Stan Kroenke is the most illimitable and enigmatic owner in the whole wide world of sports.
He could win his second championship trophy in 2022 (Rams and Avalanche), and fourth overall, just before his 75th birthday July 29th.
He was born in 1947 with two famous names – Enos Stanley – but is identified readily by two others – “Kroenke’’ and “Walton’’. His wife is Walmart heir Ann Walton Kroenke.
As young boys in the 1950s Stan and I were introduced to baseball – one in the tiny town of Mora in central Missouri and the other 350 miles southeast in Memphis, Tenn.
“I listened with my grandfather and my father to the St. Louis Cardinals on the radio,’’ he once said. Kroenke actually was named after Cardinals’ stars Enos “Country’’ Slaughter and Stan “The Man’’ Musial. At age 9 Kroenke swept the floors at his father’s Mora Lumber Company, which still is in business today.
My dad and I listened to the Cardinals in the back of a garage he built with little assistance from a son who would bounce baseballs off the wall – “thwonk’’ – and try to duplicate every play in the game. The kid visualized what Sportsman’s Park must have been like and dreamed of one day playing for the Cardinals. Stan fantasized, too.
Because the Cardinals were the westernmost/southernmost Major League Baseball team, their games were broadcast seemingly everywhere in the hinterlands. Harry Caray, Joe Buck and Joe Garagiola made it real for Stan and me and other youths and their fathers and grandfathers.
“It might be, it could be, it is . . . a home run’’. Harry’s shout would reverberate from inside the old Motorola portable radio. “HOLY COW!’
The Cardinals were good in 1951-52-53, finishing third in an eight-team league all three seasons. They weren’t so hot the next two years, dropping to sixth, then eighth. But they were Our Cardinals. We celebrated with sweet tea and chocolate icebox pie when they won.
The Kroenkes were doing the same way up the road.
My dad took on a second job and announced before my eighth birthday in June we would take a trip to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals and Stan The Man against the Brooklyn Dodgers and Duke Snider and the amazing Jackie Robinson.
Being with my dad for my first train ride, my first hotel stay, my first major league games. The Dodgers swept the Cards, but I still consider that time the best of my life. I told dad on the ride home I wanted to join a junior baseball team and someday become a writer for The Sporting News.
Young Kroenke shared similar sentiments. He played baseball and basketball and ran track at Cole Camp High School, then earned bachelor and master’s degrees at the University of Missouri while opening his own clothing store.
Kroenke became a shopping center developer, then met Ann Walton, the daughter of one of the Walmart co-founders, on a ski trip to Colorado and married her in 1974.
Although Kroenke was a successful businessman, he retained a passion for sports and wanted to own a team. “I always thought I’d enjoy it because the professional sports business is part business and part sports, and I love both,’’ he told the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune.
In 1995, he was a major factor in the Los Angeles Rams’ move to St. Louis and bought a 30 percent share. Five years later he purchased 100 percent of the Nuggets, the Avalanche and the arena here.
His sports portfolio would add the Rapids and a soccer stadium in Commerce City, the National Lacrosse League’s Mammoth, full ownership of the Rams (returning them to L.A. and constructing a football stadium), Arsenal Football Club and its stadium and numerous sports enterprises, including Altitude Sports Network.
Kroenke’s sports properties are valued at more than $11 billion, and he also is one of the country’s top three landowners.
I grew up to write for The Sporting News and covered the Cardinals in two World Series.
Kroenke and I often talked over the past 20 years.
But, despite Kroenke’s own strong devotion to sports as a youth listening to baseball broadcasts, ultimately leading him to sports franchise ownership, he has deprived a multitude of Colorado boys and girls of viewing their teams, a two-time NBA MVP and two of the best NHL stars during the regular season the past three years.
Their dreams are blacked out.
Enos Stanley Kroenke should be ashamed.