St. Louis Missouri:
Now going back to St. Louis after splitting the first two World Series games, there should be a welcoming sign hanging from the Gateway Arch that reads, “America’s Baseball Capitol.” Yeah, people in Boston, Chicago, New York or even San Francisco might gripe, but really, the city of St. Louis and vast surrounding areas are the deepest and most loyal baseball fans in the country. Baseball is everywhere in this city, and along with beer - possibly the most important civic element. “In this market, baseball needs to be a staple of life,” said former player and beloved longtime Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon.
For more than half a century, St. Louis, Missouri represented both the southernmost and westernmost outpost for Major League Baseball. The American pastime; the number one sport from the late 1800’s until overtaken by the NFL in the 1980’s, went as far out as St. Louis - and stopped. St. Louis and the Cardinals meant the west to baseball fans.
Historically, the Cardinals were able to connect listeners in the Midwest/Southwest and West through powerful KMOX radio broadcasting. The Cardinals emerged as the team in the blood of millions - to this day, many folks in Colorado, Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and beyond are life long Cardinal fans.
Founded in 1764 and named after French King Louis the 9th (the Crusader King), St. Louis’ prominence took off when adventurers Lewis & Clark set forth from the city in 1804 on their momentous quest into the unknown. Sent by Thomas Jefferson to explore the recently purchased Louisiana Territory and search for an inland route to the Pacific Ocean, Lewis & Clark’s exploits greatly enhanced what lay beyond the Mississippi River. In fact, St. Louis’ most famous site - the Gateway Arch is actually named the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, to honor Jefferson’s vision and the opening up of the continent. Yet even a half century after Lewis & Clark, St. Louis was still the embarkation point where the ideas of “civilization” ended and the “western frontier began.” Located beneath the mighty arch, the Museum of Westward Expansion provides an intriguing view of America’s westward march.
Traveling west with the young nation’s settlers and soldiers, ball games such as rounders, cricket and other games evolved into baseball, which became wildly popular in the 19th Century. It is said that as a youth, Abraham Lincoln played baseball on a team known as the Illinois “Long Nine.” Even General Custer’s men had a baseball team which fortunately didn’t make the road trip to Little Big Horn.
The St. Louis Cardinals have a very colorful and rich history. Established in 1882 as an American Association team and called the St. Louis Brown Stockings, the name was changed to the St. Louis Browns, not to be confused with the other St. Louis Browns who became the present day Baltimore Orioles. Then the St. Louis franchise became the Perfectos and finally in 1900 - the Cardinals. Apparently a lady friend of the owner liked the color of the Perfectos uniforms, remaking that were “a lovely shade of cardinal.” The name stuck…the bird on bats logo came much later. Notably, in 1947, the Cardinal Minor League Network was introduced by Branch Rickey and became the first true minor league system in the country. This new “farm” system helped to develop qualified minor leaguers who would graduate to the Major League Club. This practice continues to this very day with a whopping 17 of the 25 players on today’s World Series Cardinals roster developed by the Cardinal farm system. These players include Trevor Rosenthal, Allan Craig, Yadier Molina and Joe Kelly among others.
In St, Louis, people wear red everywhere, talk baseball, read baseball, think baseball and support the team in good time or bad. But the Cardinals have been among the best for years and have now tied the Giants and Dodgers for winning the most pennants (22) in the National League.
If in town don’t miss visiting “The Hill,” which is an old Italian neighborhood near the Botanical Gardens (oldest in the US) and where Elizabeth Street is named “Hall of Fame Way.” Yogi Berra, Joe Garagiola and legendary sportscaster Jack Buck were all raised on this one little street. And right near the ballpark, stop in at Mike Shannon’s. This grand sports restaurant, owned by local Cardinals player and announcer Mike Shannon used to be a bank; the safe has been converted to a wine cellar. The downstairs area is a must visit; it’s a shrine to all-things-baseball with historic photos, drawings, jerseys and autographs hanging from all the walls.
You can’t beat St. Louis for baseball.
c. Bob Ecker 2013