Hardball

Posted on Friday, November 4th, 2011 in Stories


At Busch Stadium, 2011

I bleed St. Louis Cardinal red. Like other natives of the Gateway to the West, I cannot imagine my hometown without the Cardinals, that great baseball club that has won more World Championships (that would be eleven!) than any team in the National League.

I was raised on Cardinal baseball. Some of my fondest memories are of listening to a heated game as reported over our trusty radio by the incomparable Harry Carey and later Jack Buck. But even better was when we piled in my Dad’s trusty Plymouth and drove down to Grand Boulevard and Dodier Street to see a game at Sportsman’s Park, a revered site where baseball was played as early as 1867.

Later dubbed Busch Stadium, but still commonly referred to as Sportsman’s Park by fans, the field was at one time the home for not only the baseball Cards but also the St. Louis Browns of the American League before they became the Baltimore Orioles. It was at this original Cardinal stadium where as wide-eyed boy I met my heroes — Stan Musial and Ken Boyer — after I won an essay contest sponsored by the Automobile Association of America. Those two signed baseballs have a place of honor in the studio where I now write my books.

The Cardinals left their original home in 1966 and moved to the brand new Busch Memorial Stadium closer to the downtown business district. I recall a helicopter carried home plate to the new stadium after the final Sportsman’s Park game on May 8, 1966. I saw my share of exciting games at Busch Stadium, where the Cards continued to rack up memorable victories during regular and post-season play. Then the new Busch Stadium in turn replaced the 1966 stadium in 2006. It is a terrific ball field and so far the Cardinals have performed like champions every time I get there to catch a game. Certainly the 2011 season was no exception as once more we came out on top of all the others and again are the World Champions.

Still, from time to time it is still important for me to cruise by the old original site of Sportsman’s Park. The Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club now occupies that famous corner. The grandstand and other structures were torn down long ago but the field is still being used for sports. Maybe some of that old sod is still there. I really hope so.