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Field Trip of Dreams

jk

 Around the Major Leagues in 49 Days

Busch Stadium
St. Louis, MO
Kansas City Royals at St. Louis Cardinals
June 20, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

Paul and I drove past St Louis to get to Kansas City, then passed through again on our way to Chicago for the White Sox game, and now we are finally stopping to see a game at Busch Stadium before going back to Chicago to see Wrigley Field. Even though we were driving, it felt like we had several multi-leg flights with stopovers in St Louis each way! It would have been nice if Major League Baseball could have created the schedule with my trip in mind to cut down on some of the driving, but I had to make do with what was presented to me.

Before we actually got to Busch Stadium we had to take two stops through St Louis Baseball history. Our first stop was to visit the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, which is across the street from Busch Stadium. What is probably the most unique thing about this museum is that it also serves as the International Bowling Hall of Fame. In fact, with admission, you can even bowl 4 frames without an additional charge. I have no understanding of the connection between the two Halls of Fame, but it is interesting anyway.

Enough of bowling, it's time to talk Baseball. One of the most compelling parts of this Hall of Fame is that, although it has "Cardinals" in its' title it is truly a St. Louis Baseball Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame includes memorabilia from the St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles) and from the St. Louis Stars, which was a team in the Negro Leagues. Stars such as Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, and Cool Papa Bell are also featured (along with other St Louis stars) in special displays throughout. You can also watch two different Cardinals movies in the theater on the lower level. Either a 100-year history of the Cardinals or the 1998 Mark McGwire home run Saga (we chose the former). They did not have scheduled showing times; All you had to do was ask the clerk to play the movie of your choice when you were ready to see the movie. Overall, considering that I have stopped here while on a trip to see every stadium, my favorite part of this museum were the model replica versions of Sportsman's Park and Busch Stadium that are on display.

Our next stop was to visit the former site of Sportsman's Park. This was originally the home of the Browns, who played there from 1902 until 1955 when they moved to Baltimore. In 1920 the Cardinals moved from Robison Field to Sportsman's Park and remained there until 1966 when Busch Stadium was opened. The park was located on the intersection of Grand Avenue and Dodier and is now the location of the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club. There is a large plaque on the outside of the building indicating that this is the former site of Sportsman's Park. In addition, there are banners all over the street to clearly indicate that this is the former site of the stadium. There is even a baseball field for the Boys and Girls Club right where the home plate was, so baseball can still be played at this site!

History continues to be a theme when talking about Busch Stadium and St Louis. Before you even step foot inside, you have to make sure you walk through the Plaza of Champions by the main entrance to the Stadium. Here you will find various "In-Action" statues of St Louis heroes like Lou Brock, George Sisler, Cool Papa Bell, and Bob Gibson, and of coarse, a huge statue of Stan "The Man" Musial in the front. Also, make sure you look up as you walk along the outside concourse of the stadium where you will find banners describing past Cardinal highlights in Busch Stadium. As you go inside, you get smacked in the face with more history. The Cardinals have every right to focus on their history considering that they have participated in 15 World Series and won 9 of them, which is more than any other team other than the Yankees. Note that the A's have also won 9 World Series, but that was in 2 different cities; Philadelphia and Oakland. Flags for each of the championships appear in left center field upper deck, with flags for each of the retired Cardinal numbers in right center field upper deck. These two historic sections frame the main and out of town scoreboards (which are manually updated) in dead center field.

The more recent history is also remembered with Big Mac Land in the right field upper deck, which commemorates the many "monster" Home Runs hit by Mark McGwire (not to mention advertising the famous food chain). Note that when you stand in this section, it is hard to believe just how far away home plate is! The spot that McGwire hit his 62nd Home Run in 1998 to Break Roger Maris' single season record is also commemorated with a "62" (just over the right field wall).

As noted above, it is clear that the Cardinals embrace their history. Aside from the history, I took a walk around the upper deck to get a good view of the "Arch", which represents the Gateway to the West, which is located just a few blocks from the stadium and is a site you must (can't avoid) see when in St. Louis. You can also get a good view from the exit ramps in the upper deck on the side facing the Arch.

They even played a game when I was there. In fact this is the first of the Interleague rivalry games we got to see on the trip. This all-Missouri series between the Royals and Cardinals was dubbed "The I-70 Series", because of the main interstate highway that separates these two teams. I'll now go on record to say that I am not in favor of Interleague play because it screws up the balance of the schedule. For instance, the Cardinals play the Mets as many times as they play the Royals, when games within your own league should be more plentiful because of their significance to the wild-card playoff race. Since we have to see an Interleague game, at least it was a game between rivals.

I'll also have no problem admitting that I was rooting for the visitors in this game. One of the reasons has to do with how well we were treated by the Royals during our visit there earlier in the week. But the main reason I was rooting for the Royals is that no real Met fan can or should ever root for the Cardinals (except if they are playing the Yankees of coarse!). This goes back to the rivalry of the 1980s when the Mets and Cardinals were the premier teams in the National League East (the was no Central division back then) when the Cardinals were led by the "White Rat", Whitey Herzog. The bad blood has appeared to continue with the beanball wars in recent years, as well as the shenanigans put forward by managers Tony LaRussa and Bobby Valentine (who I still swear are the same manipulative guy).

The Royals did not disappoint me as they won the game fairly easily by a score of 10-4. After the bells rang to send the Cards on the field to start play, the Royals got off to a quick start with a lead-off homer off by Desi Relaford. The Royals then added 4 more runs in the 5th on a bases-clearing double by Raul Ibanez and an RBI double by Ken Harvey to put them up 5-0. The Cards scored three times in the 6th on an RBI groundout by Tino Martinez, an RBI triple by Mike Matheny, and an RBI single by Bo Hart, to make it a close game. Bo Hart is the new Cardinal idol that was playing in his second game after going 2-3 in his first game the other day. The Royals put the game away in the 7th inning with 2-run homers by Harvey and Angel Berroa. Ken Harvey added an RBI single in the 8th to cap off a 3-5 game with a double, a homer, a run and 4 RBI. Jose Lima, who was recently acquired from the Newark Bears (of the Independent Atlantic League) got the win, while the Cardinals apparently former ace, Matt Morris, took the loss.

As you may know, Albert Pujols is in the midst of his 3rd consecutive fantastic season and entered the game batting close to .400. The Cardinals keep track of his average on the MLB leader board located in the upper deck, which is manually updated after each at bat. Unfortunately for Pujols, he had an 0-5 game today, so the average just kept going down. However, including his 5 RBI game in Kansas City the other day, Mr.. Harvey appears to be in the early running for MVP of my trip, regardless of whether Mr. Pujols ends up being the MVP of the National League.

St Louis is touted as a baseball town and I haven't found anything that would contradict that assessment. Although there were some Royal fans present, it was clear that the majority of the fans were rooting for their Cardinals. It's pretty overwhelming when you look into the stands to see what appeared to be 90% of the fans wearing "Cardinal Red". There was even an article in the program documenting one fan's experience of watching a Cardinal game from a different location of the stadium for each inning. She even said that there is no reason for her to travel the country to see a game in every stadium, when she can just watch her Cardinals from a different perspective. I don't think she would like me too much, but you never know, because the Cardinal fans did cheer when a Royal got up from an injury. Overall, the Cardinal fans did not need any prompting from the scoreboard to react during the game, they knew what to do as the situation arose. These were real Baseball fans.

Of coarse, when you are seeing a game at Busch Stadium, you will not have a problem sampling a variety of Busch Beers. In fact, they even sell Budweiser beer with a "Born On" date of today to ensure that the beer is as fresh as could be! I also tried some foods that appear to be special here, such as toasted ravioli and a corn dog. I know that many people wouldn't consider a corn dog unusual, but you don't see them in New York, so this was my first chance to try one. Both of those foods were worth trying. I was also told that a whole turkey leg is also a specialty here, but I was too full to try one at this point.

Bottom line - Sorry if I offend the faithful Cardinal fans, but Busch Stadium reminds me of Veterans Stadium with history and better fans. I like that they embrace their history, but this is still a cookie-cutter 1970s multi-purpose stadium. Without the history in center field this could be Veterans, Three Rivers, or Riverfront Stadium. {Note that with all of the new stadiums following similar patterns and the upcoming demise of the Vet, I may have to change my mind and call this a unique stadium later on.} With all that said, I still had a great time and enjoyed the enthusiasm of the Cardinal fans even though I wasn't rooting with them.

Basic trip facts:

* Stadium # 6
* Old Stadium Sites visited - Sportsman's Park (Total - 3)
* Miles traveled - 409 via Car (Totals: Driving - 2,658, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total - 5,874)
* States, provinces and/or commonwealths passed through - Missouri and Illinois (Totals: States - 12, Provinces - 0, Commonwealths - 1)
* Seats -Section 248 , Row 14, Seat 11 - Loge Reserved right behind home plate
* Prices: Parking - $12, Beer - $5.75, Corn Dog - $4.25, Toasted Ravioli - $5.50, Program (including pencil) - $5.00, Souvenir Soda Cup -$4.50
* Credit Card giveaway - 1876 Cardinals T-shirt
* First Pitch - 7:10 PM
* Attendance - 38,226
* Results - Royals 10, Cardinals 4, W -Jose Lima, L -Matt Morris:, S - None:
* Home team record to date - 5 wins, 3 losses
* Record of "team I was routing for" to date - 2 wins, 6 losses
* Lodging - Springfield, Illinois

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