Cardinal nation vacation in the heartland's "hot" box
ST. LOUIS - Vacations come few and far between for one-man sports departments.
Careful planning never spares the fact that some events will simply go uncovered, like the Tuffy Nelson Golf Tournament and the opening rounds of the amateur region baseball tournaments.
While I regret that this happens, I don't regret taking off for a bit of relaxation before the school year begins and to celebrate my birthday.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen much of my sporting attire while covering games, or the décor of my office, that I decided on a trip to soupy, humid St. Louis for a weekend of Cardinals games as my vacation spot of choice.
When telling a few people of this decision, I heard more than once, "You're going on vacation to watch baseball. Haven't you had enough of that this summer?"
I did ponder the thought of picking up a program at the two games I saw at Busch Stadium. However, the thought of actually scoring the game while there did seem a bit over the top and not very vacation-like.
Work only crept in once, when starting pitcher Adam Wainwright hit a game-tying double and then scored the go-ahead run.
For some reason, I just had to post that, with a picture, to my Twitter page (@eotsports).
Coming into the weekend series with the Brewers, I had retained a life-long winning streak of Cardinal victories during my in-person attendance at the old Busch Stadium and the Redbirds did not disappoint, polishing off a three-game sweep of Milwaukee Saturday and Sunday in the new digs.
I like to believe that were I a season-ticket holder, the Cardinals would win every game at home that mythical year.
Nutty, but a rabid fan can dream.
Saturday's heat index at game time was 101 and from our seats in the pavilion deck, in the sun, above home plate, only a hotel hand towel kept beads of sweat from dripping into my $8 bottle of Budweiser.
My affinity with the Cardinals began in 1978. I was seven-years-old. All I remember were third base seats, baby blue uniforms and Pete Vukovich finding a way to beat the 'Big Red Machine' from Cincinnati.
Subsequent trips throughout childhood to visit family in the area cemented the Cardinals as my favorite team of any sport, not just baseball.
This past weekend was the 30th anniversary of the 1982 World Series Championship team and Saturday night's game featured a parade of that team including Whitey Herzog, Ozzie Smith, Keith Hernandez and my favorite from back in the day, Tito Landrum, and many more.
It was like being briefly sent back in a time machine to childhood. Perfect for a middle-aged man saying goodbye to the big four-oh and realizing in nine years somehow, I am going to be aged one-half century.
St. Louis is a fantastic baseball town. The fans are rabid and as knowledgeable as any baseball city in the country.
It doesn't hurt that my beloved Birds are also the defending World Series champions, fresh off one of the most exciting series victories in baseball history, in seven games, over the Texas Rangers last October.
As a Cardinals fan who lives in Twins territory, it was great to see people decked out in Cardinal red everywhere we went around town.
The newly built Busch Stadium (2006) is similar to the Twins' Target Field in that it allots spacious views of the surrounding downtown, with the Gateway Arch prominently gracing the outfield's backdrop.
It was my first trip to the new stadium and seeing grass on the field was a welcome change to the old Astroturf of the 1980's.
I busted out my hometown hero David Freese jersey and he promptly went 0-4 in game one and saved me by getting a hit in game two.
While I cheer for the Twins on Target Field visits, it was great to let loose and even join in on a wave or two as the games got more exciting in the latter innings.
There's just something special about watching a team I've been cheering for since I can remember and doing it in my home away from home.
We sat by a couple kids from Kentucky during game one and during Sunday's game, a baby girl, less than a year old, and her family entertained the surrounding fans as she enjoyed her first Cardinals experience.
That is what going to Major League Baseball games is about. Having fun, a beer or two, a hot dog, while surrounded by little kids in awe of America's pastime on its biggest stage.
I care a lot about baseball. To me, it is the ultimate in live sports entertainment and that's coming from a pretty fired-up hockey fan, as well.
St. Louis is one of the best places to watch baseball. I highly recommend a trip there for those who live for hardball.
Finally, a word of advice, the left field home run porch is shaded and the scalpers outside the stadium can be dickered down to a two-for-one ticket price with the right amount of laissez-faire attitude and an unwillingness to go to an ATM.
We scored $114 worth of tickets for sixty bucks and with a breeze, the shade of the left field porch and temps in the high 80's, I didn't even need a towel.