By Kat Riddler, Editor-In-Chief
With the Super Bowl over, it is now time to focus back on St. Louis’ most beloved sport: baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training games begin February 25 in Jupiter, Florida, but that does not stop loyal fans from getting psyched for the next season here in St. Louis. Spring training starts Tuesday after all. One of those loyal fans is right here at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. While you might recognize him as the university’s friendly mail carrier, Tom Lange, in the world of Cardinals’ baseball fandom goes by “The Hat Man.”
Lange said, “I don’t really know why I started making hats; I would have to guess it was Fair Saint Louis that gave me an idea.”
Lange has been a volunteer with Fair Saint Louis for over 20 years, and many of the workers of the event also work on the Mardi Gras Committee. His first hat was one he made in 2004 from old sets of beads and Mardi Gras necklaces.
He had previously made it a tradition to camp out in line to get tickets for the Cardinals’ opening day. In 2006, the new Busch Stadium opened, but tickets were sold online only. Lange only had a dial-up connection back then, and the tickets were sold out almost instantly without his purchase making it through. He looked for alternatives to get opening day tickets.
“I knew if you went to the pre-game rallies sometimes they would offer tickets for something ‘different,’” said Lange. He decided to use his hat making skills to stand out in the crowd of Cardinals’ fans.
In honor of the new stadium, Lange created a hat called “New Nest” and wore it downtown. He noticed more people taking pictures of him as he got closer to the stadium. Although he never entered the stadium, the next day his picture was in the newspaper. He was then interviewed by Major League Baseball (MLB) and next appeared in a McDonald’s video. His picture also appeared in the book “The First Year of Busch Stadium,” which was released later that year.
The Cardinals went on to win the World Series that year. After “New Nest,” Lange never thought he would make another hat. But inspiration struck him when he saw bobblehead replicas of the Cardinals players with a World Series trophy. He decided to create a hat with 10 World Series trophies on it named “Baseball Heaven.” Lange said, “There was something special about this hat. When people saw it they would call out other people to see it.”
From then on, Lange always had a theme for his hats. In 2008 the rededication of the Stan Musial Statue took place; the All-Star Game was held at Busch Stadium in 2009; Ozzie Smith and his opening day flips were honored in 2010; and 2011 was the 11 in 11 World Series, which Lange proceeded to create a hat for in 2012. He has created other hats honoring the Cardinals’ 19 pennant wins, the 80th anniversary of the Clydesdales, the welcoming back of KMOX, the 30th anniversary of the ‘82 World Series champions, and Jack Buck’s call of Ozzie Smith’s home run of “Go Crazy, Folks, Go Crazy.”
“To date I have made 22 hats depicting something memorable with the St. Louis Cardinals,” he said.
Lange does not use any type of glue for his hats; he wires on all parts of his hats. Inspiration is the first step. “Most hats I see before they are made. Some I just start and they come together,” he said.
Once Lange foresees what type of hat he is going to make, finding the parts can prove difficult. “I work on two, three, or more hats at one time. Sometimes I have an idea but can’t find parts. Or I buy parts and it takes time to figure out how to and where to place on my hat. I buy parts that I try but then never get used and then I find a use for them on something else,” Lange said.
Each hat takes a different mount because of different inspiration and parts. Lange described how long it took to create the Clydesdales hat. “I spent three years on the Clydesdales hat— finding the wagon and horses to fit a hat, finding the right hat, how do I wire or screw the parts on, and where do I find all the parts I need to complete it?” he said.
Not all of his hat themes center around the Cardinals. Some of Lange’s other hats include a Race for the Cure “PINK Hat,” a hat for the Forest Park Hat Contest, and the “Dana Brown” hat. Lange has even made hats for charity: the U.S. Bank Herbert Hoover Duck Derby hat and a hat for Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). Some are even UMSL-related. Lange made a St. Patrick’s Day hat for an UMSL float downtown. He also created two hats to honor athletics and academia. Lange would not leave out St. Louis’ other sporting love: hockey. He has also created a St. Louis Blues hat.
Lange’s favorite hat is one he created based on Sesame Street. He was inspired after reading a person’s shirt that read “I was raised on the Street” on the front and “Sesame Street” on the back. “Of course the next time I was in a store I saw some Sesame Street characters I knew would work well on a hat. I googled the rest of the characters and off I was making a Sesame Street hat,” he said.
Lange said he is looking forward to the upcoming season for the Cardinals. He is making an opening day hat for 2017. Opening day is April 3 against the Cubs in St. Louis. This will be the first time since 2011 that the Cardinals’ opening day game will be a home game. Although April 3 is a long time to wait and see what Lange will create next, you can check out his previous hats at the Post Office on campus, located at 8230 Florissant Road.