The remarkable Jewish history of Fredbird and his creator’s “secret closet”

The remarkable Jewish history of Fredbird and his creators secret closet

Jordan Palmer

There are two reasons this story needs to be told.  The first is that today the legendary St. Louis Cardinals mascot Fredbird was named a finalist for induction into the Mascot Hall of Fame. Fans are encouraged to vote for Fredbird during the final voting stage through Saturday, October 23. You may vote once per day online with the same email address.

And because of this honor, it’s time to remember the Jewish man credited with creating Fredbird, Marty Hendin.

Hendin passed away in January of 2008 after battling cancer.  And even though Hendin would often deflect his involvement in the “hatching” of Fredbird, he was the man with the idea and deserves the credit.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

“Everyone wants to credit me with inventing him, and I didn’t. He was sort of put under my wing, so to speak … Basically, the idea had been broached by many different people, since that was the heyday of the San Diego Chicken.”

The Second Reason | The Secret Closet

Hendin was the kindest and most modest man you could ever meet. I was fortunate to also be taken under Marty’s wing, as a young TV producer at KSDK in the mid-1990s. I had just started the Show Me St. Louis Show and was speaking to Marty about how to gain viewers through fun giveaways when he invited me to his office.

Marty’s Office

Hendin also gained notoriety for his unique collection of Cardinal and baseball memorabilia in his office at Busch Memorial Stadium that was dubbed “Trinket City.” A portion of Hendin’s extensive 33-year memorabilia collection is currently on display in the UMSL Student Center. The other portion is on display inside of the new Busch Stadium and can be seen during a stadium tour.

But, back in 1995, Hendin had a secret closet, just down from his office. He said not too many people knew about it, much less had seen it. And I swore I would not repeat anything about what I saw, and I kept that promise until typing that last sentence.  In the closet, were piles and piles of older, leftover souvenir giveaways that either had a small defect or just didn’t get given away.  He said, some of them dated back to after the 1987 World Series, and I could give them away on my show since he needed to get rid of the stuff anyway.

So, quietly, I began moving the old souvenirs from the closet in Busch Stadium to my office at KSDK and giving hundreds of them away for several years.

In an article written by Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Robert Cohn in November of 2011, after the Cardinals won their 11th World Series,  Cohn summed up Hendin this way:

“For 35 years, Hendin had the dream job of working for the team he loved since childhood, making sure the myriad details of promoting the St. Louis Cardinals during good times and challenging times were attended to professionally. He was always the quintessential mensch of the media.”

“I firmly believe that if there is a World to Come for baseball, then Busch Stadium this past week was its “Garden of Eden,” an Earthly Paradise that came together during Game Six. It came during a week in which the Torah Portion was Bereshit, or Genesis, when the work of Creation was completed on the Sixth Day. And if anyone deserves to dwell in that Baseball World to Come, it is the neshama, the great soul of Marty Hendin, who was taken from our mortal midst on Jan. 12, 2008, at the much too young age of 59.”