Checking out the home of the St. Louis Cardinals was one of the highlights of our recent trip.
To visit the stadium where Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and Matt Holliday have worked their magic over the years was a fun way to spend an hour.
The stadium has a brick exterior. It gives an old-time feel for a modern park.
The Cardinals offer tours daily on most days. It’s a great investment of $10 a person. Or, if like us, you have a AAA card, you can get a buy one, get one free ticket. Even nicer!
The tour starts at the third base gate. Stan Musial’s statue stands in front of the gate. “Stan the Man” is considered the greatest of all great Cardinal players. He even has a new bridge named after him downtown – the new I-70 Stan Musial Veterans Bridge, AKA “The Stan Span.”
The tour was fun. There were six of us on the tour on a sunny, but cold February afternoon. Our tour guide was awesome! Jay is the Cards’ clubhouse manager – he determines who gets in to see the players and coaching staff.
The tour started with a visit to the Cardinals’ radio broadcast booth. John Rooney, Mike Shannon and Mike Claiborne are the team’s radio announcers.
Rooney called his first game in 1983 with the late great Jack Buck and Shannon.
Shannon will be in his 42nd season as the radio analyst for St. Louis. The former Cardinal player uses an exercise ball as a seat. No one really knows why, we were told.
As a former play-by play wannabe (I had a voice for newspaper and a face for radio), I had to sit in one of the announcer’s seats and look out over what could have been. I remember as a kid “calling” a town baseball game in Oakland, NE, with my cousin providing color analysis. I think that’s where I caught the bug.
The Cardinals have had an impressive line-up of announcers.
Jack Buck was probably the best and most revered. His son, Joe, called Cardinal games for a while. He is now the lead baseball and NFL play-by-play guy for Fox TV.
Harry Carey was a St. Louis announcer. He went to the rival Chicago Cubs to announce after his time in St. Louis ended. He’s probably best known for his days in Chicago.
The view from the level of the broadcast booths and some private suites was impressive. The stadium, which opened in 2006, has an open outfield, so fans can see the skyline and the famous St. Louis Arch.
The new Busch Stadium, dubbed Busch III, sits just a few feet away from where the previous stadium was located.
This is the third baseball stadium in St. Louis. Sportsman’s Park and old Busch Stadium were also homes to the Cardinals. We saw a Cards-Houston Astros game at the old Busch in the early 2000s.
This stadium was home to the World Series championship in its first season. The Cardinals won the baseball championship in 2006. They followed with another World Series title in 2011. St. Louis fell short in 2012, losing to Boston in six games.
The DeWitt family, which bought the franchise from the Busch family (yep the Budweiser Busches), are long time baseball fans. In the huge party area (holds up to 3,000 people), walls are plastered with wallpaper featuring old-time baseball cards. The family had their three generations of baseball card hoarding used to make the wallpaper. They scanned each baseball card they owned. Then, they had the wallpaper made.
The end result was amazing! It looks like actual baseball cards on the wall. But, when you go to touch them, expecting the cards to be posters, the wall is smooth. They did a great job.
Among player cards on the wall – Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, and the great Satchel Paige. Paige was a star in the Negro League Baseball circuit. He was the oldest rookie in the Majors.
We made our way to the lower level of the stadium. We didn’t get to go inside the players’ clubhouse. But, we did an even better thing – we visited the home team’s dugout.
I think everyone in the group felt like a kid. People posed for pictures sitting on the bench.
I stood near where the manager would stand during a game. It was awesome! Looking up from the dugout and seeing thousands of empty seats, it’s easy to imagine what the players see when they stand at the same spot and see a packed house yelling and cheering them on.
Looking out over the field, you can see the skyline in the backdrop. Across the field, near left field, pictures of the greatest players in St. Louis history adorn the fence – Musial, Hornsby, Smith, Brock, Gibson. Wow!
Just off the dugout area, inside the stadium, sits a display of all the trinkets the Cardinals have had on give-away days – bobbleheads, etc. They were the ideas of Marty Hendin. He also created the team’s original mascot.
The stadium tour was fun. It was a great way to spend an hour in the afternoon. I recommend checking out stadium tours when in other cities. I don’t think you need to be a fan of the team to actually enjoy a tour. It helps, though.
For more information on Busch Stadium and tours, check out their website at http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/stl/ballpark/tours/index.jsp