On Thursday, June 20th (my wedding anniversary), I started my 10,000 miles “Midsummer Odyssey” to the Midwest and London. During the 14 day’s journey, I made six stops, visited three MLB ballparks, and saw eight games. A somewhat exhausting and exhilarating adventure with Mrs. Nomad and Nomad the Younger traveling with me at times. The first stop was to see Albert Pujols homecoming in St. Louis.
The Nomads lived in St. Louis for a short time when the youngest one was an infant. So, a trip back was a bit of a homecoming. That night’s game was a more critical homecoming for Cardinals’ fans. The mighty Albert Pujols was returning to St. Louis for the first time since he joined the Angels in 2011. I planned the trip to St. Louis to coincide with the game as I wanted to see the crowd’s reaction.
Pujols will enter the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, possibly unanimously. I can’t imagine anyone voting against him. Mariano Rivera’s election last year broke the silly rule that no one can be elected into the Hall unanimously. I’m guessing Derek Jeter will also be unanimous when he is elected next year. Certainly, Pujols deserves to be a unanimous selection also.
A brief list of his accomplishments in his 19-year career1:
- 2001 Rookie of the Year
- 2005, 2008 & 2009 Most Valuable Player
- 2006, 2011 Member of World Champion St. Louis Cardinals
- Tied with Alex Rodriguez for most seasons with 100 RBI (14)
- 32nd player to achieve 3,000 hits in his career
- 4th player to achieve 2,000 career RBI
- 9th player to hit 600 career home runs
- Currently ranks 6th on the career home run list
- 4th player to record both 600 home runs and 3,000 hits
Leaving, Anger and Reconciliation
Cardinals fans were angry when he turned down a lucrative offer from the Cardinals and accepted an offer from the Angels. For example, at spring training, I saw a boy’s Pujols jersey with the number 5 covered in duct tape. My opinion was that he should continue his legacy in St. Louis and win a few more championships. After all, he had a chance to have his statue next to the great Stan Musial if he stayed. On the other hand, Pujols says that he did not feel appreciated in St. Louis. That he felt “more appreciated” by the Angels’ owners. 2
Any anger from the time Albert left had certainly dissipated by the time he returned. The organization shared a highlight reel, and the crowd showed its appreciation every chance they could. There were standing ovations each time he came to the plate. They cheered some more when he left the game, replaced for a pinch-runner in the 7th inning.3
Rain and The Old Haunts
On Friday morning, after I worked on my blog, I took a short walk to the Gateway Arch. I wanted to check it out before I picked up Nomad the Younger at the airport. She was driving in from Memphis and planned to park at the airport while we drove around Missouri and Iowa. She would pick her car up when she flew back from Des Moines on Monday.
When I arrived at the Mississippi River, I realized how much rain there had been. I saw the news and knew that they had experienced storms but didn’t understand the impact until I saw the river. It had crested its banks, and street lights and walkways were under water. The river’s dramatic height was also evident as it covered most of the Eads Bridge foundation.
During my short walk to the river, the skies started to darken, and I hurried back to the hotel. I barely made it back to the hotel before it started to rain. By the time I was in my car and pulling out of the garage, there was a downpour of epic proportions. Sheets of rain. This was the type of storm we dealt with for the next few days.
It was sunny again by the time I picked up Nomad the Younger at the airport. The skies darkened, and it rained again as we visited the house where we lived almost 30 years ago. Then we drove back downtown, stopping in Clayton to see the office building where I worked – fun memories.
We walked through a downpour during the short walk to the game. When it rained harder, we decided to duck into a restaurant and have some food and wait out the rain.
The newest (built in 2006) Busch Stadium is beautiful. A red brick affair that has the ambiance similar to SunTrust Park in Atlanta. However, SunTrust seems a bit out of place in the suburbs, while Busch feels right at home downtown. Also, and similar to SunTrust’s “Boomtown,” Bush has “Ballpark Village,” a retail and entertainment area just outside the park. The current village is smaller than Boomtown, but it is undergoing expansion to include a hotel, residential and office area. There may be more construction later.4
Clark Avenue runs between Ballpark Village and the Stadium and is closed for pedestrian-only traffic. There are bars with rooftop seating and viewing areas on the rooftops. Additionally, inside the ballpark, there are a series of patios where people congregate and watch the game. From our seats, the terraces and village rooftops seem to extend the ballpark, creating a city like atmosphere. It reminded me of a small version of the Wrigley rooftops. Although, I’m not sure that was their plan.
Thirty years ago when we visited the older Busch Stadium, one of my fondest memories was a famous statue of Stan Musial. The inscription on the statue read:
Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior … Here stands baseball’s perfect knightFord Frick
It was more than appropriate that the statue was moved to the new Busch Stadium. However, on another corner, there is another series of sculptures that surrounded the old Busch Stadium.5 Until I did some research, I thought they were added when the new stadium was built. I don’t remember seeing them when I went to the old stadium in the late 1980s.
These statues are equally memorable and they underscore how the Cardinals celebrate their great history. The celebration includes the Negro Leagues and one of its former players, Cool Papa Bell. Cool Papa played for the St. Louis Stars.
Moreover, the statues seemed to resonate in the rain.
There are a few hot dogs that one can try at the stadium:
- The Regular $5.00
- Nathan’s $9.00
- Jumbo $7.00
- Bacon Wrapped $10.25
Faithful readers will not be surprised to learn that the Nomad had the Bacon Wrapped hot dog. It’s a “jumbo hot dog wrapped in Applewood smoked bacon, served on a locally made jumbo bun.” You have a choice of toppings including baked beans, pico de gallo, spicy aioli, and crispy fried onions. I had the spicy aioli and crispy fried onions. It rivals the Randy Jones Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog in San Deigo – and I’m starting to notice a bacon influenced trend.
Here’s something you’ve likely never seen at a ballpark, I certainly hadn’t. In the second inning, alarms blared, and we were told to leave our seats and head for the stairs for shelter. It was a tornado warning. The players were walking around the field, seemingly not knowing what to do. Many left their seats, others did not, and the whole experience was over in a few short minutes.
The weather followed us where ever we went for the rest of the weekend. The next morning, we left for Kansas City.
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- Wikipedia – Albert Pujols
- Dan Caesar, “Pujols opens up about leaving Cardinals, says he felt more appreciated by Angels owners,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 8, 2019
- Bradford Doolittle, “Pujols’ Busch Stadium return ‘just pretty amazing,’ ESPN.com June 22nd, 2019
- Mary Delach Leonard, “Rooms With A View: Ballpark Village Expansion Is Rising Into Downtown Sky,” The Gateway March 31st, 2019
- Wikipedia – Busch Stadium