06/08/2005: 6/6/2005: Busch Stadium Tour
Sandy Ellebracht, one of my high school classmates, is now Director of Visitor Services for the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in St. Louis. The IBM&HoF also houses the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame (formerly located in Busch Stadium proper), and its staff also conducts tours of the Stadium. When Sandy heard that I was passing through St. Louis on my way back from the Kraftwerk concert, she offered two inducements for me to stay in St. Louis an extra night: tickets to the St. Louis Cardinals-Boston Red Sox game on Monday, June 6 (a game that was sold out for months prior to gameday, IIRC), and a stadium tour that she'd guide herself. The personalized tour was itself sufficient inducement, but I'm not one to turn down free tickets to a ballgame (as a couple low level VIPs in the Memphis area can tell you), so I kept mum and accepted the tickets.
A few highlights of the day below the fold (another one of those photo-heavy posts...).
It was raining in St. Louis when I had to go downtown. Fortunately, I got downtown early, so I could sit at a conveniently placed wrought-iron chair outside Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood where I could watch other people walk by getting wet until I was supposed to appear at the IBM&HoF. The above picture is of the fountain and amphitheater at Kiener Plaza, near Busch Stadium and right across Chestnut from Mike Shannon's.
Outside the stadium are a number of stautes of various Cardinals greats. In addition to these player statues, there's the iconic statue of Stan "The Man" Musial at the very front of the stadium:
as well as a set of monuments dedicated to the 9 World Series championships won by the Cardinals.
First stop in the tour was the Cardinals Family Pavilion. Nowadays, it's necessary to keep the kids amused so that Dad or Mom can watch the game. The Family Pavilion provides some of that needed amusement. It contains quite a few activities and concessions for that purpose.
One such activity is "The Batter's Box". Pretty much what it sounds like, save that the pitching machine that throws to the batter is "programmable" to simulate the pitches of a number of famous major-league players, so you or your kid can see how you'd do against, say, Bob Gibson's slider (hopefully, you wouldn't be so foolish as to test your mettle against Gibson's fastball; if they programmed the machine correctly that pitch would, as likely as not, be headed towards your head).
But if your kid is aspiring to be Dizzy Dean rather than Stan Musial, the "Pitcher's Dream" booth can help out. Of course, it's equipped with the statutory radar gun so that your kid can measure how fast her fastball is as she blows out her rotator cuff and ends her major league career before it even starts....
If you'd rather acquire something than test your skill, the Family Pavilion can accomodate you. At the booth here, you can watch as a skilled operator takes a blank and turns you a regulation bat, which you can personalize.
This is a view from "Homers Landing", another family friendly, large group oriented area. Large groups can buy tickets in a nearby seating area, and are treated to a buffet of ballpark food (burgers, hot dogs, etc.) and drinks before the game. During the game, this seating area is opened up to all ticket holding fans to sit there for a few innings; as Sandy said, "It gives a chance for the folks in the nosebleed sections to get closer to the field to see part of the game."
Probably the best place to see a game (I can't think of anyplace better, myself), is "The Batter's Eye" club:
The club is located in dead center field, behind a set of dark tinted glass windows (so that batters aren't distracted by seeing the patrons in the club). If patrons want to go outside to watch the game, there are seating areas on either side of the grassy area in dead center field. Of course, with complete bar service and a full buffet (not just ballpark food, but other items as well), why would they want to?
Above, the view from the Batter's Eye Club. Sandy says she doesn't think there'll be a similar facility in the new stadium. That's a pity. If there were, I'd try to find some
However, for those of you living in St. Louis, you may want to make discreet inquiries. According to Sandy, if the Batter's Eye Club is booked by a group that won't use its full capacity (a couple hundred or so tops, IIRC), the Cardinals will sell tickets to the area for smaller groups (as small as 2). Tickets here are around $70-80 apiece, however, keep in mind that you're not just paying for the view; in the Batter's Eye Club (like pretty much all the luxury suites in Busch Stadium) your food and beverages are included in the price of admission.
I don't know about you, but I can eat and drink well over $100 worth of food and booze just by myself in a 9 inning game. Especially if I'm not driving. Well worth the ticket price from my perspective.
Winding our way around the stadium, we came to the "
Pictured here is what will be the first base side of the new stadium.
Note the ironwork atop the grandstands. The arching design is meant to be evocative of the Eads Bridge, while other architectural features of the stadium are designed to reflect other significant architectural landmarks in downtown St. Louis.
Home plate of the new stadium will be roughly just in front of the crane in this picture.
Of course I'd heard it many, many times, but you have to go to the
And here's where the selfless members of the Fourth Estate (Baseball Writer's Division) slave away to keep us informed about the latest happenings in the National Pastime:
And needless to say, the Esteemed Writers For The Local Fishwrap have privileged places in the box:
Dan O'Neill and Joe Strauss being two of the Cardinals beat writers for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, of course. The places for writers from other organizations are marked merely by the organization's name, not by the writer's names.
And do the writers and broadcasters have the best seats in the house? Hey, bucko, is the Pope Catholic?
From the press box to the corporate offices (well, the lobby, that is) is quite a trip. The lobby for the corporate offices feature a gallery of Cardinals jerseys over the years:
and, of course, a giant sized team logo:
The visiting team enters through the corporate lobby (the Cardinals have reserved parking underneath the stadium with a direct entrance to the home clubhouse); the lobby area also provides access to:
The Cardinals Club. Think of it as a a season ticket on steroids.
A Cardinals Club ticket entitles the bearer to a number of benefits: valet parking, a pre-game meal in the club (pictured above), special reserved seating (starting behind home plate and stretching out to both the home and visitors' dugouts), and complimentary food and beverage service. Not only do you not have to pay for your food, but a small army of unfailingly polite peons stands at attention, waiting for you to beckon them, so you can tell them your order, which they then go fetch and bring back to you so you don't have to take your eyes off the game.
The company I worked for before moving to Memphis (the company that transferred me down here, in fact), had tickets in this area, and I once managed to score a pair (apparently, none of the corporate bigwigs and none of our clients wanted to see that game). I decided to take the woman I was dating at the time. She was suitably impressed.
You see, it was the very first professional baseball game she'd ever attended. Ever.
I've often felt guilty about that. I've ruined her for life. She'll never be happy sitting in the bleachers, with a beer in one hand and brat in the other (having had to go to the concession stand herself to get them). Ever.
Cardinals Club members walk out to their seats through the same passageway through which the umpires get to their locker room. And past the "board" which details the umpire assignments:
The brass, rectangle shaped pieces there are little brackets. On game day they hold a card indicating umpire assignments for the day's game (there are six; in addition to the four umpires at home plate, and first, second and third base, postseason games use two additional umpires stationed down the foul lines).
And here's the view as you walk onto the field from behind home plate:
Sandy cautioned me a number of times to make sure I did not step on the grass; apparently if I did a crew of groundskeepers would pounce on me with all the ruthless efficiency of a squad of Secret Service agents foiling a would-be Presidential assassin, and make me regret that misstep the for rest of the short and agonizingly painful lifespan allotted to me after such foolishness. Though Sandy related an interesting story about how she gave those warnings to a class of grade school students. One boy then deliberately walked to the edge of the infield, grabbed a huge handful of infield grass, and pulled.
"What did I tell you?!?!?", she shrieked. The kid looked up with an innocent expression. "You said I couldn't walk on the grass," he replied. "You didn't say anything about pulling any out."
Somewhere in This Fading Republic, a top tier law school has reserved a place in their entering class for that child.
Of course, I couldn't resist sitting in the Cardinals dugout:
A few other sights are best seen from the field level:
Kind of self-explanatory. There is a marker where number 62 left the field. Number 70 exited not very far away. The luxury box in which McGwire's 70th homer landed is now known as "Suite 70". Near as I can tell from pictures, it's decorated in McGwire memorabilia, and probably commands a premium price.
Flanking the scoreboard on the top level, center field, are sets of flags. To the left of the scoreboard are flags commemorating the Cardinals' 9 World Series Championships: 1926, 1931, 1934 (the team forever known as "The Gashouse Gang"), 1942, 1944 (the "streetcar series" against the St. Louis Browns, the only time the Browns ever won the American League pennant; also the only World Series played entirely in the confines of one stadium: both the Browns and the Cardinals played in Sportsman's Park that year), 1946, 1964, 1967, and 1982.
This set of flags honors the players and owner whose numbers were retired by the Cardinals: 1, Osborne Earl "Ozzie" Smith; 2, Albert Fred "Red" Schoendienst; 6, Stanley Frank "Stan the Man" Musial; 9, Enos Bradsher "Country" Slaughter; 14, Kenton Lloyd "Kenny" Boyer; 17, Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean; 20, Louis Clark "Lou" Brock; 45, Pack Robert "Bob" Gibson (Gibson's flag is marked "Gibby" which was one of his playing nicknames; the other was "Hoot" after movie cowboy Hoot Gibson). While not a player, longtime Cardinals owner August A. "Gussie" Busch, Jr. is associated with the number 85, which the Cardinals retired in honor of Gussie on his 85th birthday in 1984. And, of course, all major league teams, the Cardinals included, have retired the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.
In addition to these players, two others are honored here. "Rogers" refers to Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who spent a significant amount of his career in St. Louis playing for and managing both the Cardinals and the Browns. The Cardinals would retire Hornsby's number, but for the fact that when Hornsby played with the Cards the practice of numbering uniforms hadn't developed yet. And the flag marked "Jack" honors longtime Cardinals broadcaster John Francis "Jack" Buck (the flag bears his trademark call for a Cardinals win: "That's a winner!").
And of course, thanks to Sandy's largesse, I got to see the Cards thump the Boston Red Sawx, 7-1, in a complete game victory by Matt Morris. My seats, while pretty good, weren't the best for taking pictures, but I managed to get a couple:
And here's the "triumphant" [?] return to St. Louis of Edgar "Benedict Arnold" Renteria:
Edgar got a few boos, but shortly after the boos were drowned out by cheers. Of course, the fans cheered louder for the two double plays Edgar grounded into, as well as his fielding error that allowed a run to score.
Yes, we fans are a fickle lot. :-)
Len on 06.08.05 @ 11:18 PM CST