Friday, May 23, 2014

How to Be a New York Baseball Fan In St. Louis -- 2014 Edition

When the Yankees finish their unusual 6-game, both-teams visit to Chicago on Sunday, they will head down Interstate 55 (U.S. Route 66 for you old-schoolers) to St. Louis, to play a 3-game Interleague series with the Cardinals.

The Yankees and Cardinals have faced each other in 5 World Series, and the Cards are one of the few teams that has an all-time edge over the Yankees: The Cards won in 1926, 1942 and 1964, while the Yankees won in 1928 and 1943.

There have been close calls since 1964, but no October reunions:

* In 1974, both teams were in their division races until the last week, but both fell a little short.

* In 1981, the Yankees won their Pennant, but due to the strike, the split-season format meant that the Cards didn't win the National League Eastern Division in either half of the season, and so missed the Playoffs despite having the best overall record in the division. (They're now in the NL Central.)

* In 1985, the Cards won their Pennant, but the Yanks fell just short for the American League Eastern Division title.

* In 1996, the Cards were up 3-games-to-1 in the NL Championship Series. One more win would've put them in the World Series against the Yankees. But they dropped 3 straight to the Atlanta Braves and blew it.

* In 2000, the Cards lost the NLCS to the Mets, thus setting up the first Subway Series since 1956 and preventing the first Yanks-Cards series since 1964.

* In 2001, the Yanks won their Pennant, and the Cards were the NL Wild Card team, but lost the NLDS.

* In 2002, the Yanks went out in the AL Division Series, the Cards in the NLCS.

* In 2004, it was the Yanks who were 1 win away from setting up a World Series with the Cards, and... let's move on.

* In 2005, the Yanks went out in the ALDS, the Cards in the NLCS.

* In 2006, the Yanks went out in the ALDS, and the Cards won the whole thing.

* In 2009, it was the reverse of the preceding: The Cards went out in the NLDS, and the Yankees won the Series.

* In 2011, the Yanks lost the ALCS, and the Cards won the Series.

* And in 2012, both teams lost their respective LCS.

As for the Mets, they and the Cards had fights for the National League Eastern Division title in 1973, 1985 and 1987, and faced each other in the NLCS in 2000 (Mets won) and 2006 (Cards won). As the great college football broadcaster Keith Jackson would say, "These two teams just don't like each other." Or, more accurately, their sets of fans don't.

Before You Go. The website of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is predicting heat. Afternoons will reach the high 80s, maybe the low 90s next week, and the nights will be in the high 60s. St. Louis is known for its heat. The new Busch Stadium is open, unlike the previous one, which, as Casey Stengel put it, really held the heat well. But it's still going to be hot. In addition, there's a 40 percent chance of rain on Wednesday, which means there could be a rainout.

St. Louis is in the Central Time Zone, an hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. The Cardinals always sell well, even in off years. They averaged 41,602 fans per home game last season. This year, coming off another Pennant, they're averaging 43,110, nearly a sellout every time, 2nd in the majors only to the Dodgers. So tickets may be hard to come by.

If they are available, tickets will have inflated prices, due to the Yankees being the opponent. Infield Boxes will be $155, and Field Boxes $130. The Upper Deck is a lot cheaper, but not cheap: Infield Pavilion $80, Infield Terrace also $80, Bleachers $90.

How inflated is that? The Cards' next series is home to the San Francisco Giants, recent 2-time World Champions and an occasional Playoff opponent of theirs. Same seats, these prices: Infield Boxes $66, Field Boxes $45, Infield Pavilion $44, Infield Terrace also $34, Bleachers $30. A lot cheaper, but hardly cheap.

Getting There.  Busch Stadium is 961 miles from Citi Field, and the same distance from Yankee Stadium. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

Last year, when I checked airfares, it was over $1,400 from Newark Liberty to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. (Albert Bond Lambert was a St. Louis golfer and early aviator.) This year, if you order now, you could conceivably get a round-trip fare for under $500. You will, however, have to change planes, most likely in Chicago.

MetroLink, St. Louis' light rail system, will get you directly from Lambert to the ballpark.  Of course, if you're going for the whole series, you should get a hotel. And whatever you do, if you take a taxi instead, do not call the dispatcher "a slab of meat with mittens" like Steve Martin did at that same airport in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Bus? Not a good idea. Greyhound runs 8 buses a day between Port Authority and St. Louis, and only 4 of them are without changes. The average time of these trips is around 24 hours, and costs $300 round-trip. The Greyhound terminal is at Union Station, downtown at 430 S. 15th Street.

Speaking of Union Station, if you want to go by train, Amtrak is not an option this time around. It's Memorial Day weekend, and the National Railroad is pretty much booked up. If that were not the case (I'm moving up exactly one week to check prices), you could board the Lake Shore Limited at Penn Station at 3:45 Eastern on Sunday afternoon, arriving at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 Central on Monday morning, transfer to the Texas Eagle at 1:45 in the afternoon, and be at St. Louis' Union Station at 7:21 that night. Which would be too late for the Monday game even if it weren't, due to it being Memorial Day, a 4:15 local time start. That's 26 hours and 36 minutes.  Longer than the bus, but cheaper, and you get to be in Chicago for 4 hours, which is cool. It would be $538 round-trip.

If you decide to drive, it’s far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You’ll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike, and take Interstate 78 West across New Jersey, and at Harrisburg get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which at this point will be both I-70 and I-76. When the two Interstates split outside Pittsburgh, stay on I-70 west. You’ll cross the northern tip of West Virginia, and go all the way across Ohio (through Columbus), Indiana (through Indianapolis) and Illinois.  When you cross into Missouri, Exit 9 will be for the Sports Complex.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and 15 minutes in New Jersey, 5 hours in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in West Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Illinois, and 15 minutes in Missouri before you reach the exit for your hotel. That’s going to be nearly 17 and a half hours. Counting rest stops, preferably 6 of them, and accounting for traffic in both New York and St. Louis, it should be about 24 hours.

Once In the City. St. Louis, settled by the French in 1764 and named for Louis IX, the Crusader King, the only monarch of France to have been canonized as a Saint, has a history out of proportion to its size. There's a mere 320,000 within the city limits, about half of what it was in 1950. But, like a lot of cities, especially in the Midwest, the "white flight" went to the suburbs, keeping the population of the metropolitan area roughly the same, in this case 2.9 million. Or, roughly, the population of Brooklyn alone.

Market Street divides the city's north and south street addresses, and on the east-west streets, the numbers increase westward from the Mississippi River. The sales tax in the State of Missouri is 4.225 percent, but it's over double that in St. Louis City: 8.49 percent. And St. Louis City is independent of St. Louis County, a confusion we usually don't have, because nobody outside County courthouses and Manhattan Borough Hall refers to Manhattan Island as "New York County."

Metrolink light rail has a $2.25 base fare, and the Metro buses are $2.00.  A Day Pass for the entire system is $7.50. If you're staying for the entire series, a Weekly Pass is $25. Do yourself a favor: Do not, even on Metrolink, go across the river into East St. Louis, Illinois. The joke is that the crime rate has dropped because there's nothing left to steal.

Going In. The old Busch Stadium was bounded by Broadway (left field), Walnut Street (3rd base), 7th Street (1st base) and Spruce Street (right field). The new stadium was built next-door, and is bounded by Poplar Street and Interstate 64 (1st base), 8th Street (3rd base), Clark Street (left field, extended through the site of the old stadium) and Broadway (right field). The Metrolink station for the stadium is on 8th, between Clark and Spruce, putting you outside the left field gate.

The official address of Busch Stadium is 700 Clark Street. Parking is $27.50.

Busch Stadium has real grass. Its predecessor started out that way in 1966, but had artificial turf from 1970 to 1995, and switched back in 1996. The turf was designed to help the traditional Cardinal game of pitching, defense and speed, as exemplified in the Sportsman's Park era by the likes of Pepper Martin and Enos Slaughter, and in the turf era by Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith and Vince Coleman.

August Anheuser Busch Jr., a.k.a. Gussie Busch, was the grandson of the founders of the Anheuser-Busch breweries: Adolphus Busch and August Anheuser. When he bought the Cardinals in 1953, he wanted to rename Sportsman's Park "Budweiser Stadium," so he could advertise his flagship beer. Commissioner Ford Frick told him no, it would be too commercial. Imagine that: A Commissioner of a professional sports league prohibiting a team owner from giving his venue's name to a corporation!

Gussie protested: Chewing-gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley let the Cards' ostensible arch-rivals, the Chicago Cubs, play at Wrigley Field. Frick responded that Wrigley was the man's name, and that he didn't rename the ballpark Doublemint Stadium in order to sell gum. So instead of a dismissal of his complaint, Gussie accepted that as a hint to take, renamed the old yard Busch Stadium, and introduced the Busch brand of beer.

Regardless, Gussie Busch -- and especially the man then the voice of the Cardinals, Harry Caray -- used to team to sell Budweiser. It worked like a charm, as by the time the Cards won their next Pennant in 1964, Budweiser had become America's biggest-selling brand of beer, and pushed a lot of once-big brewing companies out of business or to the local margins. Harry was the greatest salesman any brand name has ever known in the history of American capitalism -- unless you count the way Coca-Cola used Santa Claus, also white-haired and sometimes wearing glasses, but a bit thinner than Harry.

All 3 Busch Stadiums have been heavy on Bud advertising. Gussie had the Sportsman's Park/original Busch Stadium scoreboard replaced with one topped by the Anheuser-Bush logo, the giant A with the eagle flying through it. When a Cardinal hit a home run, the scoreboard operator would push a button, and the eagle's mechanical wings would flap. This was in 1953, 7 years before Bill Veeck ordered the fireworks-shooting "exploding scoreboard" for Comiskey Park in Chicago. When Busch Memorial Stadium opened in 1966, the mechanical eagle was replaced by an electronic one.

On special occasions, such as Opening Day or World Series home games, the Bud jingle "Here Comes the King" (as in "Budweiser: King of Beers") would play over the speakers, while Gussie himself, waving a big hat with a big peacock feather in it, would ride in the cab of a Budweiser carriage pulled by the company's iconic Clydesdales. You think horse manure looks bad on real grass? Imagine that on the pale green of artificial turf.

Gussie died in 1989, leaving the brewery and the team to his son, August Anheuser Busch III, a.k.a. Augie Busch. Augie sold controlling interest in the team in 1996, and the family sold controlling interest in the brewery in 2006, but the Busch family and the brewery still own pieces of the ballclub. The new Busch Stadium, opening in 2006, still has signs featuring A-B brands (Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Dry, Michelob, et al.) all over the place.

Busch Stadium I (Sportsman's Park) was well north of downtown. Busch Stadium II (Busch Memorial Stadium) was right downtown, and St. Louis' greatest icon, the Gateway Arch, built right before the stadium was, could be seen over its left-field fence, and the idea was incorporated into the park's design, with an arched roof that gave the stadium a very distinctive look that separated it from the other multipurpose concrete circle/oval stadiums of the 1960s and '70s.

Busch Stadium III has a brick look on the outside that suggests an old factory -- or perhaps a brewery. And the Arch is visible beyond straightaway center field, much more so than it was in the preceding stadium, due to the new one's open outfield.

Other than that, though, the view isn't especially impressive: St. Louis has never exactly been known as a city of impressive skyscrapers, unlike such other Midwestern cities as Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and, if you want to count Western Pennsylvania as "Midwestern" instead of "Northeastern," Pittsburgh. Besides which, the stadium is 5 blocks from the River, so there's not a lot of room to build anything especially impressive -- aside from the Arch, which is one block from the River.

But there is one other notable structure that can be seen from the park: The Old Courthouse can be seen beyond the left field fence. This was where two of the most infamous court cases in American history began, both later settled unfairly by the U.S. Supreme Court in decisions that were overturned by Constitutional Amendments: Dred Scott v. Sanford, in which a slave sued in 1846 to be declared free after his master took him into a State where slavery had already been abolished; and Minor v. Happersett, in which a woman sued in 1872 to be allowed to vote.

The seating capacity of the new Busch Stadium is officially listed as 43,975, but it can be boosted with standing room. For this season's Opening Day, they shoehorned 47,492 into the place; for last summer's soccer game between Chelsea and Manchester City, 48,263. The park’s outfield distances are 336 feet to the left field pole, 375 to left-center, 400 to straightaway center, 375 to right-center, and 335 to the right field pole. Like its predecessor, the new Busch Stadium is usually regarded as a pitcher's park.

You might guess that Albert Pujols hit the longest home run in the current Busch Stadium, and he did hit one 465 feet in 2011. But in 2012, Matt Holliday topped that with a 469-footer. At the second Busch, Mark McGwire, understandably, hit the longest, in his 1998 asterisk season, hitting one measured at 545 feet. One of the first homers hit there, in 1966, is believed to be the longest hit there without cheating, a 515-foot shot by Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants.  Figuring out who hit the longest at Sportsman's Park/Busch Stadium I is problematic, as both left field (known as the "bleachers") and right field (covered by a roof and known as the "pavilion") had narrow seating sections over which quite a few balls were hit, including by Mickey Mantle in 1953 (to left, supposedly 530 feet) and Babe Ruth several times (to right, who knows).

Food. St. Louis has a reputation for great barbecue, and Busch Stadium has a stand called Broadway BBQ in Section 509, near the Bleachers.

They also have stands named for Cardinal legends: Dizzy's Diner, for Dizzy Dean, Sections 139, 161 and 446; Gashouse Grill, for the 1934 World Champions known as the Gashouse Gang, Sections 132, 146, 150, 154, 233 and 450; and El Birdos Cantina, for the Latino-influenced 1967 World Champions (if you'll excuse the fact that it should have been "Los Pájaros" or "Los Cardinales"), Sections 141 and 148. They also have Hardee's stands at 135 and 358.

Keeping with the Midwest's rural image -- St. Louis may be a big city, but even the Royals and the Braves may not have as countrified fan base as the Cards -- they have a Farmer's Market at 136, across from Hardee's; and the Prairie Farms Family Pavilion at 507.

Team History Displays. The Cardinals have their retired numbers on the left field fence: 1, Ozzie Smith, shortstop, 1982-96; 2, Albert "Red" Schoendienst, 2nd base, 1945-56, and at least a coach almost continuously since 1961, including stints as manager 1966-76 and briefly in 1980 and 1990, now 91 years old and a "special assistant coach," essentially the Cards' Yogi Berra or Johnny Pesky; 6, Stan Musial, 1st base and left field, 1941-63; 9, Enos Slaughter, right field, 1938-53; 10, Tony LaRussa, manager, 1996-2011; 14, Ken Boyer, 3rd base, 1955-65, manager, 1978-80; 17, Jay "Dizzy" Dean, pitcher, 1930-37; 20, Lou Brock, left field, 1964-79; 24, Dorrel "Whitey" Herzog, manager and general manager, 1980-90; 42, universally retired for Jackie Robinson but also retired here for Bruce Sutter, pitcher, 1981-84; 45, Bob Gibson, pitcher, 1959-75; and 85, Gussie Busch, owner, 1953-89. The Cards' board of directors decided to honor Gussie on his 85th birthday, hence the number; he did not order it retired for himself.

Also honored with the retired numbers are Jack Buck, who broadcast for the Cardinals from 1954 until his death in 2002, represented with a picture of a microphone; and Rogers Hornsby, a 2nd baseman who played in St. Louis with the Cardinals from 1915 to 1926, and again in 1933, and with the Browns from 1933 to 1937. He also managed the Cardinals in 1925 and '26, winning the World Series in the latter year; and managed the Browns from 1933 to 1937, and again briefly in 1952. When he had Hall-of-Famer Rogers Hornsby playing for him at or near his peak, he won as a manager; when he was past his prime, and then retired, he was a lousy manager. He wore a few numbers during a career that predated them, most commonly 4, and so no number is retired for him, an "STL" logo standing in for his number.

Outside the Gate 3 entrance stands a bronze statue of Musial. It was first unveiled outside the old Busch Stadium in 1968, and was moved to the new stadium. It shows him in his famed "corkscrew" batting stance, and the base includes a quote from Commissioner Ford Frick: "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight."

Other statues that previously surrounded Busch Memorial Stadium are now displayed at the corner of 8th & Clark, outside the team store: Cardinal Hall-of-Famers Hornsby, Smith, Schoendienst, Slaughter, Dean, Brock, Gibson and Buck; Browns star George Sisler, 1st base, 1915-27; and James "Cool Papa" Bell, a Negro League star whose teams included the St. Louis Stars. (Sisler remained in the major leagues until 1930, just before uniform numbers were adopted, so no number was ever retired for him; and besides, since the Browns no longer exist, they couldn't do it for him anyway.)

There's another statue of Stan at Lester's Restaurant, at 9906 Clayton Road in Ladue, not far from Stan's longtime home; one of Brock at Lindenwood University in nearby St. Charles (which is where the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers come togethre); and one of Albert Pujols (who now plays for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) at Westport Plaza, at the intersection of Interstate 270 (St. Louis' beltway) and State Route 364.

The Cardinals do not have a team Hall of Fame, but they have a large number of Baseball Hall of Fame members:

* From their 1880s American Association Pennant winners: 1st baseman and manager Charles Comiskey (later the Chicago White Sox owner) and pitcher James "Pud" Galvin.

* Between their 1888 and 1926 Pennants: 1st baseman Jake Beckley and left fielder Jesse Burkett. Also during this era, Taylor Spink inherited his family's publication, The Sporting News, then known as "the Bible of Baseball." He ran it for the rest of his life, 1914 to 1962, and the Hall of Fame named its award for sportswriters for him, giving him the first one.

* From their 1926, '28 and '31 Pennants: Hornsby, pitchers Grover Cleveland Alexander, Jesse Haines and Burleigh Grimes, 1st baseman "Sunny Jim" Bottomley, left fielder Charles "Chick" Hafey, and general manager Branch Rickey.

* From their 1934 "Gashouse Gang" World Champions: Ricky, Dean, 2nd baseman and manager Frankie Frisch, shortstop Leo Durocher (who's mainly in the Hall for what he did as a manager for other teams), and left fielder Joe "Ducky" Medwick of Carteret, New Jersey.

* Between their 1934 and 1942 Pennants: 1st baseman Johnny Mize.

* From their 1942, '43, '44 and '46 Pennant winners: Musial, Slaughter, Schoendienst and manager Billy Southworth. Also playing in this era, and elected to the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster, was Joe Garagiola. Also elected, to the sportswriters' wing, is Bob Broeg, who began writing for the Post-Dispatch in this era, and is said to have given Musial his nickname, having heard Brooklyn Dodger fans, knowing that he liked to hit at Ebbets Field, say, "Uh-oh, dat man is back in town! Here comes dat man again!" So it was apparently Broeg who dubbed him "Stan the Man." He also pushed for better pensions for ballplayers, and advocated for the Hall elections of Hafey, Slaughter and Schoendienst.

* From their 1964, '67 and '68 Pennant winners: Brock, Gibson, 1st baseman Orlando Cepeda (better known for what he did with the San Francisco Giants) and pitcher Steve Carlton (better known for what he did with the Philadelphia Phillies).

* And from their 1982, '85 and '87 Pennant winners: Hezrog, Smith and Sutter.

As yet, there are no honorees from the Cards' 2004, 2006 and 2011 Pennant winners. Broadcasters Caray and Buck have also been honored by the Hall of Fame.

It is strange for fans of my generation and later to think of Caray, whose broadcasts and outsized personality symbolized the Chicago Cubs, as being the voice of the Cubs' arch-rivals, the Cardinals. After all, his statue is outside Wrigley Field, not Busch Stadium. Yet he broadcast for the Cards from 1945 to 1969, along with Schoendienst bridging the gap between the Musial Pennants and the Brock-Gibson Pennants. He was fired after allegedly having an affair with Augie Busch's wife -- which he never denied. The Chicago White Sox picked him up, and, when his contract with them ran out, he had offers from both Chicago teams, but saw the Cubs signed up with WGN's "Superstation" project, and the White Sox hadn't. He later said that if he'd stayed with the White Sox, he'd soon be "Harry Who?" The rest is history.

There is a St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, but it was moved from the old Busch Stadium to the new Blues arena, now known as the ScotTrade Center. Cardinals elected to it are, in chronological order: Hornsby, Frisch, Dean, Medwick, Musial, 1940s shortstop Marty Marion, Schoendienst, Boyer, Gibson, Brock, 1970s 3rd baseman and 1990s manager Joe Torre, 1970s catcher Ted Simmons, 1970s-80s 1st baseman Keith Hernandez, Herzog, Smith, Sutter, 1990s-2000s center fielder Jim Edmonds, 1990s-2000s coach Dave Duncan, Busch, and broadcasters Buck, Garagiola and Bob Costas.

Also elected are Browns Sisler, Ned Garver and Roy Sievers, St. Louis natives Yogi Berra and Earl Weaver, and Erma Bergman, who played for a St. Louis team in the women's league that played during World War II. There is a Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, but it's all the way across the State in Springfield.

To its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, The Sporting News named Cardinals Hornsby, Alexander, Frisch, Dean, Medwick, Musial, Gibson, Brock, Carlton, Smith and McGwire; Browns Sisler and pitcher Satchel Paige; and Bell of the Negro Leagues' St. Louis Stars.

Stuff. Team Stores are located on Level 1, behind the left field and right field corners. The usual items that can be found at a souvenir store can be found there.

Books about the Cardinals are not exactly well-known outside the St. Louis area. Peter Golenbock did his oral-history thing, which he'd previously done for the Yankees, Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers, with The Spirit of St. Louis, which also included the Browns.

The legendary 1930s club was nicknamed for the Gashouse District, an area of gas tanks and slums which was torn down in the 1940s to make way for Stuyvesant Town. John Heidenry has the best account of that club: The Gashouse Gang: How Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher, Branch Rickey, Pepper Martin, and Their Colorful, Come-from-Behind Ball Club Won the World Series -- and America's Heart -- During the Great Depression.

Many baseball observers have suggested that, due to his playing away from the media centers of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, he is one of the most under-appreciated great players ever. But once he approached the age of 90, and now that he has died, there have been a few books to boost his historical reputation. The latest is Stan Musial: An American Life, by the legendary New York Times sportswriter George Vescey. It should be as good a guide as any into the 1942-46 Cardinal champions.

David Halberstam's October 1964 does a good job of showing how the Cardinal champions of the 1960s came together, and also how the Yankee dynasty of the 1950s and early '60s began to fall apart, with civil rights and the Cold War as backdrops. Doug Feldmann continues the story with (again, grammatically incorrect, but that's the nickname that was used at the time) El Birdos: The 1967 and 1968 St. Louis Cardinals, which was really the first team to succeed using a well-balanced mixture of white, black and Hispanic players. (The early San Francisco Giants, Cepeda among them, had the mix, but not quite the success, winning just 1 Pennant.)

Whitey Herzog got together with Rob Rains and Alvin Reid to write Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the '82 Cards World Championship. James Rygelski and Robert Tiemann wrote 10 Rings: Stories of the St. Louis Cardinals World Championship, which became out of date at the end of the season. Rains tells how that happened in Wild Cards: The St. Louis Cardinals' Stunning 2011 Championship Season.

There are 3 World Series highlight films collections for the Cardinals. Since the official highlight films only started with the Yanks-Cards matchup of 1943, the previous year's Cards win over the Yanks is not included. But the 1943, '44 and '46 Series are packaged together, as are the Series of 1964, '67 and '68, and the Series of 1982, '85 and '87 -- even though the Cards lost 4 of those 9. The 1982, 2006 and 2011 Series are packaged separately as well.

There is, as yet, no Essential Games of the St. Louis Cardinals DVD collection, but there is The St. Louis Cardinals - Greatest Games of Busch Stadium. The games are: 1968 World Series Game 1 (Gibson strikes out 17 Tigers to set a Series record), 1982 World Series Game 7, 1985 NLCS Game 5 (Ozzie Smith, of all people, hits a walkoff homer), 1987 World Series Game 3, September 8, 1998 (Mark McGwire's record-breaking 62nd homer), and 2004 NLCS Game 7.

During the Game. Because of their Great Plains/Heartland image, Cardinals fans like a “family atmosphere.” They don't much like New York, but they won't bother Met or Yankee fans just for being Met or Yankee fans. But I wouldn't go onto the streets of St. Louis or into Busch Stadium wearing Chicago Cubs gear. Barring that, they will not directly antagonize you. At least, they won’t initiate it. But don’t call them rednecks, hicks, hillbillies or (to borrow a term from British soccer) sheep-shaggers.

Cardinal fans wear red. Bright red. Cardinal red. Nearly all of them. This seems to be a requirement. The entire stadium seems to be covered in it, and not just because the seats at Busch are red (as they were at its predecessor).

The Cards have a mascot, with perhaps the dumbest name of any mascot in the big four major league sports: Fredbird the Redbird. He's no Phillie Phanatic, or even a Mr. Met.

The Cardinals don't play a song after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th stretch. But, as I said earlier, in the middle of the 8th inning they play the old Budweiser TV commercial jingle "Here Comes the King," as in "Budweiser, King of Beers." "When you say Budweiser... you've said it all!" After the game, win or lose, they play "Meet Me in St. Louis," the theme from the 1944 Judy Garland film about the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. (So, even that long ago, it was already a nostalgia piece.)

After the Game. St. Louis has a bit of a crime problem, but since the stadium is right downtown, this will probably not affect you. As I said, leave the home fans alone, and they'll probably leave you alone.

A "Ballpark Village" is being built around the stadium, with retail outlets and restaurants. A similar project, with the same name, has been planned for the area around Yankee Stadium since the renovation project for the old Stadium 40 years ago, but has never happened. Hopefully, the Cardinals will have more luck.

Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood, owned by the 1960s Cardinal right fielder and longtime broadcaster, is at 620 Market Street at 7th Street, 2 blocks north of Busch Stadium.

If you want to be around other New Yorkers, Bar Louie is the home of the local Giant fans. 14 Maryland Plaza at Euclid Avenue, on the West Side. MetroLink to Central West End, then a short walk. The local Jet fans’ hangout is BoBecks, but it’s 20 miles south of downtown St. Louis, across the River in Waterloo, Illinois. 1234 Jamie Lane. MetroLink to 5th & Missouri, then switch to 2X bus, then walk a mile south.

Sidelights. Busch Memorial Stadium, home of the Cardinals from 1966 to 2005, the NFL Cardinals from 1966 until 1987 when they moved to Arizona, and the Rams for 3 games in 1995 because the new dome wasn't ready, was across Clark Avenue from the new stadium.

While it was never a major venue for football -- unless you count those "Bud Bowl" commercials during Super Bowls, where the arched roof of old Busch was easily recognizable -- there were 6 World Series played there, with the Cardinals winning in 1967 and 1982. But only in 1982 did they clinch there; the Detroit Tigers clinched there in 1968, and the Boston Red Sox did so in 2004, with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon filmed by the Farrelly Brothers in their improvised rewritten ending to the U.S. version of Fever Pitch, with Major League Baseball giving them permission to film on the field after the game.

Busch Memorial Stadium hosted 7 games by the U.S. national soccer team, and the Stars & Stripes were undefeated, winning 5 and tying 2.

* Edward Jones Dome. Home to the NFL's Rams since 1995, it has a St. Louis Football Ring of Fame, but most of the honorees are ex-football Cardinals. The only St. Louis Rams honored on it are Marshall Faulk, coach Dick Vermeil, and team owner Georgia Frontiere, who moved the team out of Los Angeles because she hated the black neighborhood around the L.A. Coliseum, Anaheim was a lousy stadium for football, and St. Louis was her hometown.

The Dome has hosted the Big 12 Conference Championship Game, and the 2005 NCAA Final Four, with North Carolina beating Illinois in the Final. The Dome is at 6th Street & Broadway, 9 blocks north of Busch Stadium. Metrolink to Convention Center.

* Site of Sportsman's Park. From 1866 onward, several ballparks stood on this site, including the one used by the Cardinals, then known as the St. Louis Browns, when they won 4 straight Pennants in the old American Association from 1885 to 1888.

Those Browns were owned by Chris von der Ahe, a German immigrant (as were thousands of people in St. Louis at the time), and he was an outsized personality owning a baseball team decades before George Steinbrenner or Gussie Busch were born. "Der boss president of der Browns," as he called himself in his accent, built one of the first amusement parks, adjacent to the ground, and a beer garden which could be called the first sports bar -- though this is disputed by Bostonians stumping for Michael "Nuf Ced" McGreevy's Third Base Saloon, which also opened in the 1880s. But the ballpark burned down in 1898, and von der Ahe was ruined. The new owners moved the team to Robison Field.

The team's name became the Cardinals with a change in uniform color in 1900, and the American League's Browns arrived in 1902, after spending the AL's first season in Milwaukee. The AL Browns set up shop at the existing Sportsman's Park, and built a new one on the site, the last one, in 1909.

Those Browns remained until 1953, when Bill Veeck realized that Gussie Busch's purchase of the Cards meant the Browns simply couldn't compete. The Cards had moved back to the site in 1920 and by 1926 had set the tone: The Browns were the landlords but legendary losers, while the Cardinals were the tenants but wildly successful. Ten World Series were played in that ballpark, from 1926 to 1964, including the all-St. Louis "Trolley Series" of 1944, when the Browns led the Cards 2 games to 1 but the Cards won the next 3 straight to take it, ruining the Browns' best (and perhaps last) chance to take the city away.

Gussie knew that his Cards -- and the NFL's Cardinals, who played there after moving from Chicago in 1960 -- couldn't stay in a 30,804-seat bandbox tucked away on the North Side with no parking and no freeway access, so he got the city to build him the downtown stadium. Sportsman's Park, the first Busch Stadium, the home of George Sisler, the Gashouse Gang and Stan the Man, was demolished shortly after the Cards left in 1966. The Herbert Hoover Boys Club is now on the site, and, unlike most long-gone ballpark sites, there is a baseball field there.

Oddly, the two teams had different addresses for their offices: The Cards at 3623 Dodier Street, the Browns at 2911 North Grand Blvd. Metrolink to Grand station, transfer to Number 70 bus. Definitely to be visited only in daylight.

* Site of Robison Field. Home of the Cardinals from 1898 to 1920, it was the last mostly-wooden ballpark in the major leagues. Moving out was the best thing the Cards could have done, as -- hard to believe, considering what happened to them over the next quarter-century -- they were the town's joke club, while the Browns were the more-regarded team. It was torn down in 1926 to make way for Beaumont High School, which still stands on the site.

3836 Natural Bridge Avenue, at Vandeventer Avenue. Six blocks north and two blocks west of the site of Sportsman's Park. Again: Do not visit at night.

* Scottrade Center, site of Kiel Auditorium, and St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame. The NHL's Blues moved into this new arena in 1994, after 27 years at the old Arena. Originally, it was known as the Kiel Center in honor of the previous building on the site, and then the Savvis Center, after a company that would go bust in the tech bubble. They've only reached the Conference Finals once since moving in, but at least they're stable and not in danger of being moved. The building also hosts the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, known as "Arch Madness" instead of "March Madness."

The previous building was built in 1934, as the Municipal Auditorium, and in 1943 was renamed for the late Mayor Henry Kiel, who got it built. St. Louis University played its home basketball games there for its entire existence, 1934 to 1991, before moving temporarily to the Arena and then to the Scottrade Center, before opening its new on-campus Chaifetz Arena in 2008. The NBA's Hawks played there from their 1955 move from Milwaukee until their 1968 move to Atlanta, winning the Western Conference title in 1957, '58, '60 and '61 and the NBA Title in 1958.

1401 Clark Avenue (known on that block as Brett Hull Way in honor of the Blues legend) at 14th Street, 5 blocks west of Busch Stadium.  Metrolink to Civic Center.

On May 12, 2014, the New York Times printed a story that shows NBA fandom by ZIP Code, according to Facebook likes. Being between several NBA cities but not especially close to any of them (242 miles to Indianapolis, 284 to Memphis, 295 to Chicago, 498 to Oklahoma City), the St. Louis area divides up its fandom among the "cool" teams: The Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. However, not far into St. Louis' Illinois suburbs, you begin to get into solid Bulls territory. (As yet, there is no hockey version.) If St. Louis had an NBA team, its metropolitan area would rank 20th in population among NBA markets.

* Site of 1904 World's Fair and St. Louis Arena. The Louisiana Purchase Exposition was held at Forest Park in honor of the centennial of the start of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark heading out from St. Louis to explore the Louisiana Purchase. It is remembered as the birthplace of the hamburger, the hot dog, iced tea, peanut butter, cotton candy and Cracker Jacks. While they may have all been nationally popularized at that place and at that time, all of these claims of origin are dubious at best, except for Cracker Jacks, which are definitely a St. Louis creation.

Equally dubious was the 1904 Olympics, which were essentially a sideshow of the World's Fair; it wasn't until London in 1908 that they became an institution in and of themselves. Very little of the Fair remains. The Administration Building is now Brookings Hall, a major building of Washington University. The Palace of Fine Art is now the St. Louis Art Museum.

The Arena opened in 1929 across Oakland Avenue from Forest Park. At 14,200 seats, it was then one of the largest arenas outside the Northeast Corridor, and in terms of floor space only the recently-built "old" Madison Square Garden was larger.

It was the home of several minor league hockey teams until the NHL expansion of 1967 brought in the Blues. At first, the NHL purposely put all the new teams in the same division, thus giving them an equal chance of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. The Blues reached the Finals in their first 3 seasons, 1968, '69 and '70, due to having signed some legends at the end of their careers, such as Jacques Plante, Doug Harvey, Dickie Moore and Glenn Hall. They haven't reached the Finals since, and only reached the NHL's round of 4, under whatever name, twice in the last 44 years.

In 1977, the Arena had been expanded to 17,188 seats, and with Ralston Purina then being majority owners of the Blues, their "Checkerboard Square" logo was plastered everywhere, and the building was renamed the Checkerdome until 1983. It hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1973 (Bill Walton hitting 21 of 22 shots for UCLA over Memphis State) and 1978 (Jack Givens' Kentucky defeating Mike Gminski's Duke).

But it was seen as being inadequate for a modern sports team, and the Blues moved out in 1994. The Arena was demolished in 1999, and apartments and a Hampton Inn are on the site today. 5700 Oakland Avenue at Parkview Place. Metrolink to Central West End, then Number 59 bus.

* St. Louis Walk of Fame. Honoring famous people from the St. Louis area, including from across the river in southern Illinois, these plaques run from 6150 to 6699 Delmar Blvd. Of the 137 current honorees, 25 are connected to sports: Cardinals figures Rickey, Hornsby, Dean, Musial, Schoendienst, Gibson, Brock, Ozzie Smith,  Caray, Garagiola, Buck and Costas; the Browns' Sisler; the Negro Leagues' Bell; St. Louis native and New York baseball legend Berra; football Cardinals Dierdorf and Jackie Smith (as yet, no Rams); Hawks Pettit and Macauley (as yet, no Blues); boxers Henry Armstrong and Archie Moore; tennis stars Dwight Davis and Jimmy Connors; bowler Dick Weber; and track legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Metrolink to Delmar station.

At 6504 Delmar is Blueberry Hill, the rock-and-roll-themed restaurant owned by St. Louis' own Chuck Berry -- who, of course, has a plaque on the Walk of Fame, as does his pianist Johnnie Johnson. They are 2 of the 15 musical personalities on the Walk, including both Ike and Tina Turner, ragtime inventor Scott Joplin, jazz superstars Josephine Baker and Miles Davis, and opera singer Robert McFerrin, father of "Don't Worry Be Happy" singer Bobby McFerrin.

* Gateway Arch.  Built on the traditional founding site of the city, on the Mississippi River, on February 14, 1764, the Arch, 630 feet high with its legs 630 feet apart at ground level, represents an old city. But it is, surprisingly, not an especially old landmark, opening to the public in 1967.

An underground visitors' center leads to a tram that takes you to the top, which is higher than any actual building in town, and serves as St. Louis' "observation deck." Like the Empire State Building, it has lights cast on it at night in honor of various occasions. Admission is $10. 200 Washington Avenue at Market Street, access via Walnut Street.

The Arch is treated as the tallest "building" in the State of Missouri, but the tallest real building in town is One Metropolitan Square, built at Broadway & Olive Street in 1989: 593 feet tall. Ordinary, by New York's standards.

* Brewery. The world's second-largest brewery is the Anheuser-Busch plant on U.S. Routes 1 & 9, across from Newark Liberty International Airport. The largest is A-B's corporate headquarters, south of downtown. Public tours of the brewery are available. 1 Busch Place, Broadway and Arsenal Street. Number 30 or 73 bus.

* Museum of Transportation. A rail spur of the old Missouri Pacific Railroad (or "Mopac," later absorbed by the Union Pacific) enabled this museum to open in 1944. It houses trains, cars, boats, and even planes. From a New York Tri-State Area perspective it has one of the last 2 surviving New York Central steam locomotives, one of the last 2 surviving Delaware, Lackawanna & Western steam locomotives, an Erie Lackawanna diesel locomotive, and the 1960 DiDia 150, a.k.a. the "Dream Car" made famous by New York singing legend Bobby Darin.

3015 Barrett Station Road in Keyes Summit (though St. Louis is still the mailing address), west of downtown. Bus 58X to Big Bend & Barrett Station Roads, then a 15-minute walk north on Barrett Station.

* Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. The closest the St. Louis area comes to having a Presidential Library, this park was built on land owned by the family of Julia Dent, the wife of the Union General and 18th President who is on the $50 bill.

7400 Grant Road, Grantwood Village, St. Louis County, southwest of downtown. It's tough to reach by public transportation: You'd have to take Metrolink to Shrewsbury station, transfer to the Number 21 bus, ride it to Walton and Grant Roads, and walk a little over a mile down Grant Road.

The Democratic Party had its 1876 Convention at the Merchants Exchange Building, at 3rd Street between Chestnut and Pine Streets, nominating Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York for President. The building stood there from 1875 to 1958.

The St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall stood from 1883 to 1907, and was the site of the Conventions for the Democrats in 1888 (renominating Grover Cleveland) and 1904 (nominating Alton Parker), and the Republicans in 1896 (nominating William McKinley). It stood at the southeast corner of 13th and Olive Streets.

The St. Louis Coliseum stood from 1908 and 1953, at the southwest corner of Washington Blvd. and Jefferson Avenue. The Democrats held their 1916 Convention there, renominating Woodrow Wilson. It also staged boxing.

The Washington University Field House has hosted Presidential Debates in 1992 (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot), 2000 (George W. Bush and Al Gore) and 2004 (George W. and John Kerry). 330 N. Big Bend Blvd. Metrolink to University City-Big Bend.

According to the best source I can find, there have been 7 TV shows set in St. Louis. The only recent one is Defiance, a postapocalyptic show now entering its 2nd season, for which a damaged Arch is a landmark. So if you're looking for locations in the city that have been on TV, guess what, the Arch itself and Busch Stadium are your best bets.

*

St. Louis has a history out of proportion to its size, and Cardinal fans like to think of their town as the best baseball town in America. You are under no obligation to agree, but it is one of the best baseball cities, and every fan who can get out there should.

2 comments:

david wagner said...

big error, Blueberry Hill is not owned by Chuck Berry, it is owned by Joe Edwards, Chuck Berry plays there about once a month. As to baseball books, "Three Nights in August" is one of the best baseball books for hardcore fans of the game as it goes deep into the strategic mind of Tony Larussa.

Uncle Mike said...

Thanks for the correction. As for "Three Nights in August," while the Cardinals are involved, it's not really about the ballclub, any more than Daniel Okrent's excellent 1982 book "Nine Innings" is about either of the teams involved (Milwaukee and Baltimore).

Although "One Day at Fenway" is a pretty good look at the Yanks-Sox rivalry as it stood in the summer of 2003.