Sunday, August 24, 2008

East St. Louis Toodle-Oo

Friday afternoon, upon arriving in Kansas City, I ventured down to 18th and Vine, the birthplace of jazz, and also around the corner from where the original organizational meeting of the Negro National League took place in 1920. This historic district is now home to two fine museums, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum. Not surprisingly, I spent more time in the Negro Leagues Museum, so I'll write more about that later. But, I will say that, while viewing the Duke Ellington display at the Jazz Museum, I decided that I need more jazz in my music collection. The particular composition that caught my ear was "Sugar Rum Cherry", his interpretation of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy", from an album called Three Suites.

Yesterday, my trip brought me to its final destination, the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis, for a day game between the Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves. This was, in fact, Fox Sports' Game of the Week, but I doubt my face appeared on national television, as my seat was not nearly as good as for the games at Miller Park and Kaufmann Stadium. Actually, I was very happy with it, though, as it was in the shade, and the weather was sunny and in the low 90s, and I had neglected to wear or bring any sunblock. I think I need some lessons in boy scouting after this trip, because my preparation has been seriously lacking at times.

Busch Stadium
The seat was pretty comparable to where I was in the Metrodome, except at Busch I was in left field, versus right field in Minnesota. Due to the new stadium design, though, this vantage point was considerably better, with the seats in this section angled for a better view of the field, and no people walking up and down the aisles to contend with. Well, in fact, I was in the last row of the section, up against the wall, so it was kind of a moot point anyway. This was great, too, because it allowed me to stand up and take all the pictures I wanted.

It's hard to say exactly why, but I think I like this stadium a little better than Miller Park, although it's a close call. One thing I find curious that is missing here is a Cardinals Hall of Fame, or any type of tribute to the rich tradition of this team, other than the retired numbers displayed above the VIP seats in center field. Miller Park didn't have this either, but the Brewers don't have the history that St. Louis baseball does. The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians, both teams that have existed for over a century, as the Cardinals have, are ahead of the curve on this one. Why the Cardinals aren't, I don't know.

What they do pay tribute to, in a classy but subtle way, are their pitchers who have been struck by tragedy in recent years. On the back wall of the home bullpen are "DK 57" and "JH 32" decals, to honor Darryl Kile and Josh Hancock, both Cardinals pitchers who died during the 2002 and 2007 seasons, respectively.

One thing I really appreciated about Busch Stadium was their out-of-town scoreboard. Rather than just the standard display of the score, inning, and uniform number of the current pitcher of games in progress, theirs included information on the current situation of each game, including number of outs, runners on base, and who was currently batting. Miller Park just gave the standard information, as did the Metrodome and Kaufmann Stadium, although I'll cut them some slack considering their age.

I have to admit that I left early again. It started to rain late in the game, then with two outs in the top of the 9th, with the Braves leading 5-4, it started to pour, and the game was delayed. With the rain looking like it was going to last for a little while, I knew the delay would be at least an hour, and I had more driving ahead of me for the night. I definitely crammed a lot into the end of this trip. So, I took off, and turned out to be correct that play didn't resume for a little over an hour, time that was much better served driving east into Illinois. As I listened on the radio, the Braves rallied to score three runs to extend their lead, and the Cards went down meekly in the bottom of the 9th to lose 8-4. So, this time, my decision paid off, as I didn't miss anything special.

This is the end of my trip. I'm sitting in the airport, waiting to catch a flight back to Boston, as I write this. I've now visited a total of 27 major league parks in my lifetime, including 19 of the current 30. I have to say that my 2004 trip worked out a little better, as the logistics of the games worked out quite nicely, but this was a very memorable trip as well. Hopefully, it won't be another four years before I do something like this again, although now that I've been to all of the parks in the Midwest, it will be difficult to work out another road trip such as the last two. Still, I look forward to more baseball journeys as I work towards my goal of making it to all of the current major league parks.


  1. Just thinking about some "amenities" that might put the new Yankee Stadium in a class of its own:

    1.Wireless internet-- this would obviously require the jackbooted Yanks to allow laptops as well. Maybe a small 3-prong outlet in front of each seat?

    2."Swipe'n swig"-- swipe your Visa, MC or Amex at your seat and 16 to 24 oz. of draft beer pours out right in front your lap (I guess it could go right next to the outlet). Maybe you have to buy a special tap-cup for $5?

    3. In-game trash service-- Well-compensated workers scurry down each aisle once an inning with huge trash bags and clean dat shit up. Kinda like on an airplane, but more often (and probably not 105 lb. waifs in blue polyester outfits). Tipping is encouraged.

  2. All great ideas, although I'm thinking some version of #3 to be the most likely scenario. They actually did something similar to this in St. Louis, although I only saw the folks collecting trash come around once, and since 2 of 3 of them were kids, I doubt they were highly compensated.