On Sunday afternoon, I took the 4-1/2 hour ride from Chicago to Saint Louis to watch the ESPN Sunday Night Cubs/Cards game. This year is the last season of baseball at Busch Stadium (actually this current model is Busch Stadium II). I have not been down to Busch for a Cubs/Cards game since the classic 13 inning contest on a hot Saturday afternoon in August of 1998 (GM can let interested parties in on the "Rest of the Story" for the remainder of that trip to St. Lou). My expectations for the Northsiders on this night were pretty low. The Cubs chances were not bad with Mark Prior on the hill.
We got to St. Louis, parked by the Arch and went to get some food. Did you know Saint Louis has a local rapid transit train? I have been there several times and never noticed. So we made our way over to the ballpark. When you get to Busch Stadium you immediately see the new ballpark which is going up right next door. The new ballpark has a beautiful dark red brick exterior which reminds me of the Budweiser Plant a few miles away. One of the really neat things about the stadium is you can walk around the outside of the old stadium and look inside the new park. The only downside I could see inside the new park is the red seats they are using. Didn't the architects take a look at the Reds ballpark? Red seats don't work.
It was too hot and humid to describe Sunday afternoon in St. Louis. By the time first pitch rolled around the scoreboard read 98 degrees. So as I took my seat along the first base line I questioned why the hell I had made the trip to sit amongst Cardinal Nation on this hot July night. What followed was the most entertaining ballgame I have been to this season--it was a classic Cubs/Cardinals game. Mark Prior was not himself in the first. Prior looked tired and he was pitching at a Sutcliffe like pace. He gave up three solo shots to left handed hitters. I was really questioning why I had made this trip.
Slowly but surely the Cubs clawed there way back into this ballgame. Henry Blanco hit a HR and added a two out RBi single. Hank had 4 hits on the night! The Cubs had pulled to within 1 at 3-2. All game long LaRussa pitched around DLee. In the 8th it backfired. Lee walked and Ray King entered to retire Burnitz. Then The Genius went to his pen for Crazy Julian Tavarez. Aramis Ramirez took Tavarez Lee to give the Cubs the lead.
In the ninth Dempster had the Redbirds down to their final strike, but David Eckstein singled to right scoring the tying run. In the tenth the Cubs had some fun. A Walker double was followed by an intentional walk to Lee. Burnitz layed down a sacrifice bunt that moved the Cub runners to second and third with one out. Ramirez was walked intentionally, the Genius and Dusty were recreating the game in this inning. LaRussa's moves almost paid off. Barrett whiffed and Neifi came to the plate. You all know what happened. Neifi went yard and the Cubs Won! It was Neifi's second career Grand Slam. At this point Busch Stadium cleared out FAST. Cub fans enjoyed the moment, there have not been many good moments for the Northsiders at Busch in recent years.
I am happy the Cards are moving next door. For some reason the Cubs never played good in these Cookie Cutter stadia. In the new Parks the Cubs have faired a little better. Hopefully the same thing will happen in St. Louis next year.
THE ATMOSPHERE: Busch Stadium is not that old of a park. They remodeled the park in 96 or 97 taking out the Astro Turf and putting in a new scoreboard. Even though Busch is a cookie cutter stadium it is in town where baseball is king. Due to that fact that atmosphere in the park is awesome. If you go to a Cub/Cardinal game you are treated to some fun jawing, but it usually does not get ugly like a Yankees/Red Sox game or a Cub/White Sox game--many families come to the game split between Cubs and Cards so maybe that limits the fights and ugliness. Still this rivalry is great fun and my favorite in baseball.