DOUG'S DIGGINGS: I can check another stadium off my list!
Some people may call it madness, but my youngest adult son Darrin and I drove to St. Louis last weekend for a baseball game!
There is a reason, however. My two sons and I have made it an unofficial goal over the years to try and visit every baseball stadium in America. Those who have followed my columns over the years know that we occasionally take baseball trips. The most recent was two years ago when we did a five-day driving trip and attended baseball games in Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Detroit and Milwaukee.
After that trip, I was down to six stadiums left on my list. My youngest son, however, managed to get to games in Dallas, Houston and San Diego in recent years -- cutting his list down to three. By now you’ve guessed it; St. Louis was one of the stadiums we still had to visit.
After last weekend I’m down to five stadiums (Dallas, Houston, San Diego, Atlanta and Baltimore) and Darrin is down to two (Atlanta and Baltimore). My oldest son Donovan was unable to make the St. Louis trip. He has the same ones I do, plus St. Louis.
We left Friday afternoon (July 19). Since Donovan could not go last weekend, Darrin’s wife Jen also went along -- thank goodness she likes baseball!
The trip is about 580 miles one way, so our plan was to get about 350 behind us Friday night. Darrin lives in Eden Prairie, so after doing a little research on the web, we decided to go down 35W to Mason City Iowa; from there we went through Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and spent the night in the town of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. That left us just a little over 200 miles for Saturday morning.
I was a bit concerned about taking these somewhat “non-freeway” routes, but the roads were great. I believe it was four-way, or freeway, the entire route. We basically hit stop lights in only two cities (Waterloo and Hannibal, Mo).
Driving down through Missouri the next day, we came across the town of Hannibal. Since we had some extra time, we decided to stop and take a look at some of the sites in the town where Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens – Nov. 30, 1835-April 21, 1910) grew up.
The town also provided the backdrop for two of his famous books, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (1876) and the adventures of “Huckleberry Finn” (1884).
Tom Sawyer drew on Twain’s childhood in Hannibal. Tom Sawyer was modeled on Twain as a child, with traces of two schoolmates, John Briggs and Will Bowen. The book also introduced in a supporting role Huckleberry Finn, based on Twain's boyhood friend Tom Blankenship.
We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in Hannibal, but did the boyhood home of Twain and many other strategic locations in the community, including an overlook of the Mississippi River.
We continued on to St. Louis and after a lunch, spent some of our afternoon at the Gateway Arch. The arch is the tallest national monument in the United States at 630 feet. Construction began Feb. 12, 1963, and the last section of the arch was put into place on Oct. 28, 1965.
The arch weighs 17,246 tons. Nine hundred tons of stainless steel were used to build the arch, more than any other project in history. The arch was built at a cost of $13 million.
Also, just two blocks away in the arch was another building that played a role in U.S. history -- the Old Courthouse, built between 1839 and 1862. The courthouse is the site where an enslaved husband and wife, Dred and Harriet Scott, sued for their freedom, and Virginia Minor sued for a woman’s right to vote in 1872. Both the arch and courthouse are operated by the National Park Service.
Just a couple of blocks from the arch and courthouse is Busch Stadium, home of Cardinals. The “new” Busch Stadium opened April 4, 2006, and has a capacity of 46,861. It’s a very nice ballpark, but I noticed a couple of minor things when comparing it to Target Field. Busch had escalators, but just one in each location going up to the upper decks. Target Field has two and three to handle more people and leave an up and down option for the entire game.
The bigger difference is that most new stadiums have open corridors from which fans can still see the baseball field. In St. Louis the corridors were walled, with no chance of seeing the field while buying a hot dog.
A fun fact: The Cardinals became the first team in almost 100 years to win a World Series Championship in the inaugural season of a new ballpark. The Cards defeated the Detroit Tigers (4 games to 1) in the 2006 World Series.
It was hot in St. Louis, but we got a break as the game started at 6:15 p.m. A storm formed just south and east of the stadium. We didn’t get any rain, but saw the temperature drop from 94 degrees to 84 degrees and later 78 degrees. It made for a comfortable night at the game.
We also had an added bonus. It was “Red” Schoendienst jersey night. We all received a Red Schoendienst Cardinal jersey as we entered the park.
Albert Fred "Red" Schoendienst was born Feb. 2, 1923, and played 19 seasons (1945-1963), mostly with the Cardinals. He did, however, spend time with the Milwaukee Braves (1957-60) and was part of the Braves World Series team in 1957. That was just about the time I was becoming a serious baseball fan and remember the 1957 Braves season very well. He also had a short stint with the New York Giants (1956-57), but ended his career with the Cardinals in 1963. He is still active in the Cardinals organization.
We left the game a bit early (it was a game that lasted nearly four hours). We wanted to beat the traffic out of the downtown area a bit because we had to drive back to Mount Pleasant, Iowa, that night. For the record, the San Diego Padres defeated the Cardinals 5-3.
All went well and we can check another stadium off our list!