Take Me Out to theBall Game
700 Clark Ave
St. Louis, MO 63102
True believers flock to cheer on the St. Louis Cardinals
By Mary Hendron
Welcome to Cardinals Nation. For 125 seasons, the thrill, joy and sometimes heartbreak of St. Louis Cardinals baseball has bound generations of St. Louisans and fans from around the globe. It’s game day in the Gateway City. True believers in the “church of baseball” congregate for fellowship, fun and to show faith in their favorite team. Can I get an amen?
The scene outside the ballpark is abuzz long before the gates open. People-watching is the pre-game spectator sport. Thousands of birds-of-a-feather fans migrate toward their home roost—Busch Stadium. Sporting Cardinal red, they pour out of MetroLink train cars and along downtown streets to flow into the ballpark. There’s a sea of red on the Mississippi.
A saxophonist on the street corner blows out a brassy “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” an overture for the play soon to unfold on a diamond-shaped stage. Teenagers pose for selfies with bronze statues of Redbird Hall-of-Famers, many from storied teams that pre-date their grandfathers. Fans toast their favorite players and get a bird’s-eye view of the playing field from 360, the sky-high lounge atop the Hilton at the Ballpark. A woman kisses her fingertips, then gently pats a memorial brick bearing the name of her father, who “Taught his girls to love the game,” the engraved message states. Young parents grasp their toddlers’ hands—rookies being inducted into Cardinals Nation—to begin their own family tradition of support for St. Louis’ boys of summer.
Live bands provide the soundtrack to the pep-rally atmosphere that envelops the Ballpark Village entertainment complex. The Village teems with dining options and activities. Snack on fresh sushi. Shoot the bull—or ride one—at a country music spot. Sing along at a dueling piano bar. Indulge in classic American or Mexican fare. Watch as Fox Sports Midwest, the TV home of the Cardinals, produces live pre- and postgame shows from its second-floor studio. The studio overlooks both the ballpark and the energy-filled, two-tiered Fox Sports Midwest Live! sports bar with its 100-foot-long, retractable glass roof, 40-foot-wide TV screen and concert stage.
Within the Village, the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum, the largest institution dedicated to baseball outside of Cooperstown, houses the legacy of professional baseball in this game-crazed city. World Series trophies, vintage uniforms, historic artifacts and video imagery display the heritage of a great ball club. Visitors can hold the very bats used by Redbird greats, including that of Stan “The Man” Musial, trace the incarnations of St. Louis stadiums and touch screens to access stories and stats about Cardinals baseball.
Nostalgia also reigns outside the museum at the Busch II Infield, greenspace located in the exact infield footprint left by the second Busch Stadium. Here, take a home run trot around the base path where World Champion Cardinals once trod, then celebrate with another St. Louis tradition—a Ted Drewes Frozen Custard available at the Dugout Bar.
Across from Ballpark Village, fashionista fans scour the massive Cardinals Nation Team Store for the latest logoed T-shirts, hats or designer handbags. Need a Cardinals bikini? The shop has you covered, if barely. Team-branded pet collars disappear from racks proving that even cats love these Birds.
All this and more happens long before the umpire cries, “Play ball!”
It’s game day in the Gateway City. Enter Busch Stadium and a familiar, comforting aroma hits you—baseball’s version of that new-car smell—hot dogs, beer and cotton candy. Vendors cry out in stereo: “Beer, cold beer! Scorecards, get your scorecards!” It’s good to be inside the World Headquarters of Cardinals Nation.
Fuel for fans is plentiful. Concession stands stock ubiquitous dogs, burgers, nachos and fries. Carvery-style buffets, barbecue, Asian stir-fry, wood-oven pizza, hot donuts and cold ice cream. Try a berry-brownie kabob or a bratzel—a bratwurst wrapped and baked in pretzel dough. Work off the calories by doing the wave.
It’s an embarrassment of riches for souvenir hunters. The challenge: What to choose? The Cardinals Authentics Shop caters to collectors with official game-used balls, bats, bases and jerseys. Create a cute and cuddly memento such as Fredbird, a Clydesdale, bear and other furry friends from the in-stadium Build-A-Bear Workshop, then deck it out in Redbird gear. Or, take home a personalized, miniature Louisville Slugger.
Fredbird, the team’s energetic, feathered mascot, flies through the stands, poses for photos and “beaks” his admirers with a loving bite to the head. He and his “Team Fredbird” posse dance atop the dugouts and dispense souvenir items to a begging audience.
Game time. Fans rise, doff their caps and sing along to the National Anthem. The stars and stripes flutter above centerfield, framed by the gleaming Gateway Arch. The crowd roars when the Cardinals take the field, dressed in home white emblazoned with the iconic Birds-on-the-Bat logo.
Pitches are hurled. Balls are hit and fielded. Polite, appreciative applause by the Cardinals faithful ripples through the stadium when an opposing athlete makes a spectacular play. Good baseball is recognized and honored here. Visiting players are awed by this. Many cite St. Louis as their favorite place to compete on the road. Out-of-town fans feel welcome, too. St. Louisans know what it means to love your home team. We want you to have fun; we just don’t want you to win. Former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said that “no city has a greater baseball tradition than St. Louis. And in my opinion, there is no greater baseball town than St. Louis.”
It’s game day in the Gateway City. Seventh inning stretch. The Budweiser Clydesdales’ hitch appears on the stadium’s giant video screen. The fabled horses pull their glossy red wagon along the outfield fence and encircle the field. Fans clap along to the beer giant’s theme song, “Here Comes the King”—a St. Louis anthem. Between the top and bottom of the inning, fans sway and deliver a chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
We’re at the bottom of the inning. Cards are up. The white sphere rockets toward home plate. Radar clocks it at 95 mph. Connection is made on the sweet spot. The unmistakable crack of a home run explodes through the stadium. The crowd jumps to its feet. A joyful noise. Then, fireworks!
Yes, it’s game day in the Gateway City. Busch Stadium is the place to be. Hot dogs and Cracker Jacks are the cuisine du jour. Nostalgia melds with the present. People of all ages, and from all over, come together to celebrate America’s historic pastime here in St. Louis. Welcome to Cardinals Nation.