Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A (Red)bird's-Eye View of St. Louis, From The Arch

Busch Stadium
St Louis, MO
July 27, 2015
Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals

"I have no hesitation to say that St. Louis is a great place in which to live and work"
 Stan Musial

July 27, 2015: The Gateway City

As usual we were up and ready to hit the road early, and even though we wouldn't be going too far (St. Louis is only about three-and-a-half hours from Kansas City), we wanted as much time as possible before the 7 p.m. game to see some of the city, as well as wander around Busch Stadium.
"We're going to go inside the Arch, right?" Ryan wanted to know.

This was on his "must-do list," he had been telling me since we had finalized St. Louis last year, and after having missed out on the Willis Tower's glass booths (Chicago) and the CN Tower (Toronto), due to time constraints and ridiculous costs, there was no way I was going to disappoint him.

"We are as long as we get a move on," I told him. "Get in the car."

"What about breakfast?" he wanted to know.

"We'll grab some on the way out the door," I told him. "Now get going."

It was good to see he had an appetite, no matter how slight. After the disaster the day before, with the heat sickness and the vomiting, he looked a little better, but we weren't taking any chances.

Everyone wolfed down some food - not nearly as much as I would have normally seen from Ryan, but he ate something, which made me happy - and then packed the Explorer for the cross-state trip.

Before getting on the highway we made a quick stop at a local Walgreens for some Pedialyte, which to ensure everyone was properly hydrated - especially Ryan, who had lost a lot of fluid from his heat sickness over the last two days. He wasn't exactly enthralled with it; it did in fact taste horrible, but it was a necessary evil. Nick thought it was hysterical, until Tony told him he'd be having some too, which brought about a half-hearted laugh from Ryan.

Once on I-70, the interstate highway that runs between the two cities, it was pretty much a straight line, though there wasn't much to see. So we put in a Jazz CD I had bought at the American Jazz Museum, the day before, and watched the landscape slowly pass by.

"There's a lot of billboards on this highway," Nick said, to no one in particular.

"Yeah, but they're all about fireworks, the Bible or porn shops," Rob laughed.

Of course we then decided it would be great fun to read them aloud and comment on each one, which brought about howls of laughter as someone always read in a dramatic voice and made a pithy comment...especially about the porn shops, strip clubs and Bible verses. After a while it got a little played out and we had listened to the CD, so I decided it was time for a history lesson.

"Okay, who wants to learn about the Cardinals?"

"Really?" Ryan laughed. " I don't wanna LEARN; school's out for the summer and we don't have to go back for another month."

"You'll get over it," Tony told him.

"Second-most World Series Championships, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson and Ozzie Smith. What else is there to know?" Rob interjected, in a good-natured sort of way.

"History lesson time," I laughed.

The audible groan coming from my left and all the way to the back of the car told me I was going to be doing most of the talking.
Cardinals History

Baseball in St. Louis began in, roughly, 1875, with a team known as the Brown Stockings. They played in the National Association, which went bankrupt after that season and joined the National League the next year as one of its charter franchises.

St. Louis played in the National League until they were kicked out after 1877, as the team was accused of fixing games (and also was going bankrupt). For the next few years they barnstormed as a semi-pro team before being bought by Chris von der Ahe, in 1882, and becoming an original team in the American Association. The following year, 1883, they shortened the name to Browns and became a powerhouse, winning the pennant from 1885-1888, while being managed by Charles Comiskey. Because they won the pennant, they played the National League champion for what would be, today, considered a World Series. Twice they would face the Chicago White Stockings, who would, eventually, become the Chicago Cubs, winning one and tying another. This would be the start of the great St. Louis-Chicago rivalry, which continues to this day.

Robison Field, Circa 1894
After the 1891 season the American Association went bankrupt and St. Louis transferred over to the National League to start the 1892 season. To say the team struggled was an understatement, but the fans kept coming out and so in 1893 von der Ahe moved his team to a new ballpark, which became known as New Sportsman's Park (later known as Robison Field, League Park and Cardinal Field), at the corner of Natural Bridge and Venderventor Avenues. This was only a few blocks from Sportsman's Park (also known as the Grand Avenue Ballgrounds), located at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Dodier Street, where the team had played since its inception. The new ballpark was ahead of its time, in that it would have built next to it an amusement park, a log flume ride and a beer garden, to help draw in more fans. Unfortunately the team was horrible for most of the 1890s and after a fire gutted the ballpark von der Ahe was forced to sell the team to Frank and Stanley Robison, in 1899. The stadium was quickly rebuilt and named League Park, which it would be known as through the 1911 season.

Getting Their Name
One of the first things the new owners did was change the team name and color scheme, so the Browns became the Perfectos and the main uniform color was Cardinal red. Since they had previously owned the Cleveland Spiders, the Robisons saw no reason why they shouldn't pillage players from their old team - so they did just that, taking many of Cleveland's best players, including a pitcher by the name of Cy Young. Despite their "stolen" talent, the Perfectos still finished fifth in the league, but they did acquire a new name.

Late in the 1899 season a sportswriter named Willie McHale wrote that, while at the ballpark one afternoon, he had overheard a female fan say "...what a lovely shade of cardinal their uniforms are." By the next season the outpouring of support for the moniker Cardinals pushed the organization to officially change
the team's name.

The team's new name came hand in hand with the Cards becoming a bit more competitive, though it was more because of the talents of Cy Young than a name change. Over the years 1899 and 1900 Young went 45-35 with a 2.78 ERA over 690 innings, and completed 72 of his 85 starts. Conversely, the Cards would go 84-67 in 1899, before slipping to 65-75 in 1900. Unfortunately, Young would jump to the Boston Americans (later to become the Boston Red Sox) of the new American League, in 1901, but the team would actually jump back over .500 (74-64) in the season after his departure.

In 1902 the upstart American League added a team to St. Louis. The Milwaukee Brewers closed shop up north, came down to St. Louis, took the name Browns and were hoping to steal some thunder from the National League. The Browns did become a worthy inter-city rival, as they out drew them, built their park on the site of the Cardinals' former home (Sportsman's Park) and even stole one of the Cardinal fan favorites, Jesse Burkett. The Browns would stay in St. Louis for 50 years, until they moved to Baltimore, in 1953, and became the Orioles.

Regardless of where they were playing, who they were competing against, or who played for them, the Cardinals weren't very good between 1892 and 1919. They had zero World Series appearances, only five winning seasons (1899, 1901, 1911, 1914 and 1917), four seasons of 100 losses or more and they finished last, or next to last, 16 times. During this time Stanley Robison passed away (1911) and his daughter, Helen, inherited the team. She became the first female owner of a pro sports team in the United States and held onto the team until 1917, when she sold it to a group of investors, which included an attorney, James Jones, and a car dealer, Sam Breadon.

One of the first things the new ownership group did was convince the Browns to release Branch Rickey from his position as president to become the new president and business manager for the Cards. The Browns were thrilled to let Rickey go, as his pious demeanor influenced his view of the game, but Rickey wasn't thrilled to be heading to the Redbirds, as they were always having money issues. The reason he finally accepted the job was that he could keep his family in St. Louis, which is where he wanted to raise his children.

During these years there were a few bright on-field personalities who came through St. Louis. Players, and managers, such as Kid Nichols, Miller Huggins, Bill Doak and Sam Sallee all put on the Cardinal uniform, but no one's star shone as brightly as a youth named Rogers Hornsby, who burst on the scene in 1915 and stayed with the club through the 1926 season.

Rogers Hornsby Plaque In Cards Hall of Fame
Born in 1896, the lanky Texan was 19 when he came to the Cardinals in 1915, as a slugging infielder. Over the first 12 years of his career he would win the N.L. MVP (1925), the Triple Crown twice(1922 and 1925), six straight batting titles (1920-1925), two home run titles (1922 and 1925), four RBI titles (1920-1922 and 1925) and a World Series Championship in 1926. He would leave St. Louis after the 1926 season, but return for a brief period in 1933, and be gone again (waivers), this time to the Browns, where he would stay until he retired in 1937. All in all I would say Hornsby had a pretty good career; he would become a member of the Hall of Fame, be voted onto the All-Century Team and MLB All-Time Team, and be enshrined into the Cardinals Hall of Fame.

While Hornsby was becoming a legend the club wasn't exactly setting the world on fire. They would finish seventh (1916), third (1917), eighth (1918) and seventh (1919) to close out the decade, and if the play on the field wasn't bad enough, the manager, Miller Huggins, quit after the 1917 season because he too chaffed under Rickey. Huggins would go on to a brilliant career with the New York Yankees. Jack Hendry would take over the team for one year (1918), but was then replaced by Rickey himself, who would stay at the helm from 1919-1925.

By 1920, Sam Breadon became the majority owner of the team and Rickey had the next-highest amount of shares at 20%, which firmly entrenched him as the head of the front office. These two men became one of the most, if not the most, powerful tandems in sports history. With Breadon closely watching the purse strings and Rickey having full power to exert his authority on player signings, development and scouting, the Cardinals were building a firm foundation for the future.

The 1920s: The Beginning of Excellence

The team would start out "The Roaring Twenties" poorly (one sixth-place, two fifth-place, one fourth and two third-place finishes between 1920 and 1925), but would build a club with its eye on the future, thanks to Rickey's innovative farm system.

Branch Rickey 
Rickey was always on the lookout for talent, and lots of it, so what better way to stockpile that talent than to create a "feeder system" for the big-league club? In essence Rickey would have a scouting system that would constantly be on the lookout for new, young, (cheap) talent. This talent would then be evaluated and put in different teams, at different levels of progression, until the pipeline stopped at the major league level. This would give the Cardinals an ability to train players their way, watch their development and move them up and down through the system, or trade them for another player who could fill an area of need. His plan was so simple, it was amazing that no one thought of it first, and over time other clubs saw the brilliance of it and implemented their own.

Beginning in 1920 the Cards, looking for a new home, convinced the Browns it would be logical, and cost-efficient, for the two teams to share a ballpark, to which the Browns agreed. So starting in June of that year, and lasting until the Browns left for Baltimore after 1953, the teams became co-owners.

Sportsman's Park

The park would seat between 24,040 and 30,500 during the time the two teams occupied it, and had a natural grass playing surface with dimensions that ran from 351 feet to left field, 379' to left-center, 426' to deepest center, 354' to right-center, 310' to right field and 68 feet to the backstop. While it certainly was cost efficient, there were always upgrades needed due to the fact there were now twice as many games being played there.

By 1926 the Redbirds were a National League powerhouse, finishing the season with a record of 89-65 and their first National League pennant. In those days the pennant winner went straight to the World Series and the Cardinals opponent would be the New York Yankees.

The Yankees were the American League powerhouse by this time, having been to four of the last six World Series, and led by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Earle Combs and Waite Hoyte, managed by former Cardinal skipper Miller Huggins. The Cards, though, were no slouches, having future Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Jesse Haines, Chick Haffey, Billy Southworth and Jim Bottomley on their roster.

The Yankees were the favored team, and with good reason, but the Cardinals battled them to a draw after the first four games. New York had won Game 1 and Game 4 (2-1 and 10-2) while St. Louis had taken the middle two games (6-2 and 4-0), but when the Yanks took Game 5, many thought the series was all but over. St. Louis, though, proved to be a tough team to put away, as they blasted the Yankees 10-2 in Game 6, which set up a winner-take-all Game 7, in Yankee Stadium.

Babe Ruth's solo home run, in the third inning, staked New York to an early lead, but the Cards plated three of their own in the top of the fourth. The Yankees were their own worst enemies, committing two errors and handing St. Louis a lead they would never relinquish. The Yanks cut the lead to 3-2 with a run in the sixth, and almost blew the game open in the seventh when Lazzeri hit a foul ball that missed being a grand slam by inches, but he struck out on the next pitch, keeping the score at 3-2.

1926 World Series Champs
In the ninth, Alexander got the first two Yankee batters before walking the dangerous Ruth, on a full count. This brought Bob Meusel to the plate, who had success against Alexander earlier in the series but Ruth, inexplicably, took off for second base on the first pitch. Meusel, taken by surprise, swung away, hoping to put the ball in play, but missed, and when Ruth was thrown out the series was over. The Cardinals had won their first World Series and their long-suffering fans were ecstatic.

The Cards had won the World Series, but many wondered if they would be able to repeat their success in 1927. One surprising move saw St. Louis trade All-Star Hornsby to the Giants, for fellow second baseman, and star, Frankie Frisch, known as "The Fordham Flash." They had a fantastic year, winning 92 games, but the Pirates finished 1.5 games ahead of them and "stole" the pennant. In 1928 they returned to the top of the National League, with a record of 95-59, and beat the Giants for the pennant by two games. This set up a World Series rematch with the Yankees, which the Yanks certainly were looking forward to.

The 1928 Yankees were not as famous as the historic 1927 team, but they were deep and dangerous. Still sporting Ruth, Gehrig and Lazzeri, they had also added Bill Dickey, another future Hall of Famer, and a pitching staff the rest of baseball feared.

The Cards had played excellent baseball all year long, but they were no match for the powerful Yankees, who swept them in four straight (4-1, 9-3, 7-3 and 7-3) and repeated as Champions. The Yankees' three and four hitters, Ruth and Gehrig, had dismantled St. Louis almost by themselves, with Ruth batting .625 and hitting three home runs (all in Game 4) and Gehrig hitting four and driving in as many runs as the entire Cardinal team combined (10).

1929 was a down year for the club, falling to fourth place, 20 games off the pace, but they ended the decade with  team stocked for the future, thanks to Rickey's farm system, and the expectation of more exciting baseball ahead of them.

The Gas House Gang Years

The 1930's were a fun time to be a Cardinal, or a fan of the team. Starting in 1930 the organization would finish first three times (1930, 1931 and 1934) and finish in second another three times (1935, 1936 and 1939). They would sport an 869-665 record, win the World Series twice (1931 and 1934) and have one of the most colorful teams in baseball history, nicknamed "The Gas House Gang."

Dizzy Dean Statue at Busch Stadium
On the last day of the 1930 season, a young pitcher was brought up who would have a profound impact on both the team and baseball over the course of his career. Jay Hanna Dean was his name, but everyone would come to know him as "Dizzy."

Dizzy Dean would play for the Cardinals from 1930-1937 and be the ace of their staff. He was colorful, brash and boastful, in the vein of later athletes such as Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath. He loved to brag about his talents and often made predictions about how well he would do on the mound, and then following through on his promises. In his years with the Cardinals he would compile a record of 134-75 with an ERA of 2.99, being selected to four All-Star Teams (1934-1937), lead the majors in strikeouts four times (1932-1935), wins twice (1934-1935), win an NL MVP (1934) and win a World Series (1934). He would have his number 17 retired by the Cardinals and be enshrined in both the Cardinals and MLB Halls of Fame (1953).

The Redbirds would win both the 1930 and 1931 National League Pennants, with the 1930 squad becoming the only team in MLB history to have every player who registered 300 at bats hit over  .300, and the last NL team to have over 1,000 runs scored in a season, with 1,004. They would finish with a record of 92-62 and beat out the Cubs by two games. Unfortunately, the team ran smack into Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's, who won 102 games and easily overpowered them in the World Series, four games to two. The Cards did equip themselves well, but they were no match  for the team led by Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove and Al Simmons. The A's won in six, outscoring the Redbirds 21-12, and celebrated their last World Series win in Philly, before moving to Kansas City and then Oakland, where they would win four more. It was also the last Championship Philadelphia would see for 50 years.

1931 would be a whole different story for the Redbirds, who won 101 games and had four players lead the National League in different categories: Chick Hafey won the batting title, with a .349 average, while Bill Hallahan led the league in both wins (19), and strikeouts (159), and Frankie Frisch stole the most bases (28). The Cards easily finished ahead of the Giants, by 13 games, and returned to the World Series, again against the A's.

The A's were coming off a fantastic 107-win season and were clearly the favorites, but St. Louis wasn't about to throw in the towel because of a few games less won. The teams split the first six games, with the A's taking Game 1 (6-2), Game 4 (3-0) and Game 6 (8-1), while the Cards won Games 2, 3 and 5, by the scores of 2-0, 5-2 and 5-1, which set up a deciding Game 7, at Sportsman's Park.

St. Louis jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first and never looked back. They would add two more in the third inning, but the A's could not find a way to beat Burleigh Grimes. They would score two in the top of the ninth, but it wouldn't be enough and St. Louis would win the Championship with a final score of 4-2. A series going seven games is usually a close one, but when the final numbers were totaled it was surprising how close it actually was. In the end Philly outscored the Cardinals, 22-19; the Cards outhit the A's, 54-50; and the teams were within two errors of one another, as well. The difference between the two teams, however, was Pepper Martin, who was a one-man wrecking crew, with 12 hits, 4 doubles, 5 stolen bases and a .500 batting average.

The Cards would fall to Earth the next two years, 1932 and 1933, with records of 72-82 and 82-71. They would finish 18 and 9.5 games back, respectively, but would rebound nicely in 1934, when they became known as the Gas House Gang.

Frankie Frisch
The team, led by their player-manager, Frankie Frisch, was said to have taken on a very gritty, grimy, down-and-dirty persona. It didn't help that the players were unkempt and usually took to the field in unwashed, filthy, stinky uniforms. Shortstop Leo Durocher was also supposed to have said that the team wouldn't have even been allowed on the field in the American League, as they were just a bunch of gassers, which was a term for factory employees, noted for their filthy, smelly appearance and not a group to emulate. Whatever the root, the Gas House Gang took pride in their "reputation" and wore it like a badge of honor.

There was plenty of talent on the team. Dizzy Dean, his brother Paul (known as Daffy), Frankie Frisch, Leo Durocher, Pepper Martin, Joe "Ducky" Medwick, Burleigh Grimes, Dazzy Vance and a host of others led the team to a first-place finish, two games ahead of the Giants, with a record of 95-58. They would lead the league in batting average (Ripper Collins, .362), wins (Dizzy Dean, 26), strike outs (Dizzy Dean, 195) and stolen bases (Pepper Martin, 23), which would give them a World Series date with the Detroit Tigers, who'd won the American League with 101 victories.

The Tigers, no slouches, were led by future Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin and Hank Greenberg, but even they couldn't take a commanding lead on St. Louis' "Gassers," who had the Series split after four games. The Cards had won Games 1 and 3 (8-3 and 4-1), while the Tigers took Games 2 and 4 (3-2 in ten innings, and 10-4). When the Tigers took Game 5 a lot of folks thought the series was over, but the Cards took Game 6, 4-3, and then blew the Tigers out, 11-0, to win the Series, back in Detroit.

Daffy (L) and Dizzy Dean

The Tigers leaned heavily on the Dean brothers, riding them to a combined 4-1 record (Dizzy 2-1 and Daffy
2-0) as they only used six other pitchers for the entire series. They did, however, receive a scare in Game 4 when Dizzy slid into second base hard, trying to break up a double play, and got hit in the noggin with the relay throw, which knocked him unconscious. He was taken to the hospital and kept for observation, but released and started Game 5 the next day. Legend has it that one newspaper ran the headline "X-rays On Dean's Head Shows Nothing." Quite a few people around the league got a chuckle out of it, but as Dean later said, "I didn't pitch with my head, only my arm."

The Gas House Gang team of 1934 would reach the pinnacle of the baseball world, but would only stay there one year. The 1935 and 1936 teams did finish in second place, with records of 96-58 and 87-67, to the Cubs and Giants, respectively, but then the drop-off was precipitous. They would finish fourth, sixth, second, third and second, between 1937 and 1941, and once finish below .500, with a record of 71-80 in 1938.

It was within this time period that Dizzy Dean's career in St. Louis came to an end. During the 1937 All-Star Game, Dean was hit in the foot with a line drive off the bat of Cleveland's Earl Averill, which fractured some toes. He didn't give the foot the proper time to heal, and because he came back too soon and was favoring it, he changed his pitching motion, which led to an arm injury that effectively ended his career. His contract was bought by the Cubs in 1938, but it was clear that he was not the same pitcher . He would stay in Chicago until the 1941 season and then hung up his spikes, except for one game (a publicity stunt), when he came back to pitch for the St. Louis Browns in 1947.

1941-1963: The Era of "The Man"

Stan Musial

As one set of Cardinals faded into history, another was coming along at just the right time. By 1941 they were a team on the rise, managed by Billy Southworth and led by veterans such as Cooper Walker, Marty Marion, Walker Cooper, Bill Lohrman, Enos Slaughter and Max Lanier. The Cards would make a run at the pennant, finishing in second place, behind the Dodgers, with a record of 97-56, but the real story became a rookie pitcher-turned-outfielder, from Donora, PA: Stan Musial.

Born in 1920, Musial was signed by St. Louis as a pitcher and tried to work his way through the system without much luck, as an arm injury curtailed his ability to pitch. He was, however, a great hitter (albeit with a weird stance) and eventually worked his way to St. Louis in the late stages of the 1941 season. In his 47 at- abats, Musial would hit .426, with 20 hits, four doubles, a home run and seven RBIs. It was a harbinger of things to come and the kid from western Pennsylvania helped the team come within two games of winning the pennant. They would not fall short in any of the next three years.

In 1942, with a full year at his disposal, Musial hit .315, with 147 hits, 32 doubles, 10 triples, 10 home runs and 72 RBIs, in 467 at-bats. The team would surge to first place, on the strength of its 106-48 record and be back in the World Series to face an old foe, the New York Yankees.

The '42 Yanks, led by manager Joe McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, Phil Rizzuto and Red Ruffing, had been hampered by players going off to fight in World War II, but still managed to win the American League with a record of 103-51, nine games ahead of the Red Sox. Their star power and name made them the favorites in baseball circles, but the Cards were undaunted as the Series began.

The Yanks took Game 1, surprising no one, but it was the underdog Cardinals who shocked the baseball world by winning the next four games (4-3, 2-0, 9-6 and 4-2) and capturing the championship. Based on the stats which show the teams played pretty evenly (23-18 runs scored for the Cards, 44-39 hits, for the Yanks and the Cards making 10 errors to the Yankees 5), it was timely hitting and pitching that provided the victory for St. Louis.

In 1943 the same two teams met again, as the Cards went 105-49, finishing 18 games ahead of the Reds, and the Yankees sported, who sported a 98-56 record, 13.5 games ahead of the Senators. The roles were reversed, as St. Louis was now the favorite, but it was the underdog New Yorkers who came out on top, four games to one. This Series was a low-scoring affair, 26, 17 by the Yankees, who took Game 1 (4-2), Game 3 (6-2), Game 4 (2-1) and Game 5 (2-0).

St. Louis, again, ran away with the National League in 1943, out distancing the Pirates by 14.5 games, with a record of 105-49. It was an identical record to 1942, though that might have been just a bit tainted by the fact that baseball was overly watered down as its stars were overseas fighting, and it put the team in it's third straight World Series, this time to face their cross-town rivals, the Browns.

The Trolley Series
The fact that the Browns, perennial American League doormats, were able to finish in first place (89-61, one game ahead of Detroit) tells you all that is needed to know about the quality of play during the war years. Nevertheless, the city braced itself for what would become known as the "Trolley Series," because all one needed to do was hop on one of the trolley cars and head to Sportsman's Park to catch all seven games.

This series would be only the third time in baseball history that teams sharing a park met for the World Championship (1921 and 1922, with the Yankees and Giants sharing the Polo Grounds, were the others) and it would be the last World Series, outside of New York, to feature two teams from the same city. The only other in baseball history was the 1906 World Series, between the Cubs and the White Sox.

Despite being labeled a long shot, the Browns held a two-games-to-one lead after three (they could have been up 3-0, but had lost Game 2 in extra innings), but the Cardinals then realized whom they were losing to and ran off wins in Games 4, 5 and 6, to finish off the Series, 4-2. The Cards did play well, but they were surely aided by the Browns ten errors, including four in Game 2 alone. It was the Cards' fifth World Series Championship, as well as their second in three years, and they weren't done yet.

In 1945 the Cards lost Musial to the war effort and the team dropped to second place, three games back of the Cubs. It's impossible to say Musial's presence would have had them again in first place, but a strong argument could be made for it. Musial had been the team's leader in most, if not all, offensive categories and it's hard to argue St. Louis couldn't have won four extra games had his talent been available for the year.

Musial, and the Cardinals, returned to the top of the National League in 1946, reeling off a record of 96-58, tying them with Brooklyn and forcing a best-of-three playoff series, which the Cards swept. Ironically, Brooklyn was where Stan Musial would earn his nickname, which he would come to be known as for the rest of his life.

It was during a June 23rd game in Ebbets Field that St. Louis sportswriter Bob Broeg heard the crowd chanting whenever Musial came to bat, but he couldn't understand them. Later, over dinner with a Cardinals front office man, Broeg asked what he had heard, and was told the Dodgers' fans were saying "Here comes the man, again," in reference to Musial, who always hit very well in Ebbets Field. Broeg later wrote about the incident in his column, and Musial was known forevermore as Stan "The Man" Musial.

As "The Man" and the rest of the Cards headed to the World Series for the fourth time in five years, they would face a team that hadn't been there since 1918: the Boston Red Sox. The Sox had been "down on their luck" -  some may have even said "cursed" since selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees - but this team had played very well all season (104-50) and deserved to be there. Managed by Joe Cronin, this team was chock full of talent, led by Ted Williams, Bobby Doer, Johnny Pesky and Dominick DiMaggio, and was looking to win their first World Series title in 28 years.

The Series didn't start on a good note for Boston, as Williams was injured during a pre-series warm up session, when he was hit on the elbow with a pitched ball, though Boston assured everyone they were more than just Ted Williams.

The series started out with a split in Sportsman's Park, with Boston winning Game 1, 3-2 (in ten innings), and St. Louis coming back to take Game 2, 3-0. The series then shifted to Fenway Park, where Boston took Game 3 (4-0) and the Cards pasted the Sox in Game 3, 12-3. Boston, however, came back and took Game 5 (6-3), putting them one win away from becoming Champions. However, with their backs to the wall, the Redbirds staved off elimination by defeating Boston, 4-1, and forcing a Game 7.

Boston jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, on a Dom DiMaggio fly ball, but the Cards tied it in the bottom of the second. St. Louis jumped out to a 3-1 lead, plating two more in the fifth, but DiMaggio, again, tied the score in the eighth, on a two-run double. Unfortunately DiMaggio pulled a hamstring and had to be taken out of the game, which would have repercussions an inning later.

Slaughter Slides Home
Enos Slaughter led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, but neither of the next two batters could reach, or move him over. Harry Walker was the final batter and he worked the count to 2-1 before manager Eddie Dyer called for a hit and run. Walker hit the next ball into centerfield, where DiMaggio would have been playing were he not injured, but Leon Culberson could not make a play and had to field the ball on a bounce. Slaughter, running hard from first, blew through the third base coach's "stop sign" and continued chugging for the plate. Culberson's throw went to Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky, who seemed shocked by Slaughter's decision to go home and hesitated on his throw, which allowed Slaughter to slide in ahead of the tag. The Cards had won another World Series and the "Curse of The Bambino" continued to haunt the Red Sox.

The Cards were champions again, but it would be a long, long time, before they would drink the winner's champagne again. For the rest of the 1940s they would continue to put a dynamic team on the field, but they would finish in second place all three years, five game behind Brooklyn in 1947, 6.5 games in back of the Boston Braves in 1948 and losing out on the pennant in 1949 to Brooklyn, when on the last day of the season the Dodgers topped the Phillies in extra innings, to capture the flag.

It was during this time that the Cards changed owners, more than once, and almost ended up leaving St. Louis. It all started after the 1947 season, when Breadon decided to sell the team, as he learned he had terminal prostate cancer. A local tax attorney, Fred Saigh, and former U.S. Postmaster General, Robert Hannigan, purchased the team for $4 million. In 1949 Hannigan was found to have heart disease and decided to sell his shares to Saigh, who became the sole owner of the team. His tenure, however, wasn't long, as several crooked tax practices (including the purchase of the team) came to light in 1951 and Commissioner Ford Frick told him to put the team up for sale, or he'd be expelled from baseball. When no real local investors surfaced, it seemed the Cardinals might be moving, much to the delight of the new owner of the Browns, Bill Veeck, who had bought the moribund team a few years earlier and was continually looking for a way to force the Redbirds out of the city.

Late in the game, however, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, a St. Louis-based company, stepped to the plate and bought the team, promising to keep it in St. Louis. August "Gussie" Busch's offer was below what an out-of-towner might have paid, but Busch leaned on Saigh's sense of loyalty to St. Louis. Eventually Saigh agreed to a price tag of $3.75 million and the Busches became the new owners of the team.

Gussie Busch Bust, at Busch Satdium

One of the first things new owner Gussie Busch did was purchase Sportsman's Park from the Browns, renovate it, and rename it Busch Stadium. The Browns, who had been trying to take over the city, despite the fact the Cardinals had been the more popular team for the last 25 years, realized they were never going to supplant the Redbirds now that the deep pockets of the Anheuser-Busch brewery were involved, packed up and moved to Baltimore after the 1953 season.

Aside from having a new owner, and the stadium all to themselves, the decade of the 1950s was not kind to the Cardinals, despite having one of the most underrated superstars playing for them. The team, contrary to popular belief, was more than just Stan Musial. There was Red Schoendienst, Dick Littlefield, Joe Garagiola, Johnny Lindell, Harvey Haddix, Sal Yvars, Dick Sisler, Eddie Stanky, Dick Schofield and many others, but the team just couldn't seem to get back to the top of the N.L., the Dodgers, Giants or Braves always seemed to win. Their record, for the 1950s was 776-763 and the team finished as high as second only once, in 1957, and as low as seventh in 1955 and 1959.

Between 1960 and 1963 the team kept taking steps backwards, going from third, to fifth, to sixth place. Johnny Keane came aboard as the new manager in 1961 and relaxed the tension in the clubhouse, which didn't pay immediate dividends, but allowed the group of players already there to begin to gel as a team. Still led by Musial, the team also featured Ken Boyer, Lou Brock, Bill White, Bob Gibson, Orlando Cepeda, Red Schoendienst, Tim McCarver and Curt Flood. These players would be the nucleus of the 1964 team, which seemingly came out of nowhere to win the N.L. Pennant. But before that would happen the Cards would say goodbye to a legend.

Cardinals Hall of Fame Plaque
After the 1963 season, Stan Musial decided to call it a career. No player in Cardinals history was a better ambassador for the team and the game of baseball than Musial and he left behind quite an impressive set of statistics. From 1942 to 1963 no player in the game was more consistent than Stan The Man, nor was anyone who played the game at his level ever so "overlooked" in the history of baseball. Playing alongside Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, Musial put together numbers that would rival the others, though he always seemed to be "in the background." A lifetime batting average of .331, 3,630 hits, 475 home runs, 1,951 RBIs, aTWENTY-FOUR time All-Star, seven-time N.L. Batting Champion, three-time N.L. MVP, two-time N.L. RBI leader and a three-time World Series Champion all led Musial to the gates of Cooperstown in 1969 and included him on MLBs All-Century Team, in 1999. To say he was one of the games all-time greats is an understatement.

The AM Years (After Musial) and a New Home

Without The Man
Despite the departure of Musial, the Cards of 1964 raced out to their most wins since 1949, with 93. They would finish one game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds and find themselves back in the World Series for the first time since 1946, facing a familiar foe, the New York Yankees.

The Bronx Bombers were heading to their fourth straight World Series, where they had won two of the last three, and their 14th since 1947. They had been the pre-eminent team in baseball, winning 10 of the last 13 Championships, but were reaching the end of the road. The core players were still there and producing, but they were getting a little long in the tooth and about to fall into an abyss. Managed by longtime star Yogi Berra, and led by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and new "ace" Mel Stottlemyre, the Bombers won 99 games, finishing one ahead of the White Sox, for the right to advance to the World Series.

The teams split the first two games at Busch stadium, with the Cards taking the opener, 9-6. The Yankees, however, fought back to tie the series at a game apiece, when rookie Stottlemeyer out dueled Gibson, 8-3.

They would split the next four games as well, with the Yankees winning Games 3 and 6 (2-1 and 8-3), while the Redbirds took Games 4 and 5 by the scores of 4-3 and 5-2 (10 innings). This would set up a deciding Game 7, which would be played in St. Louis and feature the rookie, Stottlemyre, and the flame-throwing Gibson, for the Championship.

The Cards scored three runs in the fourth and fifth innings, which looked insurmountable, but the Yankees cut the lead in half on Mantle's three-run blast in the sixth. It would be Mantle's last-ever World Series home run, but St. Louis added a run on a Ken Boyer home run in the seventh, making the score 7-3. Ken's brother Clete hit a homer, for the Yanks, in the ninth, along with Phil Linz, but when Bobby Richardson popped out to short the Cards had won the Series, four games to three, and were World Champions yet again.

The team lost manager Johnny Keane to the Yankees after the World Series; they replaced him with long time Cardinal fan-favorite Red Schoendienst, but it mattered little.

It was after the 1965 season that the Cardinals also got a new home, Busch Memorial Stadium, also known as Busch Stadium II. The team had been lobbying for a new field for quite a while, which came to fruition in May of 1964, when ground was broken for the new ballpark. Located in the business district, at what would come to be known as 250 Stadium Way, the park was originally proposed to be baseball-only, but was changed to a multi-purpose "cookie cutter"-type ballpark, hosting the city's NFL team, also named the Cardinals.

Busch Memorial Stadium
When finished the new Busch Stadium's seating capacity would fluctuate between 57,676 (1966-1996) and 49,676 (1997-2005) for baseball and 60,000 for football. The field dimensions would be 330 feet to left field, 372' to left-center, 402' to center, 372' to right-center and 330 to right, while the backstop was 64 feet from home plate. Like most multi-purpose stadiums of that generation it had uniform measurements and very little "soul." The stadium would be in use for the Cards until 2006 and the football team until 1987, when they left for Arizona. It would also be the home of the NASL's Stars from 1967 to 1974 and the NFL's Rams, when they moved in from Los Angeles, in 1995.

Despite their new home, which opened on May  12, 1966, the team was floundering in the post-Musial years to find their identity. They dropped to seventh and sixth place, respectively, in the National League, but righted the ship quickly as they won the pennant in both '67 and '68. Two impact additions to the team came in 1967, in the form of Orlando Cepeda and Roger Maris, which helped propel the team back into first place.

1967 saw the team win 101 games for their new G.M., Stan Musial, 18 more than in 1966, and finish 10 1/2 games ahead of the second-place San Francisco Giants. Cepeda would drive in a league-leading 111 RBIs and win the N.L. MVP, while Lou Brock would tear up the base-paths, stealing 52 bags. Five pitchers would chip in with double-digit wins (Dick Hughes; 16-9, Steve Carlton; 14-9, Ray Washburn; 10-7, Bob Gibson; 13-7 and Nelson Briles; 14-5), and two (Larry Jaster and Al Jackson), who fell one short, with nine each.

Their counterpart in the '67 World Series was another old foe, the Boston Red Sox. The Sox, led by Carl Yastrzemski, finished of their "Impossible Dream" season with 92 wins, one ahead of the Detroit Tigers. Yaz was so prolific that year that he carried the team to the World Series on the strength of his Triple Crown, MVP year (.326 batting average, 44 home runs and 121 RBIs). The Redbirds were the prohibitive favorites, but no one told the Sox that, and they weren't listening to the pundits.

Bob Gibson's Classic Pose
The Cardinals quickly jumped out to a three-games-to-one lead, with wins in Games 1, 3 and 4 (2-1, 5-2 and 6-0), while the Sox managed to take Game 2, 5-0. Most St. Louis fans, as well as the baseball writers, declared the Series over, but no one told the Red Sox and they stormed back winning Games 5 and 6, by the scores of 3-1 and 8-4, showing the baseball world what, exactly, the "Impossible Dream Season" was.

Game 7 matched up each team's undefeated ace - Gibson (2-0) for St. Louis and Lonborg (2-0) for the Sox - on October 12, 1967, in Fenway Park. Gibson was pitching on an extra day's rest, while Lonborg was pitching on one day less than normal rest, and it showed. The Cards scored seven runs in the first six innings, to chase Lonborg and put the game on ice. Boston did score one in the fifth and another in the eighth, but it wasn't nearly enough as St. Louis won their eighth World Championship.

Musial would step down as the G.M. after the '67 season and the team would again make the Series in 1968, with a record of 97-65. They would finish nine games ahead of the Giants, but were not able to repeat as World Series Champions. The Tigers, coming off a 103-59 season, were led by 30 game-winner Denny McLean, Al Kaline and Eddie Matthews, but the Cards did not go quietly. In fact, they took a three-games-to-one lead in the series, winning Games 1, 3 and 4 (4-0, 7-3 and 10-1), while the Tigers took Game 2, 8-1, before reeling off wins in Games 5-7 (5-3, 13-1 and 4-1), to capture the World Championship.

The Lean Years

For an organization that went to four World Series between 1964 and 1968, the Cardinals fall from grace was both swift and stunning. From 1969 until 1981 the team would never find itself a division winner, or back in the World Series. They would finish those years with a record of 1020-1019, almost a perfect .500. They would finish second three times (1971, 1973 and 1974), third three times (1975, 1977 and 1979), and fourth and fifth the rest of the time.

Good players would come and go: Maris would retire after 1968, while Gibson hung on until 1975. Cepeda would be traded to the Braves after 1968. Lou Brock would become the all-time stolen base leader and would retire a Cardinal, after 1979, while the organization would trade Curt Flood to the Phillies in October of 1969. His refusal to report, and subsequent court litigation to challenge the reserve clause, which bound a player to his team in perpetuity, would lead to the advent of free agency. Another trade that hurt the Cardinals was the one that sent Steve Carlton to Philadelphia, where he would become an icon, leading the Phils to three division titles in the decade and a World Series Championship at the start of the 1980's.

Joe Torre

Lest it be forgotten, there were some good players on the team in the 1970s, as well. Joe Torre came over from the Braves, in 1969, and became a team leader, as well as the N.L. MVP in 1971, before being traded to the Mets after the 1974 season. Ted Simmons became one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball during the decade, finishing in the top ten team records for home runs, extra base hits, RBIs and walks, as well as being selected to six All-Star teams and batting .298. Keith Hernandez joined the team in 1974, staying until he too (like Torre) was traded to the Mets in 1983, and won the 1979 N.L. MVP, garnering a reputation as a slick-fielding, power-hitting first baseman.

Even managers would have a revolving door in St. Louis during the 1970s, as Schoendienst was shown the door after 1976, being replaced by Vern Rapp, who was gone midway through the 1978 season, succeeded in turn by Jack Kroll, who would last three games. Kroll would be replaced by former third baseman Ken Boyer, but even he didn't last long...357 games - being replaced in 1980, by Whitey Herzog.

The Running 1980's

As a new decade dawned the Cards were determined to get back to the top of the baseball world. Led by manager Whitey Herzog, who had come across the state from the successful Kansas City Royals organization, the Cards had some great young players in the mix, who would soon gel and bring the club back to the top of the pecking order. Players like George Hendrick (outfield), Keith Hernandez (first base), Gary Templeton (shortstop) and Ted Simmons (catcher) supplied the offensive power, while pitchers Bruce Sutter, Joaquin Andujar, John Tudor and Bob Forsch anchored a rotation and bullpen that were in envy around Major League Baseball.

The Wizard of Oz
Right before the 1982 season the team made a move that would benefit them for years to come, as they would send Templeton to the San Diego Padres in exchange for young defensive wizard (see what I did there), Ozzie Smith, who would help lead them back to the promised land that very year. The team, and the fans, were starving for a trip back to the playoffs, and the Redbirds obliged in 1982. They led the National League with 92 victories and found themselves battling the Atlanta Braves for the N.L. Pennant.

The Braves were not pushovers, having managed to win 89 games in the N.L. East, but they were no match for the Cards, who came out firing in the best-of-five series. The Cards swept the Braves out of the playoffs, 7-0, 4-3 and 6-2 and found themselves back in the World Series, against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brew Crew, also known as Harvey's Wallbangers (in reference to their manager, Harvey Kuenn, and their powerful offensive game), finished the season with an American League-leading 95 wins, and took the Eastern Division by a game over Baltimore. With players such as Gorman Thomas, Ben Oglivie, Cecil Cooper, Robin Yount, Don Sutton, Rollie Fingers and Paul Moliltor, the Brewers were a strong team and one that was quite capable of winning this series.

The series started in St. Louis where the Brewers took Game 1 by a score of 10-5, being led by a five-hit, two-run barrage from Paul Molitor, four hits and two RBIs from Robin Yount and a home run from former Cardinal catcher Ted Simmons, while Mike Caldwell pitched a three hit, complete game, shutout. The Cards, however, bounced back to win Games 2 and 3, 5-4 and 6-2.

The Brewers took control of the series, winning Games 4 and 5 (7-5 and 6-4), before the two teams headed back to St. Louis for the do-or-die Game 6, which the Cards took, by a score of 13-1, setting up a winner-take-all Game 7.

The game was tied, 1-1, after five innings, but the Brewers went ahead in the sixth when a Cardinal error and a Cecil Cooper sac fly allowed Milwaukee to take a 3-1 lead. The Cards, used to fighting back, scored three in the bottom of the inning, when Ozzie Smith singled, Lonnie Smith doubled him to third, Gene Tenace was walked to load the bases and Keith Hernandez singled, to drive in two. George Hendrick then singled and when the dust had cleared the Cards had a 4-3 lead.

They would tack on two more in the eighth, and when Bruce Suter slammed the door in the last two innings, the Cardinals were once again World Champs, while the Brewers were left wondering what had happened to their three-games-to-one lead.

The Cards would suffer from a post-World Series Championship hangover for the next two years, as 1983 and 1984 would see them slip to 79-83 and 84-78, respectively, finishing 11 and 12.5 games behind the division leaders. They would, however, rebound to a 101-win season in 1985 and find themselves back in the World Series, facing their cross-state rivals, the Kansas City Royals.

The 1985 World Series was known as the "I-70 Series" (I-70 being the interstate that connects both cities), or the "Show Me Series" (both teams being from the "Show Me State" of Missouri), and it would be the first time two teams from one state played one another since 1956, when the Yankees took on the Brooklyn Dodgers. These two teams each had passionate fan bases, who lived and died with their teams, but this series raised that level exponentially.

The Royals, led by George Brett, Frank White, Steve Balboni, Larry Gura, Dennis Leonard, Dan Quisenberry, Brett Saberhagen, Willie Wilson, Lonnie Smith, Hal McRae and George Orta, were an underdog, despite having won 91 games that year. They, however, were not about to roll over with home-state-pride on the line.

After the first four games the Cardinals held a seemingly unbreakable hold on the Series, three games to one, but the Royals took Game 5 (6-1) to inch closer. In Game 6 the Cards were three outs away from another World Championship when the roof fell in, or as Card fans will tell you to this day, "We were robbed by Denkinger," and they wouldn't be wrong.

Jorge Orta led off the bottom of the ninth for Kansas City and sent an infield chopper to the right of first baseman Jack Clark, who fielded the ball and gently tossed to the pitcher, Todd Worrell, who was covering the bag in time. However, first base umpire Don Denkinger called the runner safe. Television replay clearly showed that Orta was out, but the umpires refused to change the call. The Royals had life and things started to unravel for St. Louis after that.

The next batter was Steve Balboni who lofted a foul pop-up near the first base dugout but Clark misjudged it and the ball dropped. Two pitches later, Balboni singled. Now instead of having two outs and none on, the Royals had two on and none out. After Jim Sundberg failed with his sacrifice bunt attempt, Worrell then threw a passed ball, negating the out, giving the Royals men on second and third with one out, as they had been trying to accomplish via the sacrifice.

With first base open, Herzog decided to walk the pinch-hitter, Hal McRae, which would set up a possible double play, but when Dane Iorg blooped a single into shallow right field the Royals had won the game, setting up a Game 7. The stunned Cardinals, and their fans, had to gather their emotions and get ready for the seventh game, when everyone associated with the Cards believed they should have been the ones celebrating a win, NOW.

Needless to say, the Royals finished off the comeback the next night, with an 11-0 victory, which just rubbed salt in the wounds of the organization and its fans, who to this day will only refer to that game with a one-word response: "Denkinger."

As with their previous trip to the World Series, in 1982, the team suffered a setback the following year. They would fall to 79-82 and miss the playoffs, but it made them hungrier for success in 1987, which found them back in the postseason and the World Series.

The 1987 Cards would win 95 games and win the National League East, over the New York Mets, by three games. The would finish third overall in baseball, behind only the Tigers and the Blue Jays, and sport the best record in the N.L. They would play the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS, which would be a hard-fought seven-game series, where the Cards would trail three games to two, but roar back to win Games 6 and 7, shutting the Giants out both times (1-0 and 6-0). This would put them back in the World Series for the third time that decade (1982, 1985 and 1987), to face the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins were a virtual "forgotten team." They had only won 85 games, the least among all the playoff teams, but had shocked the baseball world by soundly defeating the Detroit Tigers, four games to one, in the ALCS. On paper, the Twins should have been no problem for the Redbirds, but, as we all know, the games are not played on paper.

Minnesota jumped out to a quick two-games-to-none lead, blasting the Cards in Game 1, 10-1, and then doubling them up, 8-4, in Game 2, in Minnesota. To say St. Louis would be shocked would be an understatement, but they quickly took control of the series at home, winning the next three games (3-1, 7-2 and 4-2), and setting themselves up to win another championship back in Minnesota.

Game 6 was yet another Minnesota blowout, 11-5, which knotted the series up at three games apiece and set up yet another Game 7 for the Cards. It always appeared World Series Championships were not something St. Louis came by easily; they always seemed to go down to the wire, and this series proved to be no different.

The Cards jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, with a pair of runs in the second, but the Twins halved the score in the bottom of the inning, tied the game in the fifth and pulled ahead for good an inning later. They added another in the eighth and when the last out was recorded in the ninth, the Twins had won their first World Series Championship, shocking the Cards, their fans and the baseball world. It would be quite a while before the team found themselves back on top.

1988-2003: Good, But Not Good Enough

For an organization, and a fan base, that prides itself on the fact they have won the World Series more times than any other team besides the New York Yankees, the years 1988-2003 were difficult. The team would finish with a record of 1290-1234, which was pretty pedestrian for the Cards. There were three years where the Redbirds won their division (1996, 2000 and 2002), but they always fell short in the playoffs. There were six years in which they sported a sub-.500 record and they once placed sixth.

There were quite a few changes during this era as well, starting in 1989 when August Busch passed away; Anheuser-Busch Brewery took over and ran the team until 1995, when a new group, headed by William DeWitt Jr., purchased the franchise, running it ever since.

There were also some very good players who played in "The Gateway City" during this time, such as, Todd Zeile, Lee Smith, Bob Tewksbury, Eric Davis, J.D. Drew, Edgar Renteria, Mike Matheny, Tino Martinez, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmunds, but the two most "popular" players, by far, were Ozzie Smith and Mark McGwire, though in the end they landed on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Ozzie In The Cards Hall of Fame
The Cards had traded for Ozzie, known to all as "The Wizard" for his defensive magic in the field, before the 1982 season, and he had become a mainstay in the organization. Always a fan favorite for his hustle, hard work and down-to-earth personality (not to mention his starting each game off by running to his position and doing a back-flip), Smith was with the organization from 1982 until he retired, in 1996. When all was said and done "The Wizard" had quite the career: a lifetime .262 batting average, 2,460 career hits and 580 stolen bases. He didn't have power numbers, only recording 28 home runs and 793 RBIs, but he was a 15-time All-Star, a 13-time Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger Award winner, a Roberto Clemente Award winner, an N.L. MVP and a World Series Champion. His number was retired by the organization; Ozzie was put in the Cardinals Hall of Fame and he was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 2002. Aside from Stan Musial, there might not be a more beloved Cardinal in the history of the organization.

Another fan favorite, while he played for the organization, was Mark McGwire. Known to the locals as "Big Mac," McGwire was traded to the Cards from the A's prior to the trade deadline in 1997. Having always been known as a power hitter, McGwire, in 1998, spent the season dueling Sammy Sosa for one of the most coveted records in baseball history, Roger Maris' 61 home runs in a single season. All summer long the two went back and forth, hitting homers at a prodigious rate, until McGwire broke the coveted mark on September 8, with his 62nd dinger of the season, off Cubs pitcher Steve Trachsel. Unfortunately, McGwire was later linked to the PED Androstenedione, which was, at the time, banned by the World Doping Agency, the NFL and the IOC, but not MLB. Allegations that McGwire broke the record by cheating followed him into his retirement, in 2001, and he was even called to testify before Congress in 2005, though he declined to answer questions under oath. In 2010 he finally came clean and admitted using steroids, on and off, for a decade. His "record" was eventually broken by Barry Bonds, but he too was linked to steroids and few people respect either of these former players anymore.

La Russa
Aside from the players, St. Louis had a Hall of Fame manager during this time as well, Tony La Russa. La Russa came over from the Oakland A's for the 1996 season and did nothing but help the organization win. By the time he retired from the Cardinal organization he would win 1,406 games, seven N.L. Central titles (1996, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009), a Manager of the Year crown (2002), two World Series Championships (2006, 2011) and an enshrinement in both the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Cardinals Hall of Fame, in addition to having his number retired by the organization. He is considered, by many, to be one of the greatest, most visionary managers the game has ever seen and he and G.M. Walt Jocketty are credited with making the Cardinals one of the most stable organizations in all of baseball.

During this stretch the Cards would reach the postseason more than a few times (thanks to the advent of the Wild Card in 1995), in 1996 (beating the Padres in the NLDS, losing to Atlanta in the NLCS), 2000 (beating the Braves in the Division Series, but losing to the Mets in the Championship Series), 2001 (losing to the Diamondbacks in the NLDS), 2002 (beating the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, but losing to the Giants in the Championship Series), and even though they just couldn't get back to the "Promised Land," they were playing consistently good baseball.

2004-2006: Back In The High Life Again

By 2004, not only were the Cards the best team in the National League, they were the best team in baseball. They finished the year with 105 wins, twenty more than the previous year, and outdistanced the second place team in the National League, the Atlanta Braves, by nine games. Part of their resurgence was due to their new superstar slugger, Albert Pujols.

The Cardinals had found a gem in Pujols, when they selected him in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB Draft. He had been passed on by everyone, including the Cards, in the previous rounds because teams were unsure of his true age and what position he would eventually be able to fill. One scout, Fernando Arango of the Tampa Bay Rays, was so incensed when his team passed on Pujols that he quit after the Cardinals drafted him. 

Pujols would start his career as a third baseman and quickly work his way to the big league club, making his debut in 2001. By the time the year was over Pujols would hit .329, with 194 hits, 47 doubles, 4 triples, 37 home runs,130 RBIs and the N.L.'s Rookie of The Year Award, while finishing fourth in MVP voting.

He quickly became the star of the team and the face of the franchise. His quiet demeanor, humble attitude and work ethic struck a chord with the Cardinal fans, many of whom compared him to the great Musial. Over the next few years the Cards would add players, such as Chris Carpenter, Matt Morris, Yadier Molina, Larry Walker, Jason Isringhausen and Jeff Suppan, and by 2004, led by Pujols, they would become a powerhouse.

The first step of the playoffs, in 2004, saw the Cards meet the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the National League's Divisional Series. This best-of-three series would start in St Louis, where the Cards would win Games 1 and 2 (8-0 and 8-3), before heading out west, to Los Angeles. The Dodgers staved off elimination, winning Game 3 (4-0), but the Redbirds finished them off the next night, taking the series three games to one.

Next up for the Cardinals was the Houston Astros, who had finished the year 97-70, but had a lot of good players, such as Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Kent, Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio and Carlos Beltran. This was not a team to take lightly, as the Cardinals were soon to find out.

St. Louis jumped out to a quick two-games-to-none lead, winning the games in St. Louis (10-7, 6-4), but any feeling that was going to be an easy series quickly vanished in the hot, dry, desert air of Texas, as the Astros, came storming back to take all three games at home (5-2, 6-5 and 3-0), and grabbing a 3-2 lead, heading back to Busch Stadium.

The Cards, with their backs to the wall, came out swinging in Game 6. Powered by Pujols' fourth home run of the series and Edmunds second (Kent already had three and Rolen had hit two, in the series), St. Louis took the must-win game, 6-4, which set up a Game 7, the next night.

Game 7 didn't start off well for St. Louis when Biggio led off the game with a home run, and Houston added a second in the third inning, but the Cards quickly settled down and scored one of their own in the bottom of the inning, cutting the lead in half. Pujols tied the game on a double in the sixth and Rolen homered, later in the inning, to give St. Louis a lead they would never relinquish. They would add another in the eighth and when Jason Isringhausen slammed the door shut in the ninth, the Cardinals were headed back to the World Series.

Unfortunately for the Cards, the magic of Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS was the last they would see. Playing the Boston Red Sox, who had just shown their own brand of magic by coming back to defeat the Yankees, after being down three-games-to-none, the Cards were swept aside by the Sox. Buried under a barrage of hits off the bats of Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar and Kevin Youkilis, pitches from Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and closer Keith Foulke, the Sox finally won their first World Series since 1918, breaking "The Curse of The Bambino."

Unhappy, but undaunted, the Cards set out to right the ship in 2005, where they would, once again finish in first place in the N.L. Central, with a record of 100-62. This would, again, be the best record in baseball, one game better than the White Sox and 11 games better than the N.L. Central's runner-up, the Houston Astros. 

St.Louis headed back into the playoffs with something to prove, and they took last year's anger out on their first round opponent, the San Diego Padres, sweeping the best-of-three-game series (8-5, 6-2 and 7-4), and setting up an NLCS rematch with the Houston Astros.

The Astros had just defeated the Atlanta Braves in the other N.L. Division Series, the Cards had dropped them from last year's NLCS and they were looking for some payback of their own. 

The series would again start in St. Louis, thanks to the Cardinal's better record, and seemed to pick up where the previous year's NLCS left off...with a Cardinals win. St. Louis jumped on Andy Pettitte early, scoring five times in the first five innings, and that would be all Chris Carpenter would need, en route to a 5-3 victory. 

Houston, who was more annoyed than upset at losing Game 1, quickly reeled off three wins in succession, 4-1, 4-3 and 2-1, to take a commanding lead in the series. Oswalt, Clemens and Chad Qualls all pitched outstanding games, while the Houston offense provided more than enough runs to support the pitching. Things grew so frustrating on the Cardinals' side that both La Russa and Jim Edmonds were ejected, in Game 4, for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire.

The Looks Tell The Story
Game 5 saw the Astros jump out to a 1-0 lead, only to have the Cards score two in the third, to take the
lead. Houston rallied with three in the seventh, and we re one strike away from winning the series when the roof fell in on them. With two outs and none on David Eckstein singled, Edmunds walked and Pujols hit a monstrous home run, off the back of the closed roof, in left field. Isringhausen closed the door, in the bottom of the ninth; the Cards had staved off elimination and were heading back home, feeling good about their chances.

Any good feelings that St. Louis had were quickly overshadowed by Houston's annoyance about blowing Game 5. The 'Stros came out and scored two in the third, one in the fourth, one in the six and a final run in the seventh, which was more than enough for Oswalt, who pitched seven strong innings, giving up only one run, and picking up his second win of the series. For the second time in two years the best team in baseball had fallen flat in the postseason. St.Louis swore the third time would be the charm.

A New Home and Another Championship

As 2006 began the Cardinals were hungry for more than they had achieved the last two years. The back-to-back 100-plus-win seasons were great, but the overall feeling was that they had failed; after having been swept in the World Series and then losing in the NLCS, they wanted more...a championship. Doing it in 2006 would be the perfect way to cap off the inaugural season in their new home, Busch Stadium III. 

The Cardinals christened the ballpark, on April 10, 2006, with a win over the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. Albert Pujols hit the first home run for the Cards in their new home and Mark Mulder recorded the win.The season was off on the right foot.

It was a fun summer in St. Louis; the Cards did capture the N.L. Central flag, again, though they were only the third-best team in the National League, with a record of 83-78. They would join the Mets, the Padres and the Dodgers in the playoffs, meeting the Padres in the first round. St. Louis took the first two games of the series (5-1 and 2-0), before dropping Game 3 in San Diego and then closing out the series with a 6-2 win in Game 4. For the third straight year they found themselves back in the NLCS, this time against the N.L. Regular Season Champion New York Mets.

The teams split the first two games at Shea Stadium, with the Mets winning Game 1 (2-0) and the Cards coming back the next night, scoring five runs in the final three innings to take the game 9-6 and evening the series. The Cardinals took two of the next three games in St. Louis (Game 3, 5-0, and Game 5, 4-2), to head back to New York with a 3-2 lead, needing one more win to return to the World Series, but the Mets forced a Game 7 with a gutsy 4-2 win, ensuring another game in New York.

Molina Beats The Mets
Game 7 was a nail-biter, with the Mets scoring in the bottom of the first and the Cardinals tying it up in the top of the second. The score stayed deadlocked at 1-1, thanks to a defensive gem by Mets left fielder Endy Chavez, in the seventh. With a runner on, Scott Rolen hit what looked to be a two-run-homer, over the left field fence, until Chavez raced to the wall, jumped, reached OVER the fence and brought the ball back.  The two teams continued their battle until Yadier Molina hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth, which Chavez could not get to, putting the Cards three outs away from victory.

The Mets, however, would not give up.The first two men reached base, before the Cardinals recorded the next two outs and the Mets then loaded the bases, on a walk, which sent Carlos Beltran to the plate, with the tying run ninety feet away and the series-winning run on second. Beltran ran the count full, before watching a 3-2 curve ball break over the plate, for strike three, sending the Cards back to the World Series.

The 2006 World Series was the 102nd playing of the Fall Classic and saw the Cards square off against one of their old nemesis, the Detroit Tigers. Detroit had finished the regular season with the third-best record in the American League, at 95-67, but only two games off the lead of the Regular Season Champion New York Yankees. They had defeated both New York and Oakland to get to the Series, and were considered a prohibitive favorite to win, because of the lineup they put on the field. 

Led by manager Jim Leyland, the Tigers were a formidable foe. Their hitters, led my Miguel Cabrera, Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Curtis Granderson, struck fear in the hearts of many an opposing pitcher, while moundsmen Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman posted between 14 and 17 wins each, not to mention closer Todd Jones, who had posted 37 saves.

Champs Again
The pouncers, however, became the pouncees, as the Cards proceeded to tame the Tigers in Game 1, besting the mighty Verlander 7-2. Rolen and Pujols both homered and the game was never really in doubt. The Tigers quickly evened the series,, winning Game 2 by a score of 3-1, but the Cards quickly erased all doubts in the series, winning the next three games, 5-0, 5-4 and 4-2, winning the Series in their home park, on October 27th. It was the perfect way to end the first season in Busch III.

2007-Present: The Cardinal Way

As in previous seasons, after winning a Wold Series the organization was left with a postseason hangover. The Cards would miss the playoffs in both 2007 and 2008, falling to third and fourth place, respectively, but they would rebound in 2009, winning their division with a record of 91-71. Unfortunately they would fall to the Dodgers in the NLDS, being swept by the Dodgers, three games to none.

In 2010 they would slip to second in the National League Central, falling five games off the pace set by the Reds, with a record of 86-76, missing the playoffs, yet again. It would be the last time they would miss the playoffs to date.

2011 was an "up year" for the Cards, as they finished the season with a record of 90-72 and went back to the playoffs, this time as the Wild Card entry. It wasn't easy though, as the Brewers won the N.L. Central, with 96 wins, and the Redbirds didn't clinch a spot until the last day of the season, when they defeated Houston and Atlanta lost to the Phillies. The players didn't care though; they were in and, as they were about to prove, once that was accomplished anything could happen.

St. Louis would face off against Philadelphia in the best-of-five divisional series, with the games beginning in Philly. The Phils would take Game 1, 11-6, but the Cards would even the series the next night, squeaking out a 5-4 victory, after being behind 4-0 after two innings.The teams again traded wins in Busch Stadium, with the Phils winning Game 3, 3-2, and the Cards staving off elimination with a 5-3 Game 4 victory over Roy Oswalt. This set up yet another series-deciding game, which St. Louis won, 1-0, back in Philly. The Cards scored in the top of the first and neither team could push across another run for the rest of the game.

After taking down Philly, the Cards took on the N.L. Central Champion Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS. The Brew Crew were led by Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Craig Counsel, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and pitchers Zack Greinke, Francisco Rodriguez, Marco Estrada and John Axford, and had finished six games ahead of St. Louis in the standings, but none of that made any difference to the Cardinals.

The teams split the first four games, with the Brewers winning Games 1 and 4 (9-6 and 4-2) and the Cards taking Games 2 and 3 (12-3 and 4-3), before St. Louis closed out the series with wins in Games 5 and 6 (7-1 and 12-6). This put the Cardinals back in the World Series for the third time in seven years, this time against the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers had finished the year second in the American League, with 96 wins, and first in the A.L. West. They had taken down Tampa Bay, in four games, to win their divisional series, and then beat the Tigers in six, to advance to the World Series. They were led by sluggers Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young, and had a solid pitching staff, anchored by C.J. Wilson, Derrek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis, Darren O'Day and Koji Uehara. The Cards were battle-tested, while the young Rangers were powerful and unafraid; this was picked to be a good match-up, which it proved to be.

The series started in St. Louis, where the two teams split. The Cards took Game 1, 3-2, behind a Chris Carpenter-pitched masterpiece, while Texas turned the tables, taking Game 2, 2-1, after scoring two runs in the top of the ninth and Feliz slamming the door in the bottom of the inning.

Pujols' Third Home Run of Game 3
Game 3, in Texas, was a wild one. The Cards jumped out to a 5-0 lead after four innings, and slowly pulled away, winning 16-7, but the real talk of this game was Albert Pujols. Pujols went 5-6, with two singles, three home runs, six RBIs and four runs scored. He joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Pablo Sandoval as the only players to hit three home runs in a World Series game, but his offensive output has been described as the greatest hitting display in any one game, in World Series history.

Texas, unamused, took the next two games, 4-0 and 4-2, putting the Cards on the verge of elimination, heading home to St. Louis.

Game 6 was a wild affair, which had more than its share of twists, turns, dramatic moments and extra innings. Texas quickly jumped on top, scoring in the top of the first. St. Louis countered with two of their own in the bottom of the inning, but the Rangers tied it up with another in the top of the second. The teams again traded runs in the fourth inning, while Texas took the lead in the fifth. The Cards, refusing to stay behind for long, again tied the game, in the bottom of the sixth. The Rangers then exploded for three in the top of the seventh, grabbing a 7-4 lead, but the Cards cut the deficit to 7-5 by scoring another in the eighth. The Rangers sent Neftali Perez to the mound to close out the series and that's when the fireworks began.

Ryan Theroit struck out to begin the inning, but then Pujols doubled and Lance Berkman walked, putting the tying run on first, but Allen Craig struck out, putting the Rangers one out away from their first-ever World Championship. David Freese then stepped to the plate and delivered a game-tying triple, over the head of right fielder Nelson Cruz, ultimately sending the game into extra innings, which would be even more dramatic.

The Rangers came out hammering the ball in the top of the tenth, when Josh Hamilton hit a mammoth two-run homer, putting the Rangers again three outs from their first-ever World Championship.

Never having been a team to give up, the Cardinals, once again, went to work in the bottom of the tenth. The first two St. Louis batters, Daniel Descalso and John Jay, started the inning off with back-to-back singles, and then were sacrificed to third by pitcher Kyle Lohse. Ryan Theroit grounded out, but brought in a run, making the score 9-8, but putting the Cards down to their last out. Lance Berkman stepped to the plate and, with two strikes on him, unbelievably, delivered a game-tying single. The game would play on, but not for long.

Freese Walks Off Game 6
The Rangers couldn't plate a run in their half of the eleventh inning, but David Freese (he of the ninth-inning heroics) lead off the bottom of the inning with a game-winning, walk-off home run, to send the Redbirds soaring. There would be a Game 7.

After the dramatic finish the night before, Game 7 was almost anti-climactic. The teams traded two runs in the first inning, but Texas would get no more. The Cards would add to their lead with one in the third, two in the fifth and another in the seventh, to win the game, and the Series, 6-2. It would be the team's eleventh World Series Championship, putting them solidly in second place, behind only the New York Yankees, who had 27.

The Cards were, once again, one of the top teams in the National League in 2012, but this time there was a different look to them. Albert Pujols, the face of the franchise, had departed for Anaheim, during the off-season, via free agency and manager Tony La Russa decided to retire, being replaced by his protege, Mike Matheny. The team continued its winning ways and made the playoffs, though this time it was more because of the added second Wild Card than their record. The team did well, finishing with a record of 88-74, which was good for second in the Central Division, but they finished fifth, overall in the N.L. and had to play a "play-in" game, against the Atlanta Braves. The Braves jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but then could not score again, as the Cards plated six and went on to the NLDS, against the Washington Nationals.

The Nats had finished the year as the best team in the National League, with 98 wins, but they could never get on track against St. Louis, who won the series in five games and went back to the NLCS giving them a chance to return to the World Series and defend their crown. It was here that the Cards had their wings clipped by the San Francisco Giants, in a thrilling seven-game series. St Louis was up three-games-to-one, but was only able to score one run in the final three games, losing 5-0, 6-1 and 9-0, as the Giants took the series, four games to three, eventually winning the World Series, over the Tigers.

2013 saw the Cards jump back to first place in the N.L. Central, sporting a 97-65 season, which was the best in the N.L. and helped them outdistance the Pittsburgh Pirates by three games. They would meet up with Pittsburgh in the Division Series and after losing two of the first three games, would take the series three games to two, moving on to the NLCS, yet again, this time to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom they would beat in a six-game set. For the fourth time since 2004, the Redbirds were back in the World Series, again facing the Boston Red Sox.

The teams had finished with identical 97-65 records and should have produced a thrilling series, but after jumping out to a two-games-to-none lead, the Cards ran out of gas and were stifled in the final three games, 4-2, 3-1 and 6-1. The Red Sox were playing with an adrenaline rush of having most of the country behind them; in fact it seemed the only people rooting for the Cards were their own and Yankees fans, in light of the horrific Boston Marathon Bombing, earlier in the season.

2014 saw the organization win yet another N.L. Championship, their third in the last six seasons. They would finish the year with a record of 90-72, two games ahead of the Pirates and the third-best record in the N.L. - behind the Nationals and the Dodgers, who would be their NLDS opponents.

The teams should have put up a good fight, but the Cards took the series in four games. The Dodgers did manage to win Game 2, 3-2, but could otherwise do nothing against Cardinal pitching. Once again the team found itself in the NLCS against a familiar opponent, the San Francisco Giants. The Cards talked about payback, from two years ago, and how they had the better team, but it was an "even year," which meant the Giants were about to head back to the World Series, as they had in 2010 and 2012. Sure enough, the Giants, led by All-Star pitcher Madison Bumgarner caged the Redbirds, winning the series in five games and, eventually, the World Series in seven.

As we were heading into the city on this hot and sticky Missouri afternoon, the Cardinals were once again in first place in the National League Central. Since 1996 they had won their division nine times, finished second five times, been to the playoffs twelve times, the National League Championship Series ten times and the World Series four times, winning it twice. THAT is the "Cardinal Way," and we were looking forward to seeing it in person.

The Gateway City

As we pulled off the highway, I heard from the back seat:

"Where's the Arch? We're going up in it, right? You said we could."

"No worries, Ryan," I told him. "We'll check into the hotel and then head over, we have lots of time."

"We're going to eat, too, right?" Nick interjected.

"Yes, we'll have lunch a little later," Tony assured both boys.

"Just one quick stop, first," Rob told them. "We need to see a man, about a guitar."

"Wait, what?" Ryan wanted to know.

"You'll see," was all I told him. "It won't take long."

We got off the highway and drove through the outskirts of the city, towards the downtown area. Some tree-lined streets, with nicer houses, gave way to a more "urban-looking" setting, complete with empty lots, buildings that seemed to be in need of repair, and mini-malls, that housed small businesses and fast-food restaurants. Eventually we came to Delmar Boulevard and a few blocks down, where it intersects with Melville Avenue, saw what we were looking for.

Hail, Hail, Rock & Roll
In the middle of a small courtyard, across from the Blueberry Hill nightclub, stands an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Check Berry, holding his famous guitar, and positioned in the famous "duck-walk" pose. Sculpted by Harry Walker in 2011, the statue is clearly a tribute of love from the city Berry calls home, and captures
the true essence of the man they call the "Father of Rock & Roll." Behind the statute is a wall that looks a lot like a work "punch-card," but is really an LED display that shoots out colored lights, when Berry's music is played.

"My favorite song is 'My Ding-a-Ling,'" Ryan let us all know with a laugh.

"You're a ding-a-ling," Tony laughed at him, as we made our way back to the car.

"How about some Chuck Berry tunes, as we enter the city?" Rob asked, as he turned up the music.

"So there was jazz in Kansas City, some rock & roll in St. Louis, and we still have blues, in Memphis, and country, in Nashville, ahead of us," I said to no one in particular. "This year's trip is almost as much about music as it is baseball."

Eventually we pulled up to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch, where it was quite clear we were doing St. Louis in style. This was not the usual Motel 6, Travelodge, or Best Western, the place was classy, and we were clearly out of our element, but, dammit, we deserved an upgrade in accommodations for one night.
The View From Our Room

The boys were clearly impressed with the hotel's lobby and hallways, and the room was just as "fancy," but when Nick pulled the curtain back we were all in for quite a surprise. The view from our balcony was the Mississippi River and the Arch itself. We were all more than a little impressed, except for Rob, who had arranged this surprise for us. He just stood there smiling, as we all picked our jaws up off the floor.

Located at 315 Chestnut Street, the hotel was perfectly situated for where we wanted to be, a block from the Dred Scott Courthouse, two blocks away from the Arch and about four blocks from Ballpark Village and Busch Stadium. Rob had found us the perfect one-night spot, which was centrally located near all we were going to do, and now we just had to go out and do it.

Dred Scott and Harriet Robinson
Our first stop was the Dred Scott Courthouse, to purchase tickets for a sfeamboat ride on the Mississippi and to be able to enter the Arch, and go to the top.

The courthouse is named after Dred Scott, a slave who, in 1857, sued his master upon the grounds that he had been taken into free territory (Illinois) and had lived there for quite a while, before others attempted to bring him back to the South. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where it was ruled that Scott could not seek legal recourse due to the fact he was a black man and, therefore, not a citizen of the United States and able to bring a suit in a federal court. This courthouse is where Scott filed his suit and there is a statue of him and his wife in front of the building, with a plaque that tells their story.

It was here that we were meeting up with Tony's friends, the O'Suches. Steven O'Such works with Tony and is a huge Cardinals fan, so this was the perfect trip for him to join us on. He had made it a family vacation, with his wife, Shannon, and their two children, Cordelia and Jordan. Steven was excited to bring the family and they were more than happy to be here, all decked out in Cardinals' gear and ready to see the game, but first we were going to grab tickets for the steamboat ride and a visit to The Gateway Arch.

Unfortunately we were not able to buy tickets for the steamboat ride, as the river was too low and they were not doing any for the next few days. We were a bit disappointed, as we had ridden a steamboat at the head of the river (in Minnesota), and were hoping to take a ride here, as well as in Memphis and New Orleans, some time in the future, but it wasn't meant to be. Thankfully we were able to purchase the tickets for The Gateway Arch, so we headed over and started to look around.

The Arch

The Gateway Arch, From The Steps of The Dred Scott Courthouse

The Gateway Arch is 630-foot-tall monument, located at 100 Washington Avenue, in St. Louis, along the banks of the Mississippi River. It was designed by Eero Saarinen, a Finnish-American, in recognition of America's westward expansion, and is the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere. Construction began on February 12, 1963 and was completed in October of 1965, at a cost of $13 million. It has become the world-renowned symbol of St. Louis and is both a National Historic Landmark and on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

There are no descriptions of The Arch I can write, that will do it justice. As we walked nearer, it seemed to keep growing, exponentially, until it hurt your neck just looking up. The sheer size is imposing and with the Mississippi being its backdrop it is quite a sight to behold. Ryan just kept snapping pictures as we got closer, until he found the perfect one that captured it's majesty.

"I cannot believe the size of this," was all he said, as the camera kept clicking.

"Pretty impressive, eh?" I asked him.

"Don't say eh, eh," he told me. "It just reminds me that we didn't get to go into the CN Tower, in Toronto."

"I promised you The Arch, we're going to the top The Arch, and you're keeping us on the outside, with all this talking," I laughed.

After getting a big hug from my happy kid, we headed inside to get out of the oppressive heat and humidity, and were amazed by what we saw.

The first thing we noticed was that it was air conditioned, which made a world of difference, especially in the summer, so the blast of cold air we encountered quickly refreshed and jolted us back into focus. Then it became apparent that since we had to walk down into The Arch, it meant we were actually under it, and the visitor's center is massive. We saw there were benches to rest on, bathrooms, two information desks and a giant gift shop, and that was just in half of the space.

Celebrating the Builders of The Arch
The other half of the underground area was dedicated to the men who designed and constructed the giant arch. An entire wall was designated for this tribute and looked like a sculpture, carved into sandstone, of the architect, the steel fitters, the welders, and all those who made the impossible, possible. It showed The Arch in its various stages of construction and showed all the hard work that went into the making of this monument.

After taking pictures and meandering around a bit, it was time to get in line for our ride to the top. There are three ways you can get to the apex of the arch; two sets of emergency stairs; a 12-person elevator, which goes about half-way up; and two sets of trams, one in each leg. We would be taking a tram, which was going to be interesting, in and of itself.

Crammed in the Tram
Each tram is comprised of eight small cars, which each seat five passengers (though "seat" may be stretching the truth, as it felt more like you were crammed in there), and move like the cars on a Ferris wheel, on the way up and down. It takes four minutes to make the journey to the top of The Arch, but only three to come back down.

Quickly we squeezed into our car, as Rob took a picture before getting in himself, and made the journey to the top. We laughed, joked and were more than a little anxious, being so cramped, but the journey was soon over and we found ourselves standing at one end of what looked like a long room, with windows down each side.

We slowly walked the length of the "hallway," stopping at various points, on each side, to see what the view was like. There were a lot of people, and we were in no hurry, so we took our time. I had already decided I was going to wait as long as I had to, so I could make sure Ryan got as much time as he wanted. He had been so excited to see The Arch (I had been too), so there was no way I was going to rush the time we had.

We were both amazed with the views from 630 feet above the ground, it seemed like we could see forever.

"Look," Ryan called out excitedly, from the western side. "There's Busch Stadium."

Busch Stadium, From The Arch
Looking Into the City
Sure enough, there it was. We also saw the Dred Scott Courthouse and the rest of the city as well. Apparently Ryan's goal was to see everything there was on the western side of the room and then move across and look to the east. I had no problem with that; we were in no hurry and I was thrilled to see him so happy and excited. Silently I promised myself that one day I would get him back to Chicago and Toronto, and make sure he got to the top of the Willis and CN Towers.

Looking South, Down The Mississippi
As we moved across the room to the eastern side we got a great view of the Mississippi River, looking north, south and directly across. The views were amazing and it seemed we could see for miles. I know Ry would have stayed up there even longer, but his hunger was starting to get the better of him and after about 35 minutes he decided he had seen enough and wanted to get something to eat.

Ry, in the Arch
Ry and Me, Above the City
As we were waiting for the tram to come back up for our group he pulled me aside and asked if we could have Uncle Rob take a picture. I was more than happy to do so, I was thrilled he had such a great time and that it was everything he had hoped it would be. We were only spending one day in St. Louis, so I had to make sure he was happy with what he was doing and seeing, besides the ballgame.

Ballpark Village

Ballpark Village at Night

Once outside of The Arch we headed over to grab a bite to eat, preferably in a nice, air-conditioned, restaurant, near Busch Stadium. The walk across town was only about 4-5 blocks, but in the heat and humidity of a St. Louis afternoon, in July, it surely felt like 100 miles and by the time we got there everyone was soaked with sweat and ready to relax. Our venue of choice was, naturally, Ballpark Village.

Rooftop Seat, On Cardinals Nation
Baseball Field Park
Ballpark Village is a baseball-themed "village" adjacent to Busch Stadium that sits on the footprint of the old Busch Stadium. It covers about seven city blocks, and is comprised of the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, restaurants, shops, nightclubs, offices and residential apartments, and is something akin to Chicago's Wrigleyville. In fact, one or two of the buildings even have roof-top seating, as Wrigleyville does. The village is a year-round attraction, as opposed to only during the baseball season, and is a very popular destination for fans to gather before the games, whether they have tickets or not. There is even a baseball field "park," by the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, which plays the game on a giant outdoor video screen if you're not going into Busch Stadium that night.

Ballpark Village, From Inside Busch Stadium
There are quite a few places to choose from when visiting the village, such as the Budweiser Brew House (which is a "tribute" to the Anheuser Brewery, presents live music, has roof-top seating and dining, and also features a beer garden, with over 100 different beers), PBR St. Louis (a country atmosphere with multiple bars, a mechanical bull-riding section, live country bands, private lounges multiple bars and a Southwestern themed menu), Fox Midwest Live (which is a giant sports bar, with multiple bars, giant screen TVs and was dreamed of as the "central hub" of Ballpark Village) and Cardinals Nation, which is connected to the Cardinals Hall of Fame and is, basically, a cardinals-themed baseball restaurant and bar, with historic Cardinals memorabilia on every wall in the place, even the bathrooms. It wasn't hard to figure out which place we were going to pick: it was Cardinals Nation.

The nine of us piled into the restaurant and were told we could wait for a table, or just grab one of the long tables in the bar area. We chose the latter, as it provided for quicker service and sat down and ordered a beer and a bite.

The food was good; Ryan and I split the French Dip, which was thinly-sliced top round steak, with smoked Gouda, caramelized onions and au jus, on a garlic roll, and a Schlafly I.P.A. (he had a root beer). The food was good, nothing we couldn't find in any sports bar back home, but the beer was fantastic. It was earthy and hoppy, with just a hint of citrus and a slightly bitter aftertaste - a real winner. In the end, though, we really weren't there for the food and the beers; we had come for the Cardinals atmosphere, and that certainly didn't disappoint. There were pictures, jerseys, autographs, old yearbooks and programs, as well as all other kinds of assorted things connected to the team, like a harmonica Stan Musial had played, a pair of spikes Albert Pujols had worn and an Ozzie Smith games-used bat. Even the cups they served the drinks in had fun facts and figures from Cardinals history, which the boys were told they could keep. All in all it was a great restaurant/bar to have connected to the team's Hall of Fame, which was located in the same building, on the second and third floors.

As everyone else was meandering through the restaurant, enjoying the memorabilia and artifacts, I ran into someone in a Cardinals Hall of Fame shirt and decided to ask him a little bit about the history of the "new ballpark." I figured there was probably no one better equipped to give me a sense of what we were going to be seeing, so I called Ryan over and the two of sat down with the gentleman for a few minutes of "lecture."

Busch Stadium III

As far back as 1995 the team had been looking to build a new ballpark, but they could never acquire the funding. In 2001 the team and the state agreed on the location for a new park, in downtown St. Louis, but in 2002 the financing part of the project fell through, leaving things once again in limbo. In 2003 the team and the city again reached an agreement on a location and this time the financing was secured, through bank loans, private bonds, a loan from the city and team funding. The plans would also include a baseball-themed area, to be called Ballpark Village, adjacent to the park, which would house restaurants, bars, a Cardinals Hall of Fame and become a gathering place for fans on game day, whether they had tickets to the game, or were just coming to soak in the atmosphere and watch from one of the watering holes.

The stadium itself was designed by Populous (known as HOK Sport, at the time), who had previously designed Progressive Field (Cleveland), Heinz Field (Pittsburgh) and the Sydney Olympic Stadium, among other things. The actual construction of the park was done by Hunt Construction and had a projected cost of $344 million, which came in $20 million short of the final cost. Ground was broken in January, 2004 and the park was ready for Opening Day in 2006. The final project, consisting of the stadium and Ballpark Village, would sit on the footprint of the previous Busch Stadium and would be done in stages, as Ballpark Village could only be started after the previous stadium was demolished.

The "look and feel" of the new stadium was very important to it's designers, so they made sure to incorporate that into the plans. Whereas Busch II was a multi-purpose "cookie cutter"-type stadium, the new ballpark was given a "retro" feel and has the back of the stadium opened up. This allows for The Gateway Arch and the city's skyline to be the main viewing points, when looking out beyond the outfield walls.

When completed, the Cardinals would be the owner/operators of the ballpark and it accommodate 43,975 fans, which could be upped to 46,861 when it became necessary for standing room. Busch Stadium's highest attendance, however, was not for a baseball game, but for a soccer match, on May 23, 2013, when Manchester City F.C.  defeated Chelsea F.C., in a friendly match.

The ballpark opened on April 4, 2006, with an exhibition game between two of the Cardinals affiliates, the AAA Memphis Redbirds and the AA Springfield Cardinals. Springfield won the game, 5-3, with pitcher Mike Parisi recording the first victory in the stadium's history. As discussed earlier, the Cards won their Opening Day, six days later, with a 6-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers and the stadium's first season was capped off with a World Series crown, later that fall.

Home Plate Gate
The outside of the stadium is a red-clay color and the Home Plate Gate has a turret-like shape, with the name Busch Stadium atop it, centered between the team's logo at each end of the words. There are various tributes around the park, such as statues, plaques and memorials, that depict the important players, moments and personalities in Cardinals history, as well as a representation of the original foul line from the previous Busch Stadium, and we were told we had to visit each and every one.

The Stadium is, for all intents and purposes, a baseball-only park, but other events have taken place there as well. There have been international soccer friendlies, as noted above, as well as the U.S. Men's and Women's National soccer teams, college football (Southern Illinois University Carbondale vs. Southeast Missouri State) and college and high school baseball.

Sports are not the only events to be held in Busch Stadium: there have been concerts as well. The first-ever concert at the ballpark was held on June 7, 2008, as the Dave Matthews Band took the stage, with the Black Crowes as their opening act. Since then U2, the Dixie Chicks and The Eagles have all hosted shows at Busch Stadium.

As the others started to make their way back to us, we thanked the gentleman for the brief history lesson and I stuffed the notes I had been taking, on a napkin, into my pocket for future reference. It was time to go check out the ballpark for ourselves and to meet our friend "Coach," who was to be joining us for the game.

"Coach" is the nickname I have given our friend Mike Hernbrott, who just happens to be the head coach of the Illinois State University Redbirds hockey team. Mike, who is a huge Cubs fan, and his wife, Lisa, had previously joined us in Chicago (for a Cubs game at Wrigley) and a Brewers game in Milwaukee, and were again meeting us later in the week, in Nashville, to visit their nephew and catch another game. Even though he is a huge Cubs fan, Mike decided to take the train ride down to St. Louis and join us for the Cards game, as well. Tonight, though, it would just be Coach.

Jack Buck
As we walked down Clark Street, the heart of Ballpark Village, we saw our first marker, the Jack Buck statue/memorial, which is near the park's center field entrance. The statue is of the man, himself, sitting behind a microphone, supposedly calling a game for his beloved Cards. Buck became the teams radio announcer in 1954, after several years of doing games for their affiliates, and spent most of the next 47 years doing the play-by-play, on radio and television. Known for his trademark phrase, "That's a Winner", after every St. Louis victory, Buck  would go on to be enshrined in both the Cardinals Hall of Fame and the MLB Hall of Fame. In addition to Cardinals games, Buck would regularly work nationally-televised games, such as the playoffs and the World Series, where some of his greatest moments were caught on air (Kirk Gibson's dramatic World Series walk-off home run: "I don't believe what I just saw." , Ozzie Smith's dramatic NLCS home run: "Smith corks one into right, down the line! It may go! Go crazy, folks! Go crazy! It’s a home run! And the Cardinals have won the game…by the score of 3-2…on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!," Kirby Puckett's extra-innings home run, which sen the 1987 World Series to a Game 7: "Into deep left center…for Mitchell…and we’ll see you…tomorrow night!"). Buck became not only a fan favorite in St. Louis, but across the sports' world, and was mourned by many, when he passed, in 2002.

Bush Stadium II's Foul Line
A little farther down Clark Street we passed the Cardinals front offices, where a bust of August Busch sits and welcomes visitors to the stadium and we also saw a plaque showing how Busch Memorial Stadium (Busch II) and Busch Stadium (Busch III) overlapped, as well as a line painted on the sidewalk, representing Busch II's foul line. At this point the streets started to get a little more crowded and a party-like atmosphere was spreading among the people. It reminded me a little bit of Yawkey Way, outside Boston's Fenway Park.

George Sisler Statue

As we turned the corner from Clark to Eighth Streets we were greeted by a courtyard of Cardinal greats, in statue form. Pitchers Dizzy Dean (getting ready to throw) and Bob Gibson (in his classic follow-through motion), were suspended in time, frozen in bronze, before us. There were also representations of Rogers Hornsby, Lou Brock and Stan Musial, in various stages of batting; Ozzie Smith and George Sisler fielding balls; Enos Slaughter, sliding into home in the 1946 World Series; and even Cool Papa Bell, who played for the St. Louis Stars, of the Negro Leagues.

"That can't be the ONLY statue of Stan Musial," Ryan said, looking dumbfounded at me. "He's Mr. Cardinal."

"I guarantee you, there'll be something much better for him," I told him, with a slight nod and a wink, down the street.

"Gotcha," he said, nodding in understanding. "Let's get a shot of us with Bob Gibson. Everyone says he was the best pitcher the Cards ever had."

Ry and Me, With Gibson
So we walked over, waited our turn in line, and posed for a picture with the Gibson statue. Ryan was right;What are you doing here?" McCarver said they need to talk about how to pitch to the next batter, to which Gibby replied "The only thing you know about good pitching is that you can't hit it. Now get your ass off my mound and back behind the plate, where it belongs." That was Gibson, in a nutshell.

Gibson was, quite possibly, the best pitcher to ever wear a Cardinals uniform. Some might say Dizzy Dean, but in my opinion, none matched Gibson's drive, determination and pure meanness towards the batter, when he was on the mound. He was even known to take shots at his own players from time to time, like the instance when his catcher, Tim McCarver, came to the mound for a conference and Gibson asked "

After taking our pictures we walked a little farther down Eighth Street, where we came to the Third Base Gate, also known as the Stan Musial Courtyard. THIS was exactly what Ryan was expecting as a tribute to Stan The Man. Looking in, from the street, is a giant statue of Musial, at the plate, looking out at the pitcher, waiting for the ball to be thrown. The statue was flanked on both sides, and in front of it, by rows of flowers, whjch made the image even more beautiful than it already was. I had heard Musial wasn't fond of the statue, as it didn't properly capture his coiled batting stance, but if that were true, I could get no one to verify it.

 In the center of the plaza was a giant baseball, with a replica of Musial's autograph across the "sweet spot" and the bricks that composed it engraved with the names of those who had donated to the project. It was here that people came together, waiting on friends to join them, just milling about, talking, and waiting for the time to enter the park, or just quietly conversing before game time. It was like a lot of other gathering areas I had seen before (Yankee Stadium's iconic giant bat, Fenway Park's "Teammates" statue, Wrigley Field's Ernie Banks Statue, or Citi Field's "Apple"), but this just seemed classier. Appropriately, it was here that we met Coach and continued on towards the Home Plate Gate, where we would enter the ballpark.

Starting Lineup

(Back Row) Rob, Me, Ry, Coach, Shannon, Nick, Tony
(Front Row) Cordelia, Jordan, Steven

Jim Kulhawy
Ryan Kulhawy
Robert Zoch
Tony D'Angelo
Nick D'Angelo
Mike Hernbrott
Steven O'Such
Shannon O'Such
Cordelia O'Such
Jordan O'Such

We milled about, waiting for the gates to open, but it wasn't that long. Once inside we grabbed our scorecards and programs and headed down behind home plate, to get our usual picture. It was hot out and Steve and Shannon's kids didn't seem to be too thrilled to be dragged for a picture, with people they didn't really know, but they were good troopers and took it all in stride. We quickly found a gentleman who agreed to take our picture and then split up into two groups; Rob, Ryan, Mike and I would go our way, with Tony, Nick and the O'Suches doing their own thing.

Left Field View
Right Field View
I wanted to grab some pictures from behind home plate, so Mike, Ryan and Rob milled about, taking in the sights and talking while I snapped away. The ballpark was absolutely beautifully constructed and the view was as outstanding as I'd led to believe it would be. The park was spread out before me, the left field wall being 336 feet away, left-center was 375', 400' to center, 375' to right-center and 335 to right. The field was a beautiful shade of green, as the organization used Kentucky Bluegrass, and the grounds crew was just deconstructing the batting cage the players had been using, prior to our arrival.
Center Field View

Left Field Wall, #1
Left Field Wall, #2
Left field was the "busiest" area of the park. The wall, itself, had pictures of the special players and front office people emblazoned on it, as well as any retired numbers. From left to right you could see: Hornsby (no number), Ozzie Smith (#1), Red Schoendienst (#2), Jack Buck (microphone), Stan Musial (#6), Enos Slaughter (#9), Tony LaRussa (#10), Ken Boyer (#14), Dizzy Dean (#17), Lou Brock (#20), Whitey Herzog (#24), Bruce Sutter (#42) and Gussie Busch (#85). It was like the Cards' version of Yankee Stadium's Monument Park, but on the outfield wall.
Left Field Wall, #3

Big Mac Land
Just inside the foul pole, in the second deck, was an area known as Big Mac Land. This section was sponsored by McDonalds (notice the word- play on the name of their famous sandwich), dedicated to Mark McGwire (whose nickname was Big Mac), because this is where man of his homers landed, during the chase for 61, in the summer of 1998. Just to the right of that, but outside the stadium, you could see the rooftop seats of Cardinal Nation, as well as the Budweiser Brewhouse, both in Ballpark Village.

Center was left unobstructed, except for the batter's eye, which was a patch of green just over the wall, in dead center, while right-center and right field were graced with sets of bleachers,and two giant video scoreboards. The main board is in right-center, stands 40' x 120' and has the Budweiser sign, with two cardinals, each sitting on a bat, as well as a clock, perched atop it. The second board is 40' x 81' and has flags from all the World Series Champion winners.

Budweiser Scoreboard
Champions' Flags


"I'm hungry, is it time to eat yet?" Ryan wanted to know.

"I've been waiting to hear that, since I saw him," Coach laughed. "Has he stopped eating since Milwaukee?"

"Not really, but as long as he keeps growing up, and not out, we're gonna keep feeding him," was Rob's response.

As with any ballpark we visit, the culinary experience is part of the "must-do-list," so we set off in search of something "St. Louisy."

As we walked around the ballpark I definitely got the sense the designers had gone with the "less-is-more" concept. While you definitely knew you were in the home of the Redbirds, there was nothing screaming "CARDINALS," everywhere you looked. It was a classic and classy looking ballpark. There were wide, clean concourses, with plenty of great sight-lines, as you strolled the halls. There were the usual merchandise kiosks, team stores, beer gardens and concession stands, but we were having trouble finding that signature St. Louis food.

"How about that?" Ryan said, pointing a particular stand. "That's gotta have 'St. Louis food.'"

I looked over to where he was pointing and saw a sign that simply read "Dizzy's Diner." We walked over, only to discover it had the usual ballpark fare - dogs, brats, chicken fingers, ice cream in mini helmets, but nothing that screamed St. Louis. We kept on walking.

There were places named the Gas House Grill, the Food Network Hot Dog Bar, the Riverview Corner, Broadway Barbecue and even a Hardee's, but surprisingly, nothing that made you know you were in St. Louis. Finally we walked up to an older gentleman and asked what he thought would be the best thing to try here.

"Well, here in St. Louis we all seem to like anything wrapped in bacon," he told us.

"Who doesn't?" Ryan wanted to know.

"Head over to the food area, by the first base side of the stadium and you'll find yourself a cart called 'All About The Bacon,' that's where you'll find something that'll make you happy."

Bacon Cart
The Sausage

We thanked him and walked (Ryan was practically running) over to
the first base eatery and, sure enough, found the cart. It didn't look like much - a small silver cart with the name on the hood and the facing, along with bacon strips up and down the sides - but, for Ryan, it was love at first sight.

Coach Watches Ryan Take Down the Bacon-Wrapped Sausage
After carefully perusing the choices, of which there were quite a few, Ryan decided to go with a bacon-wrapped hot sausage, covered in sauerkraut, peppers, onions and mustard, on a roll. As we sat down, and Ryan dug in, Coach watched with a look of amusement and horror at what was unfolding before us. My growing wolf cub offered everyone a bite, which was of course declined (no one wanted to take a morsel of food off his plate), and then preceded to devour the sandwich in about four bites.

"He does love a good meal," Coach laughed, shaking his head.

"You have no idea," Rob replied.

I just shook my head, as if to say nothing surprised me anymore, and said it was time to go up to our seats. The game was going to start in about half an hour and I wanted some pictures of the park from our vantage point, behind home plate.

The Game

Cards Wall of History
Opening Day at the Ballpark
As we got upstairs, a wall with lots of pictures on it, a few sections from ours, caught our eyes. It was a timeline of Cardinals history. The wall itself had a picture of the Budweiser Clydesdales superimposed on it, with a timeline stretching from 1890 to the presen and pictures that told the story of the organization. Some of the more notable pictures were from Sportsman's Park in 1902, a shot of Dizzy Dean and Pepper Martin in the 1930s, Stan The Man (that man is everywhere), the opening of Busch Stadium II and the Opening Day tradition of having the Clydesdales parade from the brewery to the ballpark, before opening pitch.

After reading the wall for a bit, we walked upstairs to our seats. We have tried a few locations, in different ballparks, as we have traveled, but have come to decide that upstairs, behind home plate, offers the best vantage point to take in the game. The whole park is laid out before us, there is almost nowhere we can't see and the views are, usually, top-notch. We found out very quickly that we were not going to be disappointed here.

"Holy crap," I heard Ryan exclaim, as he climbed the stairs in front of me. "You're not gonna believe this view."

Sure enough, he was right. As I walked up the steps, and the scenery unfolded before me, I couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing. The stadium was decked out in red and besides everything I had seen before, on the inside of the park, I now had a bird's-eye view of the city, beyond the outfield walls, as well.

View From Our Seats

The first thing I noticed (how could I not?) was The Arch. Standing tall and proud, the iconic monument stood beyond the right-center-field stands, seeming to connect two hotels with one another, all while scraping the low-hanging grey clouds, which would threaten rain throughout the night. The Dred Scott Courthouse stood off to the right-center-field side of the park, its dome poking over the wall, just to the right of the Cardinal Nation roof-top seats. There were two sets of two tooth brush lights (one in right field, the other in left), which provided the necessary lights on the overcast evening, and the city skyline was the final piece of the puzzle, tying everything together. We couldn't believe this would be our view, all night long. It rivaled the one we had in Pittsburgh, though I don't think it topped it.

Visitors' Dugout
Cardinals' Dugout
We settled in to our seats, in the front row, and waited for the start of the game. As I looked down on the field, I noticed that the roof of each dugout was adorned with Cardinals pennants. The St. Louis dugout had the pennants from all of the World Series Championship years, while the away dugout was decorated with the flags of the years they had won the National League Championship, but had not won the Series.

"That's a great idea, I love it," was Ryan's response.

Just then Tony, Nick, Steve, Shannon and the kids joined us, having finished their own walking tour of the stadium, and we all settled in for the first pitch.

First Pitch
Lance Lynn took the mound for the Redbirds; with a 7-5 record he wasn't the Cardinals' ace, but we were rooting hard for him tonight. We always root for the home team and the home team had won every game we had attended this summer (Toronto, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Kansas City) and we were on the verge of a clean sweep with the Major League teams. We still had four minor league games to see (Memphis, Nashville, Pulaski and Frederick), but right now we were intent on keeping our streak alive, one game at a time.

Lynn got the first batter, Brandon Phillips, on a fly to center, but was touched for a double by the next batter, Joey Votto. He then bore down and retired the ever-dangerous Todd Frazier, but put himself back in trouble when he walked Jay Bruce. The Cardinals' faithful breathed a huge sigh of relief when Brayan Pena struck out swinging, to end the inning.

It seemed the Cards were off on the right foot when the lead-off man, Kolton Wong, reached first on a hit-by-pitch, but the next three batters went down in succession, ending the inning with no real threat.

Neither team did anything in the second inning, each putting a man aboard but failing to move him, but the Reds broke through first, in the top of the third. Phillips, leading off another inning, singled and went to second after Lynn hit Votto. The bases were loaded after the next batter, Todd Frazier, walked and the Reds looked primed to bust the game wide open.

A coaching visit seemed to settle Lynn down, as he got the next batter to fly to center, which scored a run, but then induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. The Reds had a 1-0 lead, but considering the alternative this was the best we could hope for.

"I HATE watching the pitcher bat, especially when they lead off an inning," I turned and said, grumpily, to Ryan, as Lynn strolled to the plate.

He promptly shut me up, by singling to right field.

"You were saying?" Ryan laughed in my direction.

"Oh, shut up," I told him.

The Cards would have runners on first and second, with one out, before Jhonny Peralta and Jason Heyward each made outs, killing the rally and ending the inning. We were still at 1-0, Reds, heading to the fourth.

Between innings Tony ran out to get batting helmet ice cream for the kids, as they collect the helmets from each of the parks, and while he didn't miss anything exciting in the top of the inning, he almost did in the bottom.

As stated, the Reds did nothing in the top of the fourth inning, going down 1-2-3, but the Cards brought the ballpark alive, with some mid-game fireworks in the bottom.

Yadier Molina, St. Louis' All-Star catcher, opened the inning with a double, quickly followed by a single off the bat of Stephen Piscotty, which chased Molina to third. Dan Johnson then struck out, but Peter Bourjos was hit by a pitch, loading the bases, with one out for the pitcher, Lance Lynn.

"He got lucky his first time up," I said to Ry. "Wanna bet he doesn't do it again?"

"Um, no," was his response. Obviously he didn't think the pitcher was going 2-2 either.

We were both correct in our assessment, as Lynn struck out swinging, for the second out of the inning. Everyone in the stadium was now on the edge of their seats, hoping Kolton Wong could deliver a hit and, at  least tie the game. No one wanted to talk about the fact that the Cards had the bases loaded, with one out, and couldn't even hit a sac fly to tie the game. Then again, that's what you get, for the most part, when you let pitchers hit.

"He's gonna hit one out," Ryan said, turning my way.

"You're calling a grand slam?" I asked, incredulously?"

"You heard me, he's hitting one out," he repeated.

Sure enough, just as Ryan predicted, Wong drilled the pitch over the right-center-field wall, for a two-out grand slam. Busch Stadium was now alive and roaring, as all four runners crossed the plate, giving them a 4-1 lead.

"Told you," was all Ryan could manage to say, through bouts of hysterical laughter.

"He's going to be incorrigible," Tony said, while shaking his head.

"I'm good with that, as long as St. Louis wins," I told him.

"I can't root for the Cards, I'm a Cubs fan," Coach interjected, "but I'll be quiet now."

Carpenter flied out to center, ending the inning, but the Cards now had a fat 4-1 lead.

The rest of the game went by in a blur. Neither team scored for the rest of the game; in fact no one moved a runner past second base. There were only three more hits, combined - two for the Reds and one for St. Louis - and when Trevor Rosenthal came on for the save, in the ninth inning, the Reds went down weakly, 1-2-3.
Final Score

Cardinals 4, Reds, 1
Lynn (W) 8-5
Iglesias (L) 1-3
Rosenthal (S) 31

Post-Game Wrap-Up

Just like that it was over; no more offense, no more excitement, not even a nail-biting inning. All the runs, for each team, were scored with one swing of the bat. The Reds had their sacrifice fly and the Cardinals had a grand slam. In terms of edge-of-your-seat excitement, there was none, except for when the Reds loaded the bases with none out, in the top of the third, and when the Cards did the same, with two outs in the fourth. Either way, we had a nice relaxing evening, had great seats to watch a ballgame and enjoy the scenery, and the team we were rooting for had won. What more could we have asked for?

Coach Finds the Cubs Game, At Ballpark Village
As we filed out of the stadium, with a lot of other happy fans, we decided to walk through Ballpark Village and see what was going on. We unhappily found out the kids couldn't get into any of the places, as there is a rule against them being in the establishments after 11 p.m., but Coach was happy as he was able to catch part of the Cubs game, on the big outdoor television, as we walked past.

By the time we got back to the hotel everyone was exhausted, but not everyone was sleepy. Rob, Coach and I headed downstairs, to the sports bar, for a nightcap and a quick bite to eat, while the others decided to hit the beds. I was happy Ryan chose sleep over staying out, as he was still not 100% and looked like he was ready to pass out.

We didn't stay long, just long enough for a beer and some wings and pretzel bites, because Coach was getting up at Zero-Dark-Thirty a.m. to catch a train back home and head to work. We would be seeing him again in a few days, in Nashville, but it was a fun overnight trip for him and we were glad he was able to do it. The three of us finished our snack and quietly crept into the room, finding everyone else sleeping soundly. We said goodnight/goodbye and Coach promised he wouldn't wake anyone when he left.

July 28th: Visiting with Some Legends and Heading South

As the morning light crept through the darkened room, I looked around. Coach was nowhere to be found and, true to his word, he had left without making a sound, or waking anyone. "He's gonna be tired today," I thought, as I popped out of bed and headed downstairs for some coffee for all of us. Usually the coffee will wait until after the shower, but not this time; I needed the caffeine jolt.

An hour later, I was caffeinated, showered and ready to face the day. I sat around and smiled at all the "happy" faces, as they were awakened, one by one, with a cup of coffee and a demand to "get moving, we have a busy day ahead." It was true; we did have a busy day coming up. We would be checking out of the hotel, walking around the ballpark again (to see, and take pictures of the things that were over-crowded the night before), visit the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, and then get in the car to make the four-hour journey to our next destination, Memphis.

It took about another hour for everyone to get up, get showered and get ready to leave. Rob, Tony and I had made sure all the gear was packed the night before, to save time, so we checked out, stowed the stuff in the car and headed over towards the stadium.

The short walk wouldn't have been bad on a normal day, but it was hot, sticky and humid, which made everyone a wee bit cranky. We wandered around the park again, taking our pictures, and making small talk, but everyone had their eyes on the big prize; the A/C in the Cards' Hall of Fame.

Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum
By the time we finished at Busch we were all hot and sweaty and in need of some cooling off, so we headed
across the street, back into the Cardinal Nation building, but through a different entrance. The building itself looked to be the same brick-red as the facade of the ballpark, and had the Cardinals' logo on it, with the iconic Phillips 66 gas sign on top. A beautiful logo welcomed us as we stepped inside, into an almost, arctic blast of cold air.

Originally located in downtown St. Louis, in the same building as the International Bowling Museum, this version of the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum was moved inside Ballpark Village, and opened in 2014. This museum contains over 15,000 pieces of memorabilia and about 80,000 photographs, making it the second largest housing of baseball memorabilia in the country, behind the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown. It was obvious, as soon as we walked in, that the team spared no expense and this would be something very special.
The Cardinal Way

The first thing we saw, upon entering, is a slogan used to describe "The Cardinal Way" of teaching ballplayers. It has a picture of two St.Louis players and reads: "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I'll remember. Involve me and I'll understand." This explains the organization's approach to continually contend for a crown, and why the team always seems to be in the thick of things.

All-Time Leader Board
As we walked to the "theater", for a ten-minute video on the history of the team, we passed a board that listed the organization's all-time leaders, in pitching and batting. Two names, of course, dominated the hitting statistics, (Musial and Pujols), while Gibson was in the majority of the pitching categories. It certainly showed how these three players became possibly the most famous of all the players to don the Redbird jersey.

The movie was about ten minutes long, but gave us just enough time to cool off, feel refreshed and get ready to explore the museum. The first thing we saw was the Hall of Fame Gallery, which housed the plaques of all the famous players, and executives, who had been enshrined into the Hall. There was, of course, Musial, Gibson, Dizzy Dean, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Brock and Branch Rickey, as well as Ozzie Smith, Johnny Mize, Willie McGee and Jim Edmunds. Each plaque looked like the ones you would see in the gallery at Cooperstown, but was indicative, solely, of the players' time in St. Louis. As of today, there are thirty-four members enshrined.

As we walked along we discovered that the story of the team was told, chronologically, through the use of memorabilia. Each display case contained a different era, from the birth of the organization, through the Twentieth Century, until the present day. We were able to trace the lineage of the team, through the use of pictures, scorecards, stories and anecdotes form those who lived each generation. It was the perfect way to keep the fans engaged and have them see, exactly, how the team evolved from the beginning.

Ring of Champs, Early Years
Ring of Champs, Latest Years
The center of the museum is devoted to every championship team in the organization's history. It is a circular exhibit, facing inward, and consists of twelve display cases, featuring the jersey the team wore in that particular year, memorabilia from the season and a storyboard of how the Championship came to be. Standing inside this "ring of champions" you feel yourself surrounded by greatness, literally, but also cut off from the rest of the museum, as if in your own private world. It was a masterful job by the creator.

There were also displays for the history of the St. Louis Browns, the St. Louis Stars (St. Louis's Negro League team), as well as the story of Stan Musial's post-career history of the team and his Cardinals Hall of Fame red blazer. As you would expect, Musial takes up a lot of the museum, as he should, being the face of the franchise.

Ryan, Holding Stan Musial's Bat
"Hey, look, over there," Ryan pointed. You get to pose for pictures, holding a bat. Can we do  that?"

"Sure, why not?" I told him, and showing the others where we were headed.

When we got there, however, we realized it was so much more than that.

"C'mon, guys. Step right up and choose a famous bat," the curator told us.

We just looked at one another, quizzically, and looked back at him, as if to say "what are you talking about?"

"You get to choose a player's bat and then take pictures with it," he laughed. There's Ozzie Smith, Jim Edmunds, Lou Brock and, of course, Stan Musial."

"You mean we get to actually hold Stan Musial's bat?" Ryan asked, incredulously"


"His REAL bat, not just a replica?" He couldn't believe his ears.

"Absolutely, you just have to put gloves on, so you don't sweat all over it," the man smiled back.

Holding a Piece of Baseball History
There was no way we were missing the opportunity to take pictures, while holding a piece of baseball history. We both chose Stan The Man's bat, put on some cellophane gloves and waited our turn in line. We each took two pictures; one in a batting stance and another as a close-up, so the name on the bat could be seen. It really was amazing to be able to do this, as I have never been allowed to actually touch the exhibits in the other Halls of Fames we had visited (Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Royals or Reds), so this really was a treat. Rob, Tony and Nick also took pictures with the Musial bat, so we could all say we'd held a piece of baseball history. Ryan decided he had to go back a second time and get a picture with Ozzie Smith's bat, so we indulged him, before heading out.

"That was pretty cool," Nick said, to no one in particular, on our way out.

"I can't believe I got to hold Stan Musial's bat," Ryan said, again.

"I loved the air conditioning," Tony laughed, stepping outside, back into the late morning's heat and humidity. "And I miss it already."

We walked back to the SUV and hopped in, ready for the four-hour trek to the land of the Delta Blues, Elvis Presley, more barbecue and Beale Street; Memphis. The Major League portion of our trip was finished - we were a perfect 4-0 in Toronto, Colorado, Kansas City and St. Louis - but there were still games to see in Memphis, Nashville, Pulaski (Virginia(, and Frederick (Maryland), as well as different kinds of music, foods and a lot more friends and family. It was time to start the second part of our cross-country journey, so we set the GPS to Memphis, pulled the Explorer onto I-55 and headed south.