© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

10/25/06 2:11 AM ET

Thornton's allegiance no act

Oscar winner a tried and true Cardinals fan

ST. LOUIS -- Actor Billy Bob Thornton grew up near Little Rock, Ark., and watched many St. Louis Cardinals pass through town on their way to the big leagues.

The Arkansas Travelers, once the Double-A affiliate of the Cardinals, produced future stars such as Keith Hernandez, Al Hrabosky and Andy Van Slyke. Thornton watched a slew of Travelers games, and as a result, he developed a strong allegiance to the Cardinals.

As he watched batting practice from behind the cages at Busch Stadium prior to Game 3 on Tuesday, he spoke enthusiastically about finally witnessing his first World Series game in person.

"I've been a Cardinal fan from when they were in the cellar and when they won the World Series," Thornton said. "But this is my first World Series game, ever."

Thornton knows Cardinals manager Tony La Russa well, and because Tigers skipper Jim Leyland worked as a scout for the Cardinals for the last several years, Thornton became friendly with him as well.

But as they exchanged pleasantries while the Cardinals took batting practice, Leyland told Thornton that he knew where his loyalties were on this night.

"He told me today, when I said hello to him, he said, 'I know you're rooting for the Cardinals, I know you can't help it,'" Thornton said. "There's some teams that I can hate out there. But with Leyland, it's hard. He's such a great guy."

Thornton also had an interesting conversation with Scott Spiezio, who, like Thornton, wears a "soul patch" -- the strip of hair that runs vertically in the middle of the chin. Spiezio dyed his soul patch Cardinal red, a trend that has caught on among copycat fans.

Count Thornton, who won an Academy Award in 1997 for his screenplay to the film "Sling Blade," as another fan who is officially on the bandwagon.

"He's been talking to me about dying it red," Thornton said. "I told him, 'If the Cardinals win the World Series, I will dye it red. And I'll keep it that way the rest of the year.'"

Thornton wasn't the only famous face on this chilly night at Busch Stadium. Multi-platinum country singer Trace Atkins performed the national anthem, while multi-platinum singer and songwriter Jo Dee Messina sang "God Bless America" in the seventh inning.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.