online and searched for 80’s Cardinals, looking for someone that I resembled, and who did I find- Keith Hernandez in all his mustached glory! I made the number and lettering myself and got it sewn on my jersey and snagged an old ear-flapless Cards helmet and the rest is history.”
Dom is making quite a name for himself. He has been featured on Fox Sports, done countless TV interviews, and is currently one of the finalists for MLB’s “Fan Cave”. which would send him from St. Louis to the Big Apple in the same fashion as his predecessor 30 years ago. For now, you can find Dom on several social media platforms, at Busch Stadium, and your local sports bar. He will have you convinced that the St. Louis Cardinals really do have the best fans in baseball.