I've spent most of my life downplaying the role of emotion in life and espousing the virtue of thought and logic. But there is a time and a place for emotion. And that time and place for me was last Friday 9/9/05. We went to Busch Stadium for the last time.
We thankfully were able to get some farewell photos. We even got to go on the field and into the Cardinals dugout, which we had never done before. In two months the place you see in these photos will be turned to rubble, with the finishing touches of the new stadium to grow out of it. Sad, but true.
Forgive me if all this sounds shallow in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I am aware many people lost everything they had. If you are not a Cardinals fan, I doubt you can understand what this place has meant to our lives, so before I get to the photos, I will post a few utterances I've found on the web.
The following excerpt from L Boros @ Viva El Birdos sums up my feelings perfectly. Although the details are not the same, the emotion certainly is:
"i saw my first game at busch stadium in 1968, at the age of five; i saw my last game there yesterday. sat with my dad in section 158, where our family sat throughout my childhood ---...
in addition to the 10 games a year in 158... between the ages of 6 and 26 i bet i was there 20 times a year; 400 days and nights. i came to know the place as intimately as i knew my own home; and indeed busch was a home to me growing up, a safe haven from the pressures and fears and portents of youth. i was a fearful kid, extremely unsure of myself and terrified of anybody finding that out; but at the ballpark my inhibitions melted away. i knew how to act and what to say, needed neither approval nor validation. diff'nt world, diff'nt set of rules --- ones that made some sense to me, that i understood and seemed able to live by naturally."
how do you say goodbye to that, and how do you say thanks? i didn't even try; just walked out of there after the last out like i would after any other game, as if the stadium weren't going away and would always be there. it always was there for me, at a time when i needed a place to go; and in my imagination so it always will be."And this comment from his post helps me realize our feelings are shared by many:
"made it to Busch twice, once in 2000, when my mother gave me an early birthday present, and last September. Living in Virginia, it's not so easy to get there from here. That first time I walked into the stadium was like achieving the Holy Grail for me, and that's exactly what I told my brother-in-law when he asked me how it was. The sights, the sounds, the atmosphere were like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I felt like I was among friends, even though I knew none of the other people. We were all there because of one thing; our love, our passion for the Cardinals, and it felt right. I had hoped to get out there at least once this season, but alas, budgetary restrictions prevented me from doing it. My one regret is that I was never able to have gone with my dad, who passed away in 1978. He's the reason I'm a Cards fan, and for that, I will be eternally grateful. I did buy a brick paver with his name on it, so at least I can say he finally made it."
And this one, same thing:
"Similar story. I grew up a Cards fan in RI, thanks to my dad bringing me up that way. he passed away in '88, but I was able to get out to the stadium a couple years ago as a college graduation present. Glad that I made it out there. Was thinking of buying a brick too. I really enjoyed the few games that I saw there, and I must say that I was slightly disappointed at the design of the new stadium. I really love the arches that surround the top of the current stadium....and love the whold circular thing. Oh well....I'm sure when i am there for a game I will love it!"
Sorry if this bores you. I hope this doesn't seem like looking at someone's vacation pictures, which can be perfectly dreadful. So most of these are of the stadium and articles of interest to the general person. Although there are a couple of us primates thrown in.
Here we go, beginning at about 2 p.m. that Friday. It was a hazy, hot, but not unbearable day.
View from behind the LF visitor's bullpen in Homer's Landing, an eatin' place inside Busch, looking west.
Views from the CF Stadium Club looking north to homeplate. This club is unique in baseball in that it was the first club allowed in the batter's background. The reason is that the glass is tinted a black color, so that no one can see in. Don't even ask the price.
View from right field bleachers.
View from the current Busch Stadium concourses south to the new stadium.
View east from current Busch Stadium concourses to new right field scoreboard in the new stadium.
View looking southwest to homeplate area of new stadium from the old. Where we are standing taking this picture is right above where the new CF wall will be in the new stadium.
New field being constructed, view from Busch Jr.
Same look at field construction, with the street level sidewalk circling the current stadium in the foreground.
Back inside Busch, a view from the pressbox behind homeplate. The next box to the right is the KMOX box, where the mighty Mike Shannon broadcasts from.
View of left field side of Busch from pressbox.
Within the stadium itself are the Cardinals organization offices. In the lobby are jerseys from all eras. I took this picture because it is the only jersey, from 1956, in the past 80 years not to have the "birds on the bat" on the front. Due to a public outcry, it only lasted one year. It's actually not a bad looking uniform.
From the offices we were let down on the field. We are looking southward toward right center field. This was truly exciting. The ground was very gritty. It reminded me of the cinder tracks we used to run track on.
View down the left field line east toward the arch.
View from in front of the dugout south toward right center field.
Looking toward rightfield pole from the dugout in Tony LaRussa's usual spot.
Turning right from the above postion brings you further into the dugout where players practice their swings and the helmets and bats are kept. From here leads to the locker room.
Okay. So this is me. With the wife. You can see my son's reflection in back of us as he snaps the photo.
The great Son of Maximus. My reflection is behind him.
One of the guides was kind enough to snap a family photo. In the years to come, as Busch becomes more and more of a memory, I'm sure we'll cherish this one.
View from field up to the KMOX booth, where the Mighty Shannon does his thing.
The son hamming it up (where's he get that from?) in front of a 1962 Corvette in the Cardinals Museum and Hall of Fame. The Corvette is actually Mark McGwire's, given to him that famous night he hit home run number 62 in 1998. It has been donated by McGwire to the museum. In spite of what you may think of him, he really is a good guy.
A model of the old Sportsman's Park, where the Cardinals played until 1966. Its last years it was known as Busch Stadium. This is therefore the granddaddy of the Busch Stadium family.
This is the architect's model of the current (second) Busch Stadium.
From there my son and I went up to the top of the Arch to get some pictures. You can see how hazy it was that day. Here's Busch II and III side by side as we look out the western view windows.
Looking west into downtown St. Louis. The courthouse is seen in the foreground, and the beautiful Kiener Plaza behind it.
For all you Rams fans, here is the view looking northwest to the Edward Jones Dome.
Of course, I had to take a picture of Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood, across the street north from Kiener Plaza.
Kiener Plaza looking east to the courthouse and Arch, a block north of the current Busch.
We've now walked back south past the western side of the stadium to the western side of the new ballpark. The Color Guard can be seen outside the stadium preparing for the National Anthem on the left of the photo.
View looking east showing the southern edge of Busch II with the new ballpark built up to the point where it appears about ready to swallow it. Very Pac-man-esque.
This will be the main entrance to the new ballpark on the west side. The Eads Bridge construction theme can be easily seen here and in the design of the overhang to cover the seats.
Section 348 View- The best player in baseball is warming up just before the first pitch.
From Section 348- a view to the east, the left field half of Busch
View south (see the cranes of the new ballpark?) of the right field side of Busch II.
Had to get a picture of the mighty Pujols at the bat...
... and fielding a bunt.
In a fitting end to my era at Busch, Larry Walker came up with two out in the bottom of the eighth, with the game tied 2-2. After two ugly strike outs earlier in the game, Walker crushed a ball to the back of the Cardinals bullpen in right field. Here's Larry crossing the plate as we all went nuts. The crowd was building to a fever pitch as he went into the dugout, roaring for a curtain call. Nunez was the next batter, but instead of taking his time so Larry could get his curtain call, he gets right in the box and swings at the first pitch, making an out. But Larry played the drama right. All the other Cardinals exited the dugout before him as the Mets came to bat, then he finally popped out of it and jogged to right field as the place went nuts.
Marquis pitched a great game. Tony left him in at the start of the ninth inning, and let him leave the game before the first pitch so that he could also get a rousing ovation from the fans. Nicely done.
And here's the final scene from Busch after the last out. Cards Win!
And then it was over. As I left the stadium the crowd was overwhelming. Trying to fight our way back across the walkway to the West Stadium Parking Garage was difficult. I did not turn around to look back at the doomed stadium.
We were able to park our car on the 4th floor blue level, and my final look at Busch was through the grating of my parking space. As I pulled out I decided not to look again.
Farewell, my friend.