[New] Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO
Number of games: 1
First game: April 3, 2007 (Mets 4, Cardinals 1)
(Click on any image to see a larger version.)
It’s done! It’s over! At the age of 36, I have officially seen a game at all of the major league baseball stadiums. A moment for reflection, if you will indulge me…
When I first did a big baseball tour in 1993, I had no idea I’d eventually get to all the ballparks, or even want to. ItI voluntarily flew to Puerto Rico to go to ballgames, I realized this was becoming one of the central frivolous activities of my life. I was all set to finish off
I’ve been to all the ballparks. (Yay me.)
The newest incarnation of Busch Stadium seems to be a bit of an afterthought to the late-nineties stadium boom. To be honest, I was a little disappointed. On the one hand, I don’t miss the old Busch…the last of the four awful cookie-cutters goingJacobs Field, the Ballpark in Arlington, PNC Park, or Oriole Park. I’m afraid that hasn’t happened here.
What was strange about the ballpark is that I greatly preferred the exterior to the interior. Not so much the edifice itself, although I did like it–it incorporated locally-appropriate arches into the facade, and was a darker red than most other ballparks–but a lot of the touches that help with the is-there-any-question-where-you-are test were on the outside when I’d like at least a few of them on the inside. Cardinals’ Hall of Famers were represented in sculpture near home plate. The sculpturesCincinnati, Milwaukee, or–my absolute favorite–the guy in Detroit.
Also outside, the Cardinals track critical moments in their history via plaques on the sidewalk. Many, I knew about…some, I did not. I’d have liked it to not be interrupted–the plaques are only on the west and east sides of the ballpark, and are interrupted by an empty stretch along the north side. However, I still walked the whole way, reading every plaque. I can’t help but be saddened by the number of plaques devoted to Mark McGwire’s 1998 season. I called my dad to watch the 61st home run together, and it was a special moment. But ever since his
On the north side of the ballpark, there are two other snippets of St. Louis baseball history–one beautiful, and one just confusing.
Beautiful was the tribute to Jack Buck. A large section of wall is dedicated to his memory. While the photos are nice–particularly the one of him with son Joe–the sound of his voice is easily what carries the day. Buck’s voice is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever listened to a baseball game, and the people of New Busch take advantage of that recognition by having tapes of some of his most famous calls on continuous loop there. In the few minutes I lingered–and his calls make any
On the sidewalk, there’s a strange painting of a yellow line with the number 402. At first, I thought it was an extension of the foul line, with a notation of how long a home run that landed there would be. Once I poked my head into the ballpark, however, this proved impossible–the yellow line seemed to be sticking out of center field of the new Busch. That’s whenconfirmed by fellow ballpark traveler Frank Albanese.) Is it center field? Left? Is this the spot where I saw Andy Van Slyke break his collarbone, perhaps? Or where Ozzie Smith’s NLCS home run left the yard? I have no way of knowing. There’s no label, no explanation…nada. Just a line and a number. I’m all for understated, but the old Busch deserves better.
Once I got inside Busch, I found a ballpark that I’d say is simply functional. None of the history that I see in moments like the plaques or the Jack Buck tribute makes it inside the ballpark. The best ballparks can both be functional and celebrate rich histories on the inside (Philadelphia comes to mind as an excellent example). But there’s very little of that here.
Case in point: I came upon an out-of-town scoreboard in the pavilion area. “Look,” my wife said,
But hold the phone…this couldn’t be right. Didn’t the M’s game start later? And what’s Felix Hernandez, #59, doing pitching two days in a row? Is this score from yesterday? Wait…the Angels aren’t playing the Rangers tonight! What’s going on?
A few paces later, I saw a Cardinals/Reds scoreboard, and I figured it out. This had to have been the out of town scoreboard as it appeared at the end of the last game at old Busch. Again, like the yellow line outside, it was unexplained and
A little history was going on in front of us on this, the second night of the 2007 season: the ’06 Cardinals were given their World Series rings. In a nice touch, they gave their Hall of Famers World Series rings as well as the actual members of the championship team. St. Louis deifies Stan Musial in the extreme, and even if love of sports stars feels a little idolatrous to me at times, there is something undeniably touching about such the unabashed love pouring down on an elderly man so frail that he needed help to walk out to claim his ring. The feel-good moment continued when Scott Spiezio received his ring from his dad, Ed. They are the only
But the best part of the game, as always, were the Cardinal fans. While I was a little disappointed in the number of them who left early, I can forgive it…it was a bitterly cold school night and a lackluster Cardinal performance. But there’s something exciting about being in the middle of a sea of red. Friendly Midwesterners chatted with us about our adventures, congratulated me on completing my set of parks, and talked about the team a little bit. A relative of my wife even got us tickets for the day…and wouldn’t let us reimburse her! With its downtown location and packed house, Busch creates the feel I like from Fenway of a carnival atmosphere for the ballgame, where everyone is excited and anticipating a great night while walking through the city.
Even so, I can’t help but think that Busch could have done much better. It doesn’t quite celebrate the joy and history of such a great baseball town. It’s just not quite enough.
And I should know. I’ve been to all of the ballparks now.
BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:
Orlando Hernandez baffles the Cardinals with 7 innings of five-hit ball. He also delivers a difference-making 2-RBI double.
Scott Rolen homers.(Written August 2007.)