Friday, August 10, 2007

Game #15: Halfway at the Arch

In a nice bit of symbolism, my tour hits the halfway point with today’s game as I reach St Louis and pass under its signature landmark, the Gateway Arch representing the way to the West. The fact that I’m actually traveling east, from KC to St Louis to Cincinnati, during my generally westward ballpark tour, is just a technicality that we’ll chose to put aside for now.

It was hot again today, with a high in triple digits, and the gametime temperature still in the low 90s at 7 PM. This made for a hot and sticky ballpark at the start. Furthermore, while you can do all sorts of great things online to see where your seat will be and what your view will look like, the one thing you still can’t know in advance is whether the person in the seat next to you will… er… let’s just say whether they’ll overflow into your seat more than most people will. I did a bit of bouncing around in my section before finally finding a seat that was far more comfortable on such a hot evening.

Cardinals manager Tony Larussa has been batting his pitcher in the #8 spot, with second baseman Adam Kennedy hitting ninth. This is a pretty bold move, and a definite blow to the ego of any position player finding himself batting behind a pitcher. Theoretically, Larussa’s trying to get another batter on base for the heart of his lineup, but Kennedy’s .217 batting average may be more of an issue. Coincidentally, Kennedy made the final out today, though after a strong and well-fought at-bat against Dodgers closer Takashi Saito.

That at bat came at the end of another tremendous pitchers’ duel, in which Dodgers ace Brad Penny (7 IP) and Cardinals ace-by-default-due-to-injuries Adam Wainwright (9 IP) each kept the other team off the board through 8 innings. But, a James Loney 2-run home run in the top of the 9th gave the Dodgers all the offense they’d need. One day after Rick Ankiel was the news of the day by making it back to the majors as an outfielder 7 years after completely losing his mental capacity to be a major league pitcher, Ankiel was able to advance a bottom-of-the-ninth rally with a base hit, but not to provide the necessary heroics for the second day in a row.

It’s a shame, really. This was a game I *really* wanted the home team to win. But several attempts to get a “Beat LA!” cheer going in the crowd just didn’t seem to have the desired effect.

The new Busch stadium is quite nice, in a classic (and starting to become just a wee bit repetitive) new-retro, brick-and-steel way. It was also quite expensive, but very full, with a sellout and over 44,000 fans in attendance on this Friday night. The World Champs thing has apparently done them quite well. The crowd was also very knowledgeable, in the sort of way that happens when your team has been doing well of late. You could feel that the crowd understood the dynamics of the game, and recognized the mounting 9th inning come-back in a way that only really happens when you’ve seen that sort of thing several times before. Unfortunately, in this case it fell short, but the essence was still there. They also, wonder of wonders, sang along to “Take me out to the ballgame” in the 7th inning stretch with more gusto than any park to date. Wrigley, you’re on notice…

The scoreboards were a shame, especially for a 2-year old stadium. While they displayed both teams’ full lineups at all times, an excellent decision, there was a true scarcity of other information available. Furthermore, a large clear screen was being used for very detailed views of out-of-town scores, which was nice, but was space that could have been well used during play to display more relevant information, saving the out-of-town scores for between innings. The same was true for screens between decks that were dedicated, remarkably, to identifying groups and allowing people to send in text messages, even during play.

Before the game, they had several hundred young girls as young as 5 who were part of various area gymnastics groups get to practice and tumble out on the field. This was very cute, but I’m not completely convinced Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny was thrilled. Now if only they were able to keep the girls in his way a little longer…

Having gotten in to St Louis the night before, I was able to spend some time exploring the city. In particular, I went on the must-be-done tour of the city’s great marketing… er… brewing company. After all, while “life’s too short to drink bad beer”, there are two words that undeniably come to mind in the phrase: “_________ _____, St Louis, Missouri”

I was also able to sample a signature food of the city itself in Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Historic Route 66. It was decent, but fell short of both Tosci’s in Cambridge, MA (my nostalgic favorite) and Vivoli in Florence, Italy (objectively the best I’ve had).

And, of course, the Gateway Arch itself, the city’s key landmark. This was really just down the street from the park, allowing me to get a chance to see it up close and personal, and to get a few cheesy photos. Enjoy…

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