busch stadium

The timing for this post works out pretty well, as yesterday was Father’s Day and I’m recapping a father-daughter trip I took with my Dad to St. Louis a couple of weeks ago.  I knew that I was going to go to the game on Memorial Day after the schedule came out, but my dad needed some convincing! Finally, on Easter, I talked him into driving out with me on Sunday and coming back Monday after the game. You’d think it would be easy to get people, especially baseball fans to go to games with me, but it’s tough work!

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The drive is really simple from Columbus, just over six hours straight on I-70. Both of us our beer fans, so I thought visiting the Budweiser Brewery would be a good start to our “tourist day.” We arrived at the brewery around 1:30 pm and signed up for a free tour. The free tours fill up fast, so make sure you get there early on the weekends. Our tour wasn’t until 4:00 pm, but we killed time getting lunch at a bar down the street and checking out the mini-museum in the front of the brewery.

Eventually, it was time for our tour and it was no joke, a few adults and like 20 kids. Why people would bring their kids on a tour of a brewery, I have no idea! I suppose the Clydesdale horses had some allure, but other than that I thought “that sucks” being a kid on the tour. We learned about the history and the brewing process, but the best part, besides the horses, were the free samples! I tried Shock Top Bavarian Pretzel Wheat… wish we had it in Ohio!

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After our tour, we headed downtown to walk around the ballpark and the Arch. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it up the Arch, it was sold out both days (buy tickets online ahead of time), but we got plenty of pictures by it and just enjoyed the splendor of it with our feet firmly on the ground. Personally, I was thrilled to not have to go back up, especially with the crowds. As I mentioned during my last visit to St. Louis, it’s a small room up there with tiny windows- not a good time if you have even the mildest claustrophobia! From the Arch, we walked over to the ballpark, which was empty since the Cards were in Cincinnati. Ballpark Village next to the park just opened earlier this year and I was eager to explore it. There was a watch party going on outside the Hall of Fame, that had drawn quite the crowd. My dad looked around and said, “they outdraw the Tribe.” That’s a dad burn! We hung out for a bit before I suggested we hit Little Italy for one last stop and dinner.

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If you go on trips with me you better be ready to jam in as many activities as possible. I’m a go, go, go person and will cram in all the city sights into my (short) visit. We headed to the Hill as they call it and stopped on Elizabeth St. to see Yogi Berra’s childhood home. Across the street is Joe Garagiola’s childhood home and down the street is a guy who played for the Browns way back when. I wish I lived on that road after reading the plaques… what was in the water? Growing up in an Italian family (my mother’s side), I frequented Cleveland’s Little Italy (it’s the best) and I like to check out other Little Italys and compare them. St. Louis’ was the most residential Little Italy I’ve ever visited. It was more of just a neighborhood, not very commercial. We did find a restaurant open on a Sunday night (Lorenzo’s) and tried the fried ravioli since the city is known for them.  I wasn’t crazy about them or the pizza, but my dad liked both. He’s not too hard to please, so take that with a grain of salt! 😉 

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Now in my head after dinner, we would go try some bourbon, but we were both tired and in mini food comas. Another time dad, I promise! We stayed at the Union Station Hotel downtown that I found on Priceline through their name your own price deals. Right now Priceline is my go to for website for deals over Expedia and Hotels.com. I’ve had better luck with it, though I’m always up for new sites!

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The next morning we got up and headed to Pappy’s Smokehouse for some St. Louis BBQ. This was a huge deal to me! Normally I travel with my sister Alex, who is a vegetarian and not about to let me go to a BBQ joint. We got there about 10 minutes before the restaurant opened and the line was already out the door! I saw someone go in to do pickup and quickly figured out carry out is the way to go. We placed our order and walked out 20 minutes later. Unless you’re hellbent on eating it there, that’s the secret to beating the crowds. We found a picnic table downtown after we parked (meters are free on holidays!) and went to town on ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, sweet potato fries, potatoes, and deep fried corn. It was heaven!

st. louis cardinals

With full bellies, we walked under 10 minutes to the ballpark and despite long, long lines, we got in quickly at the center field gate. The giveaway for the game was a replica World Series ring from 50 years ago when the Cardinals beat the Yankees. Not that I cared to commemorate that win, the ring is fantastic- looks pretty real. I wonder how many men are using those to pick up ladies at bars now. Hmmm…

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Dad and I hung out and watched the Yankees batting practice and talked to the Cardinal fans around us. My dad ended up saying he was surprised by how nice the fans were to us and how he enjoyed reminiscing about old games with them. I agreed and said I preferred visiting NL ballparks because their fans generally don’t harbor any strong Yankee hate. It also helps that the Cardinals are a storied organization that cares about the product they put on the field. Happy fan bases are much more fun to hang out with!

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Before the game, there was a special ceremony for the 1964 World Series Champion team. They were all paraded out in Mustangs and the crowd went nuts. I appreciated the passion and the history, though I’ll be honest I didn’t know who any of the guys were. My dad knew most of them and he enjoyed seeing the big name guys from when he first started to listen to the sport on the radio. Thinking back to a time when you didn’t have every game on TV and didn’t know what parks and players looked like seems insane now. My dad is only 30 years older than me, but his stories seem way more vintage than that. He has some good ones… will have to have him write a few down for a Fan Follow Friday post sometime.

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After the ceremony, the grounds crew threw the tarp on the field. Inclement weather was supposed to roll in and they decided to delay the game for an hour. We killed time walking around the park and watching some highlights from the ’64 World Series. Despite the forecast calling for rain, it didn’t come, until they started the game. As luck would have it, it didn’t rain until they actually got on the field. Tickets were uber expensive for this game- we paid $40 (each) for our standing room only tickets on StubHub. I was monitoring prices but they were only going up, so I bought them and saved $10 from what they were on the team website. Nosebleeds were around $80 for this game… no thanks, I’ll stand! We found a great spot in left field and ended up watching the entire game despite the rain from there. We stood with a pastor and his wife that were Cardinals fans and they were great company throughout the game. I have to reiterate, Cards fans are fantastic!

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The game was everything you could want between two evenly matched teams. Michael Wacha was on the mound for the Cards and the Yanks got on the board early, but St. Louis evened it up quickly. The teams went back and forth, but New York sent it into extras. Even though we had a long ride home, we were thrilled for free baseball! The game was intense as the managerial chess match ensued. It’s so scary being the away team in extras- one mistake and you’re done! Luckily the Yankees outlasted the Cardinals and got the gritty win 6-4 in 12. When your team wins, extra innings are totally justified!

The win was the perfect ending to our trip. I couldn’t have asked for a better time with my dad. He hasn’t gone on a baseball trip since new Yankee Stadium with my sister in 2009 or 2010- long overdue in my opinion! This was my last ballpark to see a baseball game in (just visited in 2012) and I was glad the person who got me into the sport was there to share that accomplishment.

Busch Stadium itself isn’t anything earth shattering architecturally- it’s another pretty brick ballpark that boasts a great backdrop with the Arch. What it lacks in originality is quickly made up for by the atmosphere thanks to the fan base and the unmitigated passion they exude throughout the entire game. St. Louis is a pure baseball town and we loved visiting and being a part of it for a couple days. For me, this sport isn’t just about the game on the field (which I love of course!), but the experiences you have as a whole and the relationships you foster while you watch. My dad’s happiness following the game gave me great joy, much like watching  Alex see Matsui retire last season. I know I can’t take credit for Yankee wins, but I did make sure those two were at the games and God did the rest (He’s the real MVP)!

I spent a lot of time in this post describing what we did in St. Louis and not as much on the ballpark. Hopefully, you liked reading about what we did aside from the game. Aside from the food, it was all free activities and it might help to inspire someone who isn’t a big baseball fan to visit with you. Part of the fun in traveling for baseball is exploring great America cities, so make sure you take some time to play tourist during your trip. I did a series of posts on free/cheap activities and breweries if you need a nudge getting started:

Exploring the NL West Cities on a Budget (links to all the divisional cities at the bottom of the post!)

Ballparks and Breweries (one of my favorite things to do in each city!)

 

 

 

 

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