Mitzvah lands lifelong Cards fan first pitch honors

Jeff Altman with Fredbird

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

When he was 7 or 8 years old, Jeff Altman remembers telling his Grandpa Altman that his dream was to one day throw out the opening pitch at a Cardinals game. He even said as much to his wife, Kimi, when they went on their first date 27 years ago.

He most certainly confided this wish to Kurt Schoor, Jeff’s best friend since the third grade. According to Jeff’s mother, Jan Boraz, the two boys were inseparable. 

“You didn’t invite Jeff anywhere without Kurt and vice-versa,” says Boraz, who lives in the Creve Coeur area. “It was like a marriage.” 

Among the hundreds of childhood experiences the boys shared, a favorite was watching — and rooting for — the Cardinals. Jeff says he has always been “the diehard” while Kurt was more the doubter. “Every year I’d say this is the one where we are going to win the World Series. Kurt would just respond with something like, ‘Yeah right. You are so full of it,’” Jeff recalls.

Jeff, who is Jewish, made sure Kurt was by his side when Jeff celebrated his bar mitzvah at United Hebrew Congregation. After the two graduated from Parkway Central High School in 1979 and then finished college, Jeff moved to southern California with Kurt following six months later. After two years, Kurt moved back to St. Louis while Jeff stayed out west.

Still, the two spoke three or four times a week. At their weddings, each was the other’s best man. Kurt named his only son Jeffrey while Jeff named his second son Cody Ryan Kurt. 

Then, on April 24, 1994, Jeff received a phone call from Kurt’s father in St. Louis explaining that his son had had a heart attack and died. Kurt Schoor was 32 years old.

“It was devastating,” recalls Boraz, who felt as if she had lost a son, too. “The church was absolutely jam packed. I’ll never forget Kurt’s son Jeffrey, who was 5 at the time, walking up to the casket, looking at it and saying, ‘Daddy, it’s time to get up and go home.’ The whole thing broke my heart.”

Jeff, of course, was distraught. But he vowed to keep his best friend’s memory alive by doing something positive. After all, this was Kurt Schoor, the guy who looked like a young Brad Pitt, could start up a conversation with anyone and was always up for a rousing adventure. “The picture in Webster’s Dictionary under the word ‘daredevil’ is Kurt Schoor,” adds Jeff.

With the help of the Parkway Alumni Association, and approval from Kurt’s parents, Jeff sent out letters to dozens of former classmates asking them to donate to the Kurt Schoor Memorial Fund. The fund would be used in the form of scholarships for current Parkway students to help them fulfill their dreams. Appropriately called “Granting Dreams,” scholarships of up to $250 have been given for all sorts of pursuits, including sending kids to space and robotics camps. 

When the first Granting Dreams scholarships were awarded in spring 1997, Jeff flew to St. Louis to be here to help hand them out. “There were like 15 or 20 people in the audience,” Jeff says, adding that he and Kimi were two of them.

Over the years, that number has grown. Today, 15 years after the Kurt Schoor Memorial Fund was begun, it has raised more than $50,000 and granted the dreams of 300-plus students. 

This spring, when Jeff flew into St. Louis so that he could hand out the scholarships, more than 450 people were in attendance.  After the ceremony, Jeff was asked to stay on the stage for a moment. And that’s when Jeff Altman’s dream of a lifetime came true.

“We told him, ‘Jeff, every year you’ve been granting everyone else’s wishes. Now we’re going to grant yours,’” says Jan Misuraca, executive director of the Parkway Alumni Association.

On Friday, Sept. 28, Jeff will throw out the first pitch when the Cardinals play the Washington Nationals at Busch Stadium. Misuraca said when Jeff learned the news he was speechless. “And if you know Jeff, you know that doesn’t happen very often,” says Misuraca, adding that all 450 people gave him a standing ovation.

In case you doubt whether Jeff is worthy of such an honor, bear in mind that although he now works in the mortgage business and lives in Anaheim, Calif., he never misses watching a Cardinals game. He bought a cable package that allows him to see every game except for Saturday day games, when he and his eldest son, Shayne, listen to them on their computer.

“I can go to my grave knowing I have a diehard Cardinals fan here on Earth,” says Jeff proudly, referring to Shayne. The two flew back to St. Louis for the World Series games last summer; Jeff hasn’t missed seeing the Cardinals play in the World Series since 1982. 

The fanaticism doesn’t stop there, either. Two rooms in Jeff’s home are decorated, from floor to ceiling, with Cardinals paraphernalia, including the seats that he always sat in at the old Busch Stadium; framed jerseys signed by Stan Musial and Jeff’s all-time favorite player, Bob “Gibby” Gibson; Cardinals Kleenex boxes, Cardinals Monopoly and Scrabble games; a bubble gum machine filled with Cardinals bubble gum; Cardinals bar stools and a Cardinals window shade. Heck, the walls in the guest room are even painted Cardinals red.

For the Sept. 28 game, which is also Parkway Alumni Day, Jeff’s sister, Debbie Raskas, has made special T-shirts to mark the occasion of her brother’s first pitch. Raskas owns Baked T’s in the Delmar Loop. All proceeds from the sale of the shirts will go to benefit the Kurt Schoor Memorial Fund.

Misuraca says the alumni association got the idea for the surprise from Kurt’s brother, Mark. “He approached me last year and wondered if there was any way we could make this happen,” she said. “I told him to give me a year.”

Jeff says he’s been practicing his pitches in anticipation of the big day. Kimi and their sons plan to be there, along with both Jeff and Kurt’s family in St. Louis, including son Jeffrey, who is now 23. 

As for what his best buddy Kurt would think about the whole thing, Jeff laughs and says, “He’d be rolling his eyes at me, saying, ‘Dude. You and your Cardinals. How’d you manage to pull this one off?”