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  • Busch's last call

    QUOTE

    Last call for Busch
    By Dan O'Neill
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/29/2005

    Many fans will bid farewell to Busch Stadium on the last weekend of the regular season.

    On May 8, 1966, after Cardinals outfielder Alex Johnson grounded into a double play to end a 10-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants, a helicopter descended over the aging ballpark on Grand Avenue and carried home plate to a gleaming new concrete home close to the downtown riverfront.

    In a decade of dynamic cultural and social change, a civic vision rested on that plate, a prophecy that a new stadium would act as a performance-enhancing drug for a sagging downtown. There was melancholy in leaving an old friend behind, but there was excitement in what lay ahead.

    Post-Dispatch sportswriter Ed Wilks described the momentous scene: "There was a parade then, and a ride downtown. And there was a new scoreboard to watch and messages, in color. And bands and singers and fireworks. The new stadium was in the spotlight now."

    Forty years later, as that spotlight fades to black on that same "new stadium," as a shiny new successor emerges next door, perhaps it is fitting some people take issue with the transition, consider it unnecessary. Fitting, because some people took issue with the transition when Busch Stadium was christened, considering it misguided.

    But over the years, the stadium proved to be an integral piece of the city's cultural history.

    Mark S. Rosentraub, dean of the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, has written two books on sports economics. He recently told USA Today: "While St. Louis has gone through some ups and downs ... (it's) been able to sustain some level of vitality in downtown, and the facility contributed to that because it was seamless. It fit right into the city."

    When the Civic Center Busch Memorial Stadium officially opened for business with a Cardinals victory on May 12, 1966, it was much more than a baseball palace. It was among the first of the multipurpose facilities being built around the country - with similar structures in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. When the final out is made on this Cardinals season, it will be the last of those facilities to close.

    With its "space-age" design, the circular edifice instantly stood out on the St. Louis cityscape, nonconforming with the architecture around it. It also proved to be an immediate shot in the civic arm. The Major League All-Star Game was held at the stadium just weeks after it opened, and the Beatles played there a month later.

    When the Cardinals won pennants in 1967 and 1968, the revitalizing momentum was fueled with big crowds and World Series spectacle. While the Cardinals leveled off in the 1970s, Busch Stadium embraced more functionality by trading its natural grass for artificial turf. The synthetic sod not only provided a fast, consistent surface for sports, it virtually eliminated rainouts and made the field easily utilized for a myriad of other special events.

    Over the years, the stadium stretched its event-hosting legs in many directions. It was home to the St. Louis Stars professional soccer team for many years, and on June 23, 1977, a crowd of 32,605 watched as the Stars defeated international icon Pele and the New York Cosmos 2-0.

    It opened its doors to high school and college sports, as well. The Missouri State High School Activities Association began conducting its football championship at the park in 1979, and the traditional football clash between St. Louis U. High and CBC was played there.

    In 1976, 10 years after the Beatles' rainy appearance, "Superjam 76" kicked off a series of the mega-rock concerts at the stadium. Since then, the Rolling Stones, U-2 and Paul McCartney have rocked the concrete house. If there wasn't music, there was sometimes mirth, as the Shrine Circus became an annual summer attraction. And if there wasn't mirth, there was mud-bogging with monster trucks.

    In between, there were weddings, graduations, marching band contests, military induction ceremonies and hot-air balloon launches. You name it, if it was big and bold, it was at Busch. All the while, the city around took more vibrant steps, with new hotels, restaurants, businesses and shops springing up.

    Looking for greener pastures in the desert, the football Cardinals departed to Arizona after the 1987 NFL season. And when the Rams took their place in the mid-1990s, a domed stadium was built into the convention center across town to accommodate them. The venue at 250 Stadium Plaza was no longer needed for football and no longer the only fish in the sea for stadium-sized events downtown.

    So Busch Stadium re-invented itself. The former Cardinals ownership, Anheuser-Busch, began a series of touch-ups and renovations in the early 1990s before agreeing to sell the franchise to a group of area business leaders in late 1995.

    During the mid-1990s, more significant alterations were made, with the opening of the Plaza of Champions in 1995, the return of natural grass in 1996 and the addition of a hand-operated scoreboard in center field in 1997.

    In effect, the stadium became younger by looking older, presenting itself in a more traditional, baseball-exclusive light. While its contemporary structures in other cities became withered and obsolete, Busch Stadium continued to thrive in the late 1990s and early 2000s. With Tony La Russa's Cardinals consistently staging postseason challenges, the ballpark built a national reputation for its safe and wholesome atmosphere.

    One of the oldest ballparks still operating in the major leagues in 2005, Busch also became one of the more respected. Soon it will stand down, succumb to a wrecking ball and give way to the burgeoning new stadium on its flank.

    The hopes and reservations are similar to what they were in 1966, and the transition is emotional. But if the new Busch Stadium is as effectual as its parting predecessor, the future is promising. [/b][/quote]

    QUOTE
    KPLR leads the way in Busch-finale broadcasts
    By Dan Caesar
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/29/2005

    The curtain falls this weekend on Busch Stadium, at least as a regular-season venue, and many local broadcast outlets plan to cover the history of the facility and the farewell ceremonies.

    The best of the lot figures to be a two-hour special Saturday on KPLR (Channel 11), which incorporates taped features and live interviews. It's scheduled to air at 7 p.m., although it would start later if the preceding Cardinals-Reds game telecast runs long.

    The show has an interesting feature on Cards broadcasters who have worked at Busch, a look at the decision to build the ballpark downtown and the climate in the city at the time. While concentrating on baseball, it also covers the football Cardinals and some of the building's other events.

    KPLR's coverage Saturday begins at 2:30 p.m. with the introduction of the all-Busch Stadium team on the field, then the station airs the game. On Sunday, its Busch programming begins at noon with pregame festivities, followed by the Cards-Reds game. KPLR then will show the closing ceremonies that culminate with the Clydesdales making a loop around the field. A wrap-up show then follows.


    Other coverage:

    FSN Midwest

    It has piece that runs about 45 minutes scheduled to air after its telecast of tonight's game.

    This centers primarily on broadcasters Mike Shannon and Joe Buck giving a walking tour of the stadium and recounting some of their memories of the building.

    KTVI (Channel 2) -- It runs a 30-minute special, at 10 p.m. Sunday.

    KMOV (Channel 4), KSDK (Channel 5) -- A good chunk of the Sunday night expanded sportscasts (approximately 10:30 p.m.) will be devoted to the ballpark.

    KFNS (590 AM, 100.7 FM) -- It has programs at 10 a.m. Sunday and following the game that day.

    KMOX (1120 AM) -- It airs pregame ceremonies at 12:10 p.m. Sunday, then carries the game and the postgame festivities.
    [/b][/quote]

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    I'm there, I'm up HIGH but I am there. [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/wink.gif[/img]
    Be passionate about what you believe in, or why bother.

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