BallPark Tours Ramble – Day 2

Show-Me-State Ramble … Day 2 … June 19, 2014

The second day of the BallPark Tours Ramble (see day one here) took us to Saint Louis, the Crowne Plaza Hotel and beautiful Busch Stadium – but I’m getting ahead of myself.  We left Des Moines at 9:00 a.m., with an ETA of 4:00 p.m. for Saint Louis (game time: 7:15).  As we boarded our deluxe motor coach, it was clear our group had been a boon to the Iowa economy the night before.  Among the most often heard phrases as we got underway were:  “Where were we?  What time did we get in?  Did I dance? “My favorite though was “Do you remember ________________?” (Fill in the blank.)

It was eerily quiet (at least for a BallPark Tours’ trek) in the early morning hours, until Bob (aka “Chatterbox” – BPT loves nicknames) broke out the Bloody Mary’s.  Things then perked up, with actual reminisces of the night before, plenty of baseball talk, Chatterbox actually getting to the point, and smart-phone photo snapping of those hardiest of revelers who remained asleep in their seats. (As one traveler noted, “They’re so cute at that age.”)

There was a strategic, 45-minute lunch stop along the way – the bus parked within strides of McDonald’s, Long John Silver’s, Taco Bell and other health-focused fast food establishments.  Despite traveling through rain (an omen?), we made Saint Louis on time.  Our rooms, however, were not all ready, so we spent a bit of time in the lounge, waiting for our pass keys.  Once we got to the rooms, however, the wait proved worth it. The Crowne Plaza is a very nice hotel in a great location – maximum ten-minute walk to the ball park, even closer to the St. Louis Arch.  My room is large, with a working balcony (room for multiple chairs) and a view of the river.  Kudos to tour operator Julian.

Seats at Busch Stadium on Day Two.

Seats at Busch Stadium on Day Two.

Then it was off to Busch Stadium, which took me right past Ballpark Village – the nation’s first-ever, sports-anchored entertainment district, which opened this March. (More on that in a future post.)

What strikes you most as you approach the stadium is the “sea of red.”  They love their Cardinals here and team garb – much of it rejoicing in the Redbird’s 11 World Series championships – is everywhere.  Once in Busch Stadium, the outfield view is clean and colorful – blue sky, bright red seats, crisp green grass and, beyond the outfield, a view of the St. Louis arch.  Good place to watch a game, and I’m sure the 42,106 in attendance would agree.

Bob and Trish made a solid Bloody Mary and good conversation.

Bob and Trish made a solid Bloody Mary and good conversation.

After making my way to my seat – second deck down the left field line – I went in search of a Bloody Mary to rate (wanting to get the bad taste of my Des Moines Principal Park experience – see yesterday’s post – out of my mind).   Hallelujah, Bob and Trish at “The Cabana” – second deck behind Section 265 – saved the day.  They make a solid Bloody Mary, fairly priced at ten dollars, served in a “keepable” glass.  Bob asked if I wanted it spicy, whether I wanted celery salt around the rim and tossed in two olives and a slice of lime.  The drink proved to have enough bite, the celery salt added flavor that was missing in Des Moines and the olives provided a tasty finish.

Even better, Bob and Trish offered advice on local offerings in the areas of eating, drinking, live music, museums and more.  Hearing I was from Minnesota, Bob (a fan of Irish music) even provided a couple of recommendations for spots in Minneapolis/St. Paul.   Clearly, this pair enjoyed working “The Cabana” and had pride in their city and their Cardinals. If anyone in Busch Stadium management is listening, I nominate Bob and Trish for employee(s) of the month.

BBRT Note:  I heard later from other BPT trekkers that friendly service is the norm, rather than the exception, at Busch.  Lots of good experiences – congrats to the Cardinals.

The game got underway at 7:15, after about a dozen “first pitches,” and renditions of both “God Bless America” and the national anthem.  While the weather forecasts had threatened rain, it was sunny and 91 degrees at game time. BPT has had only one rain out in its long and storied history.

Pretty good contest.  Scoreless through three, with Jon Jay hitting into a 4-6-3 double play in the bottom of the first (BBRT loves the 4-6-3 and 6-4-3 twin killings.) The Phillies, who have won eight of their last ten games, broke through with two runs in the top of the fourth – on a double by catcher Carlos Ruiz, a single by 2B Chase Utley, an RBI single by 1B Ryan Howard and a sacrifice fly by LF Dominic Brown (all off Cardinals’ starter Shelby Miller). Howard, a Saint Louis native, was the star of the Phillies’ 4-1 victory (or would have been, if stars were awarded), adding two more RBI on a home run in sixth. Not far behind was rookie pitcher David Buchanan, who pitched the best game of his career (well, just six starts and a 3-3, 4.95 record). Buchanan, who had given up seven home runs in his first five starts (28 2/3 innings), went 7 2/3, giving up just four hits and one run.

A few observations from the game:

  • After yesterday’s game in Des Moines, it is clear (pun intended) that major leaguers get to play under much better lighting than minor leaguers.
  •  Second guessing is one of the best parts of being a fan.  In the bottom of the sixth, with the Cardinals trailing 4-0, there was considerable discussion of why Cards’ manager Mike Matheny didn’t pinch hit for pitcher Shelby Miller.  Miller promptly lined a rope of a double to left center.  (Just another reason why I hate the DH.)
  • I have an unusual notation in my score book for the bottom of the fourth … 4-1 (second base to pitcher for the out).  Yadier Molina led off the inning for the Cards with a grounder to the right side. Phillies’ 1B Ryan Howard and 2B Chase Utley both went for the ball – with Utley making the play and tossing to Buchanan (covering first) for the out.  I usually only see 4-1 on those scorecard Bingo games popular in so many parks these days.
  • While I am still not into mascots, at least the Cardinals’ mascot is actually a Cardinal. So many teams boast oversized stuff creatures that have nothing to do with the team name. Yes, Julian, that includes the Phillies’ Phanatic.
  • The BPT group did themselves proud when a good portion of the pre-game and early-game chatter focused on trying to name the players attached to the displayed Cardinals’ retired numbers.
  • Cardinals’ fans embarrassed themselves in the seventh inning (during the inning, not between frames) with ten minutes of the “wave” – and they weren’t even in leisure suits. Let me say it one more time, “Ban the Wave!”
  • The scoreboard operators violated a (and this is ironic) cardinal rule of fandom (don’t stand up and block the view) when, during the eighth-inning action, they filled the scoreboards with “Stand Up and Get Loud.”  In deference to the fans behind me, I declined to stand.
  • From an informal survey of the crowd, Cardinals’ fans paid too much for the Pujols jerseys to retire them now that he is an Angel.  Jersey of the Day – two rows in front of us, “Spezio.”
Breakfast is served.

Breakfast is served.

Mid-game, our illustrious tour operator passed out (bad choice of words, maybe distribute is better) coupons good for a free buffet breakfast in the Crowne Plaza’s Earth Grille.  I made it there this a.m. – the offerings included lots of fruit, cereal, toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy and hash browns.  Possibly a mea culpa for the delayed check-in?

Final thought, mostly for my fellow trekkers, and this may be part of the Kwiz tie-breaker.  It seems appropriate as we enjoy the hospitality of Busch Stadium.

What Baseball Hall of Famer was married to the daughter of Anheuser-Busch brewery owner August Busch, Jr.? 

That would be my favorite player of all time, Braves’ slugger (512 HRs) Eddie Mathews. Elizabeth Busch-Burke was the third of his four wives.

Well, breakfast and this post complete – on to Day 3 – Cardinals Hall of Fame on tap.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT.

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