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The Home of Our Memories

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  • The Home of Our Memories

    I just read this piece since Dev posted today and read one of his latest....

    I think this is a nice rallying cry [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif[/img]

    The home of our memories

    In 1999, everything changed for about the fifth time in my life. I was 20 years old, attending college at the University of Pittsburgh, and my family had moved just moved away to Los Angeles. For the first time in my life, I was alone and completely independent. I had to be responsible for myself. There was no more mother and father to wake me up and make sure I got to school on time. It was me and me alone.

    That spring, I took a trip to Los Angeles to visit my family and one night, my father and I went to dinner at the Gardens in Westwood, a place my father loves because of their outstanding guacamole. As we were still adjusting to being apart for the first time since I was born, we started talking about my childhood and the things we had done together, both just me and him and as an entire family. And when he asked what I missed most about those younger days, I didn’t hesitate answering.

    “I miss going to Cards games,” I told him.

    My summers as a child were defined completely and totally by the Cardinals. Jack Buck and Mike Shannon were on the radio. Al Hrabosky and several different play-by-play guys, eventually resulting in Joe Buck, were on television. And sometimes my brother, father and I would leave our Shrewsbury home and go down to the ballpark, Busch Stadium, to see the Cardinals play.

    It all seemed to go hand-in-hand. The Cardinals. Ted Drewes frozen custard. Ridiculously humid summer days in St. Louis. You couldn’t have one without the other two. And you couldn’t have all three without my brother and father.

    On so many summer days, my father would come home from work at around 6:30 and announce that we were going to the game. We’d leave at 7, park for five bucks, buy three upper deck tickets for five bucks a piece, we’d see my brother complain if there was no giveaway, and we’d watch the Cardinals. We must have done this 20-30 times a year.

    This weekend, the Cardinals and the city of St. Louis are celebrating the end of Busch Stadium. This weekend against the Reds, they are playing the final regular season games there. And though we all know that these aren’t actually the last games to be played at Busch, they certainly couldn’t have scheduled this weekend any other way.

    Cardinal Nation has known all along that these wouldn’t be the actual last games of the season. We’ve felt all season the team would be in the playoffs, even before they pulled away from the second-place Astros. The team has a minimum of two homes game left after this weekend but all of us expect their last home game to be Oct. 26 or 27, those being the dates of Games 4 and 5 of the World Series. We fully expect there to be another month left in this old cookie-cutter with the arches atop the upper circle.

    But you can’t celebrate something like this during the playoffs, when everyone’s attention needs to be focused squarely on winning ballgames. So having it now, at the end of the regular season, is fitting. More than 100 former Cardinals will be there, not to mention all of the current ones. And the current ones hope to be remembered in the pantheon of the great Busch Stadium teams as the third one to win the World Series.

    It happened in 1967 and 1982. Why not in 2005?

    To those on the outside, Busch is just another drab cookie-cutter stadium. It had Astroturf for most of its life and the dimensions are equal all around and it’s a multipurpose joint with a big circle around the top. If not for the arches on top, it would just be another Riverfront or Three Rivers or Vet. But Busch was so much more than that. It was the place where 40 years worth of Midwestern fans congregated each and every summer to cheer on our heroes, the one thing in life that ranked right up there with our families and our gods.

    The Cardinals.

    Busch wasn’t just another cookie-cutter because the fans didn’t let it become one. While those other stadiums always looked half-empty, Busch always looked and sounded like it was filled with fans. And it often was because everyone in the region loves the Cardinals. Even now, the Cardinals routinely welcome fans from 10 different states in the Midwest to games each series. And Busch Stadium and the Cardinals are the common bond all of us had.

    Some of the greats will be there this weekend, including representation of every Cardinal Hall of Famer who played there. Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton. Some of our lesser known favorites will be there too, like Glenn Brummer, Tito Landrum and Donovan Osborne, players people around the country know nothing about but players Cardinals fans know everything about.

    We’ll be welcoming back Mark McGwire (and the biggest side-plot to this whole weekend is how McGwire is received by the fans in the wake of his comically poor performance on Capitol Hill during the steroid hearings in March) and we’ll undoubtedly save a few of our standing ovations for Whitey Herzog, Flynn Kile (should she attend), Carole Buck and Willie McGee. Willie McGee can’t walk down the street in St. Louis without having fans stand up and applaud him.

    This weekend is a celebration of not just Busch Stadium but of the last 40 years of Cardinal baseball. And it’s a bittersweet time for those of us in our 20s and 30s that grew up at that place. We grew up with the Cardinals in Busch Stadium. We watched Willie, Ozzie and the “In-Vince-ible” Vince Coleman burn up the old carpet by swiping one base after another. We saw Big Mac chase down Roger Maris and Albert Pujols become the best Cardinals hitter since Stan Musial was tearing the cover off the ball at the first Busch Stadium. Generations prior fell in love with baseball because of Gibson’s tenacity and competitiveness, Brock’s fleet feet, Orlando Cepeda’s “El Birdos” and the artistry of Curt Flood playing centerfield.

    All of us who came to love the Cardinals over the past 40 years did so for a different reason and through different players. All of us came to love the different stars and characters for different reasons. But despite those differences, to the last 40 years of Cardinals fans, baseball means the old cookie-cutter with the arches on top.

    And to all of us, baseball and the Cardinals represent a bond with our families. Baseball has always been the sport that most closely links separate generations. Some fans had the love of the Cardinals passed down to them. Others, like myself, became a Cardinals fan with my immigrant father who had never seen this game before the mid-1970s.

    We celebrate that this weekend, the bond between fans and team and the bonds between families created by that team. Busch Stadium was the place our memories were created and remembered for the past 40 years.

    And though it’s been more than 10 years since my family moved from St. Louis to Pittsburgh and, as such, more than 10 years since I went to a game at Busch Stadium with my father, those memories are still fresh in my mind. So are the memories of my trips there in the last few years without him, like seeing interleague games for the first time in 1997 or attending the two most maddening baseball games of my life, Game 3 and 4 of the World Series last October.

    And those memories will always be fresh in my mind. And I’ll always look back at them as the happiest times of my life. Maybe those memories and experiences would have had just as much everlasting meaning to me if they took place at Wrigley Field or Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium. But I’m glad they didn’t.

    I’m glad they took place at Busch Stadium, the capitol of the baseball Mecca that the Midwest is. For me, it wasn’t just the home of the Cardinals, but one of the homes of my childhood. And as we celebrate it this weekend and hope it lives on through the end of October, I can tell you with complete certainty that though the new Busch Stadium will undoubtedly be much nicer and much more fan-friendly than this one was, it will never be Busch Stadium.

    It will never mean as much to me as the current Busch Stadium does. Cardinals fans of the future will one day look at the new Busch as I do the current one. And for those of us that grew up with the current one, nothing that follows it will ever be as meaningful.

    I bid a tearful goodbye to Busch Stadium, hoping that the actual goodbye is commemorated a month from now with a World Series celebration.[/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
    Whatever happened to the "Bushy Wushy" man?

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    • #3
      Or, Russ the Beer Man in the left field bleachers.

      Here's to the "375 Gang" on the LF Bleachers from the late 80's through the late 90's.

      Tidbit, Ted, Quientin, "Crazy" Dave, Jeff "the stat man", the Spellbrink Brothers, Tracy, Shorty, and others. Many a great time was had out next to the old leftcenter field wagon gate.
      Make America Great For Once.


      • #4
        good job Dev
        Go Cards ...12 in 13.


        • #5
          Sorry guys,

          Busch doesn't hold as many good memories for me as the Arena. While Busch had a few concerts, nothing like the Arena. This is where we saw all the major acts in the 70s and 80s. And baseball has never elicited the same passion for me as hockey.


          • #6
            QUOTE(The Kev @ Oct 3 2005, 06:23 PM) Quoted post

            Or, Russ the Beer Man in the left field bleachers.

            Here's to the "375 Gang" on the LF Bleachers from the late 80's through the late 90's.

            Tidbit, Ted, Quientin, "Crazy" Dave, Jeff "the stat man", the Spellbrink Brothers, Tracy, Shorty, and others. Many a great time was had out next to the old leftcenter field wagon gate.

            my favorite guy was the "Anybody want a Sodie" guy.......which, after he got rid of all his sodie.....changed to "anybody want a free straw?"
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