Outside the stadium's team store on Clark Avenue and Eighth Street is Statue City. Roger Hornsby; George Sisler; James "Cool Papa" Bell, the fastest man ever to play the game; Lou Brock; Bob Gibson, in his iconic pose after he threw a pitch; Ozzie Smith; Enos Slaughter, aka "Country," depicted in the Mad Dash; Dizzy Dean, who won 30 games way back in 1934; and Red Schoendienst, multiple World Series winner.
I didn't mention Stan Musial. He's so special he gets two statues. One alongside the Cardinals legends above, and one outside the third base gate, on the west side of the building. Calling his stand-alone likeness a statue doesn't do it justice. It's more a monolith; simply massive. A must-see. On the base of the statue is inscribed: "... Here stands baseball's perfect warrior ... Here stands baseball's perfect knight." Stan "The Man," indeed.
Walking around Busch Stadium's perimeter, you know right away that you're in a place that takes baseball seriously; that respects baseball tradition, and idolizes the tremendous players that have donned the St. Louis jersey. Eleven statues, one larger than life, and fans all dressed in red and white, certainly gets the point across. I couldn't help but think: "Must be nice."
From Statue City, to Brick City. Seriously. Brand-spanking new red brick, or at least what looked like it, everywhere. I loved it. It's what should be used when constructing a baseball stadium. Pardon my language, but: f**k concrete. You want to use concrete? Fine. Cover it with brick when you're done. Red brick.
The field level concourse isn't an open one so, on your Busch Stadium travels, you can't see the action on the field. Unfortunate, sure, but at least you've got red brick to marvel at. (Fine, the novelty wears off rather quickly.) There are no tunnels to each section; instead, larger entrances that lead to a number of sections, where you can stand around and watch the game from, if you like. I was hanging out by an entrance on the first base side, taking some pictures and enjoying the view, when Houston's Carlos Lee and Chris Carpenter exchanged words after Lee popped out with two men on.
A weekday matinee, and some basebrawl? The baseball Gods were spoiling me! Tempers flared as Lee and Carpenter chirped at one another and, much to my delight, both benches cleared. As the players stormed the field, me, I was staring at the bullpens. I love watching the guys in the bullpen run, full sprint, to the diamond, not hoping to miss any of the action. Unfortunately, no punches were thrown, and you could sense the disappointment in both relief squads as they trudged back through the outfield to their respective quarters. All that running for nothing.
A number of people came over to where I was standing, and asked what had happened. I knew then and there that Busch Stadium isn't the best stadium to walk around and enjoy the game at the same time. Brick city, you know, kind of gets in the way. If you're one or two people, you can probably "borrow" a seat close to the field, like I did. Remember: be discreet. The place is, more often than not, full, so if you're with a group, Godspeed. Otherwise head on up to your seat(s), and enjoy the view; especially the Gateway Arch. The real one, and the one they've imprinted on the grass. A nice touch, if I do say so myself.
The Cardinals Family
Let's get one thing straight: I'm as sick of talking, reading, and writing about baseball's steroids era as you are. But in St. Louis, it couldn't be ignored. Mark McGwire, back in St. Louis as the Cardinals hitting coach, is, whether you like it or not, the poster boy for baseball's moral descent. And Big Mac's steroid use, and admission of guilt, still resonates; it's why Missouri lawmakers, only two and a half weeks ago, approved legislation that will have Mark McGwire Highway in St. Louis renamed Mark Twain Highway.
McGwire is the St. Louis Cardinals's drunk Uncle. Once uber-successful, his success was tainted, and his fall from grace has been long and hard. Now he's in rehab, and, like any good family would do, St. Louis is standing by their man.