Friday, December 9, 2016

How to Be a Devils Fan In St. Louis -- 2016-17 Edition

Tonight, the Devils play the St. Louis Blues at the Prudential Center. Next Thursday night, the teams will play each other again, in St. Louis. Named for W.C. Handy's song "Saint Louis Blues," the Blues are 1 of 3 teams in major league sports to be named after a song.

One of the others is easy: The New Orleans Saints are named for that familiar New Orleans tune "When the Saints Go Marching In." The other? The constant playing of George M. Cohan's "Yankee Doodle Dandy" during the 1st Pennant race of the New York Highlanders in 1904 led to them being nicknamed the Yankees, and Yankees they have been ever since. (Ironically, Cohan was a New York Giants fan.)

As a result of their name, the Blues' solid-color jerseys have always been blue (with gold trim, and occasionally also some red), and their logo has always been a blue note. Their fans use the slogan, "Long Live the Note."

It has lived long: The Blues have never seriously considered moving out of St. Louis, nor have they ever been seriously targeted for being moved, unlike the NFL Cardinals and Rams, and the NBA Hawks, and even the baseball Cardinals were nearly lost in the early 1950s and were targeted again in the late 1950s by cities hedging their bets against losing out on the expansion sweepstakes.

However, that long history works against them when you realize that, in 48 seasons (47 if you don't count the canceled 2004-05), they've never won the Stanley Cup.

Before You Go. While the Gateway City can get brutally hot in the summers, this is December. The website of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is predicting low 40s for Thursday afternoon and low 30s for the evening. The arena is a little bit inland from the river, so wind might not be an issue like it would be if you were going to see an event outdoors at Busch Stadium. Still, you will need a winter coat.

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

Tickets. While the Cardinals always sell well, even in off years, the Blues averaged 18,315 fans per home game last season. That would have been 1,200 seats over a sellout at the old Saint Louis Arena, but at the Scottrade Center, it's under 96 percent of capacity. So getting tickets for a Blues game might not be all that hard, especially against the Devils, who aren't exactly a regional rival like Chicago, Detroit or Minnesota.

Blues tickets are cheap compared to the Devils, Scum and Philth. Center Ice Premier seats are $229. The Plaza End is the west side, the Blue Chip End is the east side. Plaza Center seats are $95, Plaza End Low rows are $88, Plaza End High rows are $69. Blue Chip Low rows are $59, Blue Chip High rows are $52. The upper level is called the Mezzanine, and Center Low rows are $95, Center Middle rows are $72, End Low rows are $39, and End High rows are $34.

Getting There. The Scottrade Center is 941 miles from the Prudential Center. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

If you order tickets from American Airlines now, and you don't mind changing planes in Charlotte, you can get a flight out of Newark Airport to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for under $900. If you want a nonstop flight, you could get it on United Airlines, but you'd have to fly out at around 5:00 the next morning, and it wouldn't save you any money. (Albert Bond Lambert was a St. Louis golfer and early aviator.)

MetroLink, St. Louis' light rail system, will get you directly from Lambert to downtown. Of course, unless you manage to get a midnight flight back, or are willing to sit in the airport overnight, you should get a hotel. And whatever you do, if you take a taxi out of the airport instead of MetroLink, 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? 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 $250 round-trip, although this can drop to as little as $160 with advanced purchase. The Greyhound terminal is at Union Station, downtown at 430 S. 15th Street.
St. Louis' Union Station

Speaking of Union Station, Amtrak is an even worse option. You'll have to take Amtrak out of New York's Penn Station, not Newark's. You could board the Lake Shore Limited at Penn Station at 3:40 Eastern on Tuesday afternoon, arriving at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 Central on Wednesday morning, transfer to the Texas Eagle at 1:45 in the afternoon, and be at St. Louis' Union Station at 7:21 that night. If you try to take the same trip the next day, you'll arrive in St. Louis just 2 blocks from the arena, at 1820 Market Street, but about 20 minutes late for puck-drop. So you'd have to leave on Tuesday. The trip would take 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 $409.
Union Station also includes a hotel and a mall.
Great for those things, but you might not feel like doing them
if you came in via Greyhound or Amtrak.

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, it will be over the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. Exit 9 will be for the Sports Complex.
The Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge,
a.k.a. the Stan Span.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour 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 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. A Weekly Pass is $25. Do yourself a favor: Do not, even on Metrolink, go across the river into East St. Louis, Illinois. It's so bleak, it makes Camden, New Jersey look like Upper Montclair. The joke is that the crime rate has dropped because there's nothing left to steal.
The State Capitol is in Jefferson City, 126 miles west of downtown St. Louis, 147 miles east of downtown Kansas City, and 30 miles south of the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.
The Missouri State House,
on the Missouri River in Jefferson City

ZIP Codes for the St. Louis area start with the digits 630, 631 and 632. The Area Codes are 314 for the city and 636 for the suburbs.

Going In. The official address of the Scottrade Center is 1401 Clark Avenue, 7 blocks west of Busch Stadium. The stretch of Clark outside the arena is also known as Brett Hull Way. Parking is $27.50. The rink is laid out east-to-west, with the Blues attacking twice toward the west end, a.k.a. the Plaza End. Flags representing the 30 NHL teams crown the center scoreboard. It is served by the Union Station and Civic Center stops on Metrolink.
The arena opened in 1994 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, before Internet stock-trading company Scottrade took over. The building also hosts the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, known as "Arch Madness" instead of "March Madness." It hosted the NCAA Frozen Four in 2007.
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 program's 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. Elvis Presley sang there on January 1, 1956; March 29, 1957; September 10, 1970; June 28, 1973; and March 22, 1976.

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 (243 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 of this article.) If St. Louis had an NBA team, the city would rank 22nd among league markets.

Food. According to the arena's website:

Scottrade Center features concession stands and portable carts throughout the plaza and mezzanine levels. In addition to traditional fare such as hot dogs, chicken tenders, pizza, nachos, and pretzels, our concession stands offer specialty foods such as pile up hamburgers, foot long specialty hot dogs, bratwursts, wraps, salads and much more.

Full beverage selection includes soft drinks, lemonade, bottled water, iced tea, beer, a wide variety of specialty beers and microbrews, mixed drinks and wine.

Portable carts throughout both concourses feature such favorites as regular hot dogs, deluxe nachos, specialty beers, cotton candy, funnel cakes and Dippin' Dots ice cream. Scottrade Center also features a gluten-free portable stand, offering hot dogs, nachos, beer and other gluten-free snacks...

The Top Shelf is a unique area located on the mezzanine concourse between Sections 326 and 331. A combination food court and sports bar that opens into the seating area, the Top Shelf offers a wide variety of beverages and food, and allows fans to enjoy the atmosphere of a bar without missing all the live action.

Fans can also watch game broadcasts and NHL action around the league as well as other sporting events of interest on the large plasma screen televisions located throughout the Top Shelf. The Top Shelf is open to all ticket holders.

Team History Displays. Alone among the teams that came into the NHL prior to 1970 -- even the California Golden Seals, who became the Cleveland Barons, and were folded into the Minnesota North Stars, have sort-of won one, as the 1999 Dallas Stars -- the Blues have never won the Stanley Cup. With the way the divisions were set up after the 1967 expansion, at first guaranteeing one of the "Second Six" a berth in the Finals for the 1st 3 seasons, the Blues reached the Finals in 1968, 1969 and 1970. This was the 1st head coaching job, and the 1st achievement, for Scotty Bowman, who went on to win more Cups than any other coach, 9 (but none in St. Louis).

But they got swept all 3 times, by the Montreal Canadiens the 1st 2 times and the Boston Bruins the last. They have not made the Finals since. They have been around for 49 years, and have never won so much as a single game in the Stanley Cup Finals. Indeed, in the 46 years since they last reached the Finals, they have only made it to the NHL's last 4 once, in 2001, and won a grand total of 1 game in the Conference Finals (under any name) since their defenseman Noel Picard tripped up Bobby Orr of the Bruins as he scored the Cup-winner in overtime of Game 4 in 1970.

Despite making the Playoffs in every completed season since 1979-80, they've only won 1 Playoff series since 2002 (in 2012). So while they've usually been good, they've never really been great.

As a result of this, and of that 1967-74 2-Division setup, they can't hang a banner for a Conference Championship, much less a Stanley Cup. They do hang banners for 9 Championships in their Division: 1968 and 1969 in the Western, 1977 and 1981 in the Smythe, 1985 and 1987 in the Norris, and 2000, 2012 and 2015 in the Central. They also hang a banner for winning the President's Trophy, emblematic of the best record in the regular season, in the 1999-2000 season. But that's it.
They hang banners with retired numbers on them, but those don't tell the full story. Their 1st retired number was 3, for defenseman Bob Gassoff, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1977, after just 3 seasons with the team.

Three Plager brothers all played for the Blues in the 1970s, all defensemen: Barclay, Bob and Bill. Bill played 4 seasons with them. Bob played 10 seasons with them before being their coach and working in their front office, and still does so. Barclay also played 10 seasons, and coached them for 1 bad season, before being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Fortunately, the Blues retired his Number 8 while he was still alive. Bob's Number 5, while not officially retired, also hangs in the rafters at the Scottrade Center. Bill's Number 23 has not been honored by the club.

UPDATE: Bob Plager's 5 was retired on February 2, 2017.

Doug Wickenheiser played 4 seasons at center for the Blues, and is best remembered for "the Monday Night Miracle," when his overtime goal against the Calgary Flames forced a Game 7 in the 1986 Campbell Conference Finals, which they then lost anyway. (If you're familiar with Rangers history, this makes Wick the "Pete Stemkowski" of St. Louis, or the "Carlton Fisk.")

He died of cancer in 1999. The Blues wore a special helmet decal with the wick of a candle and the Number 14 during parts of the 1997–98 and 1998–99 seasons. In 1999, a banner with that logo, which became the symbol of The Fourteen Fund, the official Blues charity established in his memory, was placed in the rafters. The emblem was worn by all NHL players in the 1999 All-Star Game. But the number has not been officially retired.

Their other honorees have been more fortunate. From the late 1970s and most of the 1980s, they honored Number 11, left wing Brian Sutter (1 of the 6 NHL-playing Sutter Brothers); and Number 24, center Bernie Federko. From the 1990s, they honored Number 16, right wing Brett Hull; and Number 2, defenseman Al MacInnis. Although Wayne Gretzky only played for the Blues for a few weeks in 1996, they hang a banner with his Number 99 on it, to acknowledge that it's been retired for the entire league. And broadcaster Dan Kelly is honored with a banner, with a shamrock (he was Irish) in place of a number.

The Number 7 hasn't been retired, but, like Syracuse University football with the Number 44, it has been honored for the contributions of more than 1 player who wore it. Shortly into their 1st season, 1967-68, the Blues traded for Ranger center Gordon "Red" Berenson, who'd won the 1965 Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens (but did not, obviously, win a Cup with the Rangers). He became their 1st big star, including scoring 6 goals in a 1968 game against the Flyers.

In 1970, his skills declining, they traded him to the Detroit Red Wings, and handed Number 7 to the player they got for him, center Garry Unger. He played 9 seasons for the Blues, including the bulk of his playing streak of 914 consecutive games, a record that has since been surpassed only by Doug Jarvis. He scored 413 NHL goals, and was the MVP of the 1974 All-Star Game. (He also shares an exact birthday with baseball legend Johnny Bench: December 7, 1947.)

New York native Joe Mullen won the 1989 Cup with the Flames and the 1991 and 1992 Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, after 5 productive seasons at right wing for the Blues. And Keith Tkachuk played 9 seasons in St. Louis, at all 3 forward positions, and was the last player to wear Number 7 for the Blues. Mullen and Tkachuk are 2 of the only 4 American-born players ever to score at least 500 NHL regular-season goals.

The Number 7 is not given out anymore, but is not officially retired, nor does it hang in the rafters along with the unretired 5 and 14. Instead, a mural honoring Berenson, Unger, Mullen and Tkachuk is in the lower seating bowl.
Gretzky, Federko, Hull, MacInnis, Mullen, Bowman and Kelly have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Berenson has not, although I suspect they're waiting for him to retire as head coach at the University of Michigan, a post he's held for 32 seasons. They shouldn't hold their breath: Despite having recently turned 76, he shows no signs of wanting, or needing, to retire.

Also elected to the Hall are some of the veterans that the Blues got in the 1967 expansion draft, helping them get into those 3 Finals: Goalies Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante, defensemen Doug Harvey and Al Arbour (who, of course, was elected for what he did as a coach); and left wing Dickie Moore.

Others who played for the Blues and are in the Hall, but are better known for having played for other teams, are goalie Grant Fuhr, defenseman Guy Lapointe, centers Adam Oates and Dale Hawerchuk, and 5 who played for the Devils: Centers Peter Stastny and Doug Gilmour, defenseman Phil Housley, left wing Brendan Shanahan, and the man the Devils got as compensation when the Blues signed Shanny away from us in 1991: Scott Stevens. Emile Francis, the longtime Ranger coach and GM, later held those positions with the Blues, and is in the Hall. Defenseman Chris Pronger, newly inducted to the Hall for a career that included 9 strong seasons with the Blues, may be next to get his number retired, 44.

No members of the Blues played on the Team Canada that beat the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series, although former Blue Red Berenson did. As a result, he was named to Canada's Walk of Fame. So was Bowman, for his overall contributions to the game. Mark Johnson, Bill Baker and Dave Christian of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team went on to play for the Blues. Glenn Hall and Brett Hull were named to The Hockey News' 100 Greatest Players in 1998.

The Lester Patrick Trophy, for contributions to hockey in America, has been awarded to Bowman, Berenson, Mullen, Kelly, original GM and head coach Lynn Patrick (Lester's son), and former GM Larry Pleau.

The St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame is located at Busch Stadium, 7 blocks away at 700 Clark Avenue. It honors 10 Blues figures: Federko, MacInnis, Unger, Berenson, Hull, Sutter, Kelly, Hall, Bowman and Bob Plager. It also includes baseball Cardinals, football Cardinals, Rams, Hawks, University of Missouri sports legends, and local high school stars who made it big elsewhere. There is a Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, but it's all the way across the State in Springfield. Federko is the only Blues player yet inducted.

There are other banners hanging from the rafters of the Scottrade Center. They honor basketball players from Saint Louis University (the school's name is always spelled out, "Saint," never abbreviated to "St."): Number 24, Richard Boushka; Number 34, Anthony Bonner; Number 43, Bob Ferry (longtime NBA player and executive, and father of Danny Ferry); and Number 50, Ed Macauley (who later played for the Celtics and back in St. Louis with the Hawks). They also honor SLU's 1948 NIT title. The arena also has a statue of Brett Hull.
UPDATE: Hull, MacInnis and Pronger were named to the NHL's 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017.

Stuff. The True Blues Authentic Team Store has outlets at the northeast and southwest corners and the east entrance of the Scottrade Center. While there, you can buy pretty much anything you can get at any other team's store.

Unlike the Cardinals, who have had entire forests chopped down to make the paper for the books that have been written about them, books about the Blues are few and far between. In 2014, Darin Wernig's book Gateway City Puckchasers: The History of Hockey in St. Louis was published, detailing not just the Blues but their predecessors: The 1-season experiment of the NHL's St. Louis Eagles (formerly the original Ottawa Senators), but minor-league teams such as the American Hockey League's St. Louis Flyers (1929-53) and the Central Hockey League's St. Louis Braves (1963-67). Until the book comes out, though, you may be out of luck.

Don't expect to find any DVDs about the team, either. still sells an old VHS tape: True Blues: A Video Movie Commemorating Twenty Years of St. Louis Blues Hockey. They've got a lot of guts selling a 1986 VHS tape for $75. This is what happens when a team plays for nearly half a century and never wins a World Championship.

During the Game. A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the Blues' fans 19th, saying, "The Blues keep winning, yet struggle to sell out their home rink. What gives?" This is misleading: They get over 18,000 fans a game, so, while not filling the arena, they do fairly well.

Because of their Great Plains/Heartland image, Blues fans like a "family atmosphere." They don't much like New York, but they won't bother Devils, Rangers or Islanders fans just for being Devils, Rangers or Islanders fans. But I wouldn't go onto the streets of St. Louis or into the Scottrade Center wearing Chicago Blackhawks 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.

As are the other 1967 expansion teams that survive -- Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles -- the Blues are celebrating their 50th Anniversary in the 2016-17 season. However, their game against the Devils will not feature a promotion.

Included is their hosting of the 2017 NHL Winter Classic on January 2, at the Cardinals' Busch Stadium, against their arch-rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. On December 31, the Blues and Hawks will play an alumni game. Playing for the Blues will be Bernie Federko, Al MacInnis, Keith Tkachuk, the brothers Gino and Paul Cavallini, Chris Pronger, Mike Liut, former Islanders star Pierre Turgeon, Wayne Gretzky (who was a Blue for about 20 minutes in 1996), former Devils assistant coach Adam Oates, and former Devils Peter Stastny, Bryce Salvador and... Martin Brodeur.

The Blackhawks will include former Devils Reid Simpson and 1980 Olympic Jack O'Callahan, , and the man who allowed the John MacLean goals to give the Devils their 1st Playoff berth in 1988, now better known as a broadcaster, Darren Pang.

Charles Glenn is the regular National Anthem singer for the Blues, concluding with, "...and the home... of the... Bluuuues!" There is a "Let's Go Blues" theme song. Their goal song is "Twilight Zone" by 2 Unlimited, and they have a "Power Play Dance." There's an old guy in Section 314 who waves a towel around, and is known only as the Towel Guy.

Louie -- obviously, named for the city of St. Louis -- is the team's current mascot. He was introduced on October 10, 2007, and on November 3, 2007, the fans voted on his name on the Blues website. Louie is a Blue Polar Bear (fitting in with the whole hockey-as-winter-sport idea), and wears a Blues jersey with his name on the back and the Number 00.
For years, the Blues played "When the Saints Go Marching In" as their goal song, played live on the organ, not a recorded version. They got rid of it at the start of the 2014-15 season, and the fans were not happy. So it was restored for this season.

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

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. Joe Buck's, a restaurant owned by the Cardinals and Fox broadcaster, is at 1000 Clark Avenue, halfway between the arena and the ballpark -- but why would you want to go to a restaurant associated with him?

If you want to be around other New Yorkers/New Jerseyans, 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.

If your visit to St. Louis is during the European soccer season, which we are now in, the best place to watch your club is at the Amsterdam Tavern, 3175 Morganford Road, in the Tower Grove South area, about 6 miles southwest of downtown. Bus 30 to Arsenal Street and Morganford Road. (However, don't be fooled by that street name: Fans of London club Arsenal meet at Barrister's, 7923 Forsyth Blvd., about 9 miles west of downtown. MetroLink to Clayton.

Sidelights. St. Louis likes to think of itself as a great sports city, and as "the best baseball town in America." Yeah, right. But check these sites out:

* 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.
The Arena shortly before its demolition

It was the home of several minor league hockey teams until the NHL expansion of 1967 brought in the Blues. 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. The city's 1st NBA team, the St. Louis Bombers, played there from 1946 to 1950.

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); and the hockey version, the "Frozen Four," in 1975.

It was the home of the Spirits of St. Louis in the American Basketball Association's last 2 seasons, 1974-75 and 1975-76, before folding with the league, and were not absorbed into the NBA. That team featured Marvin Barnes and future Basketball Hall-of-Famers Maurice Lucas and Moses Malone, all 3 of whom were later named to the ABA All-Time Team. The Spirits were also the 1st major league sports team for whom Bob Costas broadcast.
The Arena was seen as being inadequate for a modern sports team, and the Blues moved out in 1994. It 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.

* Busch Stadium. Busch Stadium I (named Sportsman's Park from 1909 to 1952) was well north of downtown. Busch Stadium II (officially named 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.

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 new Busch Stadium hasn't yet hosted football, but it hosted a soccer game between English clubs Chelsea and Manchester City in the summer of 2013, and a 6-1 U.S. soccer victory over St. Vincent & the Grenadines this past November 13. It will host the NHL Winter Classic on January 2, 2017, between the Blues and their arch-rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. 700 Clark Avenue at 8th Street.

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 from 1995 to 2015, it had 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.

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

Now, the Rams have moved back to Los Angeles. It appears that State lines (and possibly also holding one's nose) have come back into play: Cardinals and Blues fans living in Eastern Missouri have gone back to the Kansas City Chiefs, and those living in Southern Illinois have gone back to the Chicago Bears. Don't expect the city ever to get another NFL team. I don't think the sport will be missed much, and most of the people who do miss it aren't willing to have their taxes jacked up to pay for a new domed stadium, when the current one isn't even a quarter of a century old yet.

* 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.

The ballpark was home to St. Louis' 1st 2 NFL teams, the All-Stars, who played only the 1923 season; and the Gunners, who played from 1931 to 1940.

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.

* Chaifetz Arena. The aforementioned home of Saint Louis University basketball (they always spell "Saint" out, never abbreviate it as "St.") is at 1 S. Compton Avenue, at the southwest corner of Laclede Avenue. Across from it, at the southeast corner, was Stars Park, home of the Negro Leagues' St. Louis Stars, Pennant winners in 1928, 1930 and 1931 -- just like their white counterparts.

SLU's teams are called the Billikens. Along with another Catholic school known for basketball but not football, Washington, D.C.'s, Georgetown Hoyas, this is one of the odder nicknames in college sports. In 1911, a local sportswriter said that the school's football coach at the time, John R. Bender, resembled a "Billiken," a charm doll popular at the time, resembling a Buddha with pointed ears. His team became known as Bender's Billikens, and the name stuck. Bender's predecessor as SLU football coach, Eddie Cochems, was the 1st coach to legally utilize the forward pass, in 1906. MetroLink to Grand.

* 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 128 current honorees, 25 are connected to sports: Cardinals figures Branch Rickey, Rogers Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Haray Caray, Joe Garagiola, Joe Buck and Bob Costas; the Browns' George Sisler; the Negro Leagues' James "Cool Papa" Bell; St. Louis native and New York baseball legend Yogi Berra; football Cardinals Dan Dierdorf and Jackie Smith (as yet, no Rams); Hawks Bob Pettit and Ed Macauley (as yet, no Blues); boxers Henry Armstrong and Archie Moore; tennis stars Dwight Davis and Jimmy Connors; track legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee; and bowler Dick Weber. Metrolink to Delmar station.

At 6504 Delmar is Blueberry Hill, the rock-and-roll-themed restaurant where St. Louis' own Chuck Berry, 89 years young, still plays about once a month. He, 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.

Elvis also sang at the Missouri Theater on October 21, 22 and 23, 1955, at the intersection of N. Grand Blvd. and Lucas Avenue, a block away from he Fox Theatre. Parking is on the site now.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang in Eastern Missouri in 1955 at the National Guard Armory in Sikeston on January 21 and September 7; at the Armory in Poplar Bluff on March 9; at the B&B Club in Gobler on April 8 and September 28; and at the Arena Building in Cape Girardeau on July 20. 

* 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.

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