Wednesday, October 19, 2005

GOODBYE OLD FRIEND




The Cardinals didn't do it tonight; they couldn't win the 6th game of the NLCS. In a post-game interview, of course one of the Astros said something about it being too bad they couldn't have won in Houston. No, one way or the other, win or lose, the last game the Cardinals played this year had to be at home. We had to give a fitting goodbye to our stadium.

There will be other championships for St. Louis. That's what we do; we produce winners. When I was a kid in the 1960's, I thought St. Louis was SUPPOSED to go into post season. The '70's were a bit of a wake-up call in that regard.

But when Molina hit his pop fly at 10:22 tonight, that was it for Busch Stadium AND for the Cardinals' flagship station for 50+ years, KMOX radio. If you watched any of the post game interviews and wondered why the fans were still hanging around after the loss, it was because they didn't want to leave. Tonight was it.

A lot has happened there.

In its first year, 1966, it hosted the All Star Game; which has been said to host the greatest starting outfield in history; Three Hall of Famers -- Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron -- started in the outfield for the NL.

During it's 39 year history, Busch Stadium has hosted 5 World Series. It has been the home of Stan Musial, Red Shoendist, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Jack Clark, Tony Pena, Darryl Porter, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGhee, Mark McGwire, Fernando Vena, Darrel Kyle and Albert Pujols; among others.

Records were made and broken there; as were memories:

1968: Gibson strikes out a World Series-record 17 Detroit Tigers in the first game of the 1968 World Series;

1969; Left-hander Steve Carlton strikes out a Major League-record (at the time) 19 batters against the New York Mets. However, he lost the game, 4-3.

1974 - Gibson records career strikeout No. 3,000.

1974 - Lou Brock ties and breaks the single-season stolen base record with his 104th and 105th of the year

1979 - Brock collects hit No. 3,000.

1982 - Backup catcher Glen Brummer steals home in the 12th inning to win a key pennant race game against the Giants. (I would have sworn it was Lonnie Smith).

7/18/84 - Darrell Porter hits a walk-off 11th-inning Grand Slam.

10/14/85 - Ozzie Smith hits a walk-off homer in Game 5 of the National League World Series to beat the Dodgers, 3-2. It was the first home run Smith had ever hit from the left side, and he got it off of Tom Niedenfuer, prompting the Jack Buck's famous call: "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!" Jenni and I watched from home. She was three and still remembers standing in front of the TV looking for her daddy who had seats in right field, wearing red. When Ozzie was up to bat, she chanted with me "Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie," to encourage him to hit the home run. Then he did. We went crazy.

4/16/87 - Tommy Herr hits a 10th-inning grand slam to lift the Cardinals to a 12-8 win over the Mets on Seat Cushion Night at the stadium. As a result, thousands of seat cushions are thrown onto the field in celebration.

10/14/87 - Danny Cox pitches a complete game shutout for the Cardinals as they beat the Giants, 6-0, in Game 7 of the NLCS to advance to their third World Series in six years.

5/14/88 - Utility infielder Jose Oquendo becomes the first position player to earn a pitching decision in 20 years in a 7-5, 19-inning loss to the Atlanta Braves. Oquendo gave up two runs on four hits. He was the eighth pitcher used by the Cardinals in the game. (I think he also played every position that night)

9/15/91 - Ray Lankford hits for the cycle.

7/30/94 - The largest regular season crowd in Busch Stadium history (53,415) watches the Cardinals defeat the Cubs, 10-7.

4/8/97 - Willie McGee hits a pinch-hit, walk-off HR on Opening Day. My daughters and I were there for that one. It was freezing, but they didn't want to go home until the game ended. Thie score was tied, 0-0 until Willie won it with that HR in the bottom of the 9th. They still talk about it.

7/27/98 - My birthday. I went to the game with my oldest daughter and some friends. I didn't know they knew it was my birthday. Thanks to my big-mouth daughter, they did know. One friend, Judy, convinced the entire section where we were sitting to stand up and sing "happy birthday" to me.

9/7/98 - McGwire ties Roger Maris' single-season home run record, nailing No. 61.

9/8/98 - McGwire breaks the most hallowed record in baseball when he hits his 62nd home run of the season, breaking Roger Maris' single-season home run record. The homer comes off Steve Trachsel of the Cubs.

9/17/01 - Jack Buck welcomes back baseball with his "For America" poem after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

7/28/02 - Down 9-4 in the bottom of the ninth to the rival Cubs, the Cardinals score six runs in the inning capped by Edgar Renteria's three-run home run. I was there for that one, too. As we walked to the car after the game, the crowds were still cheering. It was like winning a post-season game.

During the '80's (I think) there was a particularly long, extra inning game that ended in the early hours of the morning. Jack Buck was tired and instead of giving the usual announcement "this broadcast is own exclusively by blah blah blah and all rights are blah blah legal stuff legal stuff"; he said in his elegant way, "this broadcast is prohibited."

And speaking of Jack, Busch Stadium was the scene of a very moving memorial to him on June 20, 2002. I miss the sight of him on that green field in his poppy red blazer.

AND, the St. Louis football Cardinals played there; Dan Dierdorff, Tim VanGelder, Jackie Smith, Conrad Doebler, Jim Hart.

Busch was also the stage for musical events; The Beatles; The Who, The Stones; Elton John and Billy Joel, to name just a few.

At one point in time, I dated a guy who had a brief pro-ball career. Whenever we went to a game, he would look at the field with longing. He never got to play here and said that is every pro players' dream; to play on the field at Busch Stadium. He said it was his field of dreams.

I know we aren't the first, or last, city to say goodbye to a stadium. And it happened to us before when this Busch Stadium replaced Sportsman's Park. But it's like watching strangers march into your childhood home and start ripping up your favorite hiding places and tearing down the steps to your treehouse.

As I was driving home tonight from the baseball party, I was thinking that tomorrow I'll take some pictures before the wrecking ball hits. Then I heard them announce on the radio that the dismantling starts tomorrow.

I got misty-eyed. Losing the NLCS to Houston didn't do it to me; but hearing Mike Shannon say that got me.

And then he said that this was the last Cardinal broadcast from KMOX radio; the home of the Cardinals for over 50 years. It was also my employer for several years in the '70's. The baseball rights had been bought by another station. Shannon said, "I don't think I can say it; I don't think I can sign off."

The tears flowed faster. Which is odd. Shannon and Wayne Hagen will be back next year, but on another station. And I'm not that crazy about Shannon. It's just that it's another long-standing tradition ended tonight.

A lot of fun is poked at the "cookie cutter stadium", but I'll miss seeing the view of the Arch over the top of the 94 arches that surround this Stadium. That's why I love the picture at the top of this page.

But next year, we move into a new home and get ready to develop new memories and set new records. I hope when they move, someone remembers to pack the memories.

4 comments:

Mike Weasel said...

Geez, just because you lost doesn't mean you have to tear down your stadium!

Just kiddin, that was a wonderful post.

Eleanor said...

Very funny weasel! Your post stopped me from crying from reading sly's wonderful tribute!

WTG, sly!

Jeff Meyerson said...

Boy Sly, what a memory!

Just kidding.

I remeber the Carlton 19 strikeout game. He lost on two 2-run homers to Ron Swoboda. That year the Mets could do no wrong.

neophyte said...

*sniff* she made me cry... and I've never watched a baseball game