St. Louis Journal: River Town Breeds Loyal Cardinals

by Ron Bernthal

When St. Louis hosts the 80th MLB All-Star Game on July 14th, it will be the fifth time that the city has done so. The first time was in 1940, at the 8th All-Star game, which the National League won 4-0 in the old Sportsmen’s Park. During that 1940 season the Cardinals would finish a distant third in the National League, but their first baseman, Johnny Mize, led the league with 43 home runs. The last time was in 1966, a wild afternoon game that went ten innings under 100+ degree heat, with only a few sweating fans left to see the Nationals win 2-1 with a walk-off single.

A night game at Busch Stadium, with downtown St. Louis and Gateway Arch as backdrop scenery. (Photo: Ron Bernthal)

Since 1891, when the St Louis Brown Stockings went from the American League to the National, the St. Louis Cardinals have been the heart and soul of the city. You don’t have to be from St. Louis to recognize some of the great Cardinal ball players, including Roger Hornsby, the Gashouse Gang of 1934, including Dizzy Dean and Joe Medwick, or Enos Slaughter, Stan Musical, Curt Flood, Lou Brock, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Mark McGwire, and today’s hometown star, perhaps the best player in baseball today, Albert Pujols.

Julie Buck owns J. Bucks restaurant, a busy place most of the week, but especially on game nights, as it is located just one block from the new Busch Stadium, a beautiful brick ball park in downtown St. Louis with the iconic Gateway Arch looming over the center field scoreboard. Ms. Buck is, of course, a Cardinals fan, but her love for the team and the city is deep rooted. “My affiliation with baseball goes way back to when my father, the late Jack Buck, was the Cardinals announcer, and today my brother Joe works for Fox Sports as its lead announcer, handling many of baseball’s TV games,” Ms. Buck said. “We have two restaurants in St. Louis, and we have many Cardinals players, former and present, coming in all the time to talk baseball and hang out with the fans.”

Ms. Buck said that because Anheuser-Busch was the popular hometown brewery since 1852, and owned Cardinals from 1953 to 1996, a close relationship developed between the city and the team that has remained strong during losing seasons and the change in ownership. The Busch family, with fans and the city behind them, even managed to retain naming rights to the new ballpark through 2025. “Cardinals players love the city and its fans as much as we love them,” Ms. Buck said as she watched the bar fill up before a recent home game, almost every customer wearing a shirt or jacket in Cardinal red. “Many, many players, even when their career with the Cardinals ends, remains in St. Louis, opening businesses, restaurants, and becoming regular neighbors.”

Many present and former Cardinals players are local business owners in St. Louis. Pujols 5 Westport Grill (www.pujols5grill.com) is located in the nearby suburb of Maryland Heights, Missouri . (Photo: Ron Bernthal)

The Missouri History Museum, located in the city’s Forest Park, will open a temporary exhibit this summer on St. Louis baseball history. “St. Louis is, in a lot of ways, a small town and this community has one of the biggest and best fan bases for baseball. Many players say that they don’t enjoy this type of fan loyalty anywhere else in the county,” said Robert Archibald, a noted historian and president of the History Museum. “Even though players may not spend their whole careers here, there is something about St. Louis, and the kind of affection and heroic status that St. Louis affords to baseball stars, that makes players want to stay here long after their career ends.”

Exterior of the new Busch Stadium, a retro-style ballpark in downtown St. Louis constructed in 2006. (Photo: St. Louis Cardinals, Dan Donovan)

With President Obama expected to throw out the first ball, and Sheryl Crow performing a free concert, the 2009 All-Star Game is expected to fill Busch Stadium, a new 46,000 seat, retro-style park that opened in the middle of downtown in 2006, the same year that the team won the World Series. At game time, as darkness envelopes the sky above the field, the skyscraper lights of downtown St. Louis and the silvery curve of the Gateway Arch will form a majestic backdrop, and the local fans in attendance will certainly be most visible in their outfits of Cardinals red.

Below is the MLB official schedule for 80th All-Star Game week in St. Louis:

July 10-14 
Major League Baseball All-Star FanFest at America’s Center

July 11 
All-Star Charity Concert presented by Pepsi: Featuring Sheryl Crow

July 12 MLB All-Star Charity 5K & Fun Run presented by Sports Authority and Nike
Taco Bell All-Star Sunday at Busch Stadium featuring: XM All-Star Futures Game Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game

July 13 
Gatorade All-Star Workout Day at Busch Stadium featuring: State Farm Home Run Derby

July 14 
MLB All-Star Game Red Carpet Parade presented by Chevy
80th MLB All-Star Game at Busch Stadium

The All-Star Game will be nationally televised on FOX Sports, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage

 

© Ron Bernthal – No editorial content, portions of articles, or photographs from this site may be used in any print, broadcast, or Web-based format without written permission from the author or Web site developer.

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