It’s not uncommon for Mercy Hospital Jefferson to host a few Cardinal fanatics on any given night, but one patient’s connection to the team attracted several visitors last week. And Elsie Fallert didn’t mind retelling her story.
When she was 15, her brother helped her to get a job in the RJ Liebe Athletic Lettering Company in St. Louis. When she turned 16 she was allowed to operate the big machines, which embroidered the Cardinals logo on the front of their jerseys and the numbers on the backs.
“I was 18 in 1941 when Stan Musial started. He was a rookie,” Elsie said. “I used to put ‘good luck’ and other little notes in his uniforms.”
In addition to the Cardinals, the company sewed jerseys for all 12 major league teams at the time. They also made the uniforms for professional football and basketball teams, and the sweaters for the local St. Louis Flyers hockey team, she said. But only one team and one particular player are the focus of her extensive memorabilia collection.
“I only met him one time. Musial and a couple of the boys came by the shop one day,” Elsie said. A prized possession in her collection is a photograph of her at the factory with the other six young women who worked in the shop. They are all wearing Cardinals jerseys they sewed. “That’s Musial’s jersey I have on,” she said, pointing herself out in the black and white photograph.
A distinction about those jerseys is the black bat that the cardinals are perched upon. The change to the yellow bat on the home team’s jersey these days didn’t take place until the 1960s, she said. The 94-year-old’s interest in the team goes way back before then.
“Old Sportsman’s Park used to be my hang out. We would ride the street cars to the games. It cost 10 cents. We would go right from school,” Elsie said. “I went to the 1944 World Series when the Cardinals played the Browns.”
Stan the Man is not the only well-known cardinal that Elsie has ever met. Her son was an altar boy at Holy Infant parish in St. Louis County alongside Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York.
“I used to drive ‘Little Timmy Dolan’ to school,” Elsie said.
Elsie spent only two days at Mercy Jefferson before she got to go back home, but in her short visit she made sure people knew where her baseball allegiance lies. Who is her favorite Cardinal these days? “I like all of them.”