Part photo story, part rambling. (Or really, it's just an illustrated rambling.) If you're reading this on Facebook, please click on "View original post" because I can't promise the pictures will come out right if you don't.
Some photos from this were used in a Maneater feature article on the Cards' win, too.
And if you're interested, view a map of the photos from this. Though the satellite photo still has Old Busch.
Sometime after the Cardinals' improbable Game 1 win, I turned to Alec and said, "So I was thinking... I kinda want to go to St. Louis on Thursday to see the last home World Series game. I mean, there's a parking garage right next to it, and you can kinda see into the stadium from there. If anything, I just want to be around it, even if we're not clinching it."
He responded with something along the lines of "We are so there."
The Tigers' Game 2 win the following day (thanks to Kenny Cheatin' Rogers) instantly guaranteed a Game 5. The plan was on.
Throughout the course of the week, I became worried that the plans wouldn't work out, as we all had to be back for various things on Friday... And that I'd have to drive back to St. Louis for the weekend after that. Even worse was that I'd put off a journalism assignment and found Wednesday night that the event I'd planned on covering that night wouldn't work and a Thursday night event would be the only way out. Luckily, Wednesday also brought along a rainout, which guaranteed our trip could wait until Friday.
Already listening to the first inning on the radio, I began to lose my driving composure as we traveled some double digits above the posted speed limits.
Alec and I left Columbia as soon as we could, which was 5pm. To make matters worse, we needed to swing by North County to get Rashaad and Glenn—basically another 30 minutes out of the way.
But that didn't matter. We were on a mission. Hurriedly, we went through and picked everybody up and found a way downtown...
Around 8:15pm—somewhere around the second inning—we parked the car in one of those expensive garages and made our way toward Baseball Heaven.
It was quite cold out and I was feeling way too excited to stay in any one place, so we decided we'd roam around from inning to inning...
Center Field Gate, Third Inning ≈ 8:30pm
Trekking our way across many crowded city blocks, we approached the stadium. A loud roar rang out from beyond the gates that separated the game from us outsiders. Molina hit a single, as I later found out.
The electricity was in the air. You could hear it, you could see it, you could feel it.
You honestly couldn't see the game from out here, unless you stood at the street corner where Ford Plaza is located--they had a huge screen there which was showing the game live.
But what our eyes couldn't do for us, the rest of our senses did. You could feel Busch Stadium moving and rocking with every play. You didn't need to see the game unfold--you'd just trust the judgement of the 46,638 who got in, and you'd feel the game unfold.
Suddenly, we felt it. A huge ovation rose from within the ballpark. 1-0, Cardinals.
Third Base Gate, Third Base Corner, Home Plate Corner, Fourth Inning ≈ 8:38pm
Stood around the outside of the team store for a bit, as there were plenty of speakers playing the audio broadcast of the game.
You could sort of see the scoreboard from this spot, but it wasn't the best... Very cold and windy on this side of the ballpark.
We leaned in every so often, as you had a perfect view of the big scoreboard... Well, perfect if you lined yourself up the right way. You could hear the in-stadium audio: "Casey pops it into right... Back goes Taguchi, at the track... Over his head, and the Tigers take a 2-1 lead." Meh.
But no more than ten minutes later, a Tigers pitcher gave up a fielding error--the fifth straight game it's happened. And we promptly tied the game and took the lead right after having surrendered it. Cardinal Nation didn't even flinch at having lost the lead for what, 10 minutes? A huge crowd of people who were standing next to the statue of Stan The Man all came over as we heard the stadium go wild while we took the lead. At the end of the inning, we moved on because the wind was quite nasty at this side of the building.
On the way out, we came across a sign that said "I need one
cheap ticket!" The fact that it was lying around meant that someone either signed away their kidney or they simply gave up on getting a World Series ticket...
Parking Garage, Sixth-Seventh Inning ≈ 9:20pm
Alec wanted to buy some of those Scott Spiezio stick-on soul patches. (We bought one for Jack Buck, too. More on that next section.) We were getting tired of the huge crowd around us at that point, so we decided to find a new place to enjoy the game and went to the top of the parking garage. Not a bad plan as we'd seen a lot of people there throughout the night.
These were the crazy fans. If there were 40 fans like me in any given spot, you'd probably have the same sort of insane group as we found on the roof of the nearby parking garage.
People had TVs being run out of their car and everything. People lined up the entire edge of the roof and overlooked the stadium as they listened to the game on their AM radio.
In particular, a ton of people had gathered at one specific corner on the roof. Apparently, within a small viewing area, you could actually see the pitcher's mound and home plate from the roof. I thought it was freaking amazing. There were about 30 people jammed into this tiny little corner... And they were all enjoying it. (Take a look at that pic. For free, it was a good view of a World Series game.)
Between Third Base and Center Field Gates, Seventh Inning ≈ 9:40pm
We stopped by the Jack Buck statue, as somebody had given him one of those 2004 World Series hats. Signed in Sharpie on the hat was the phrase "Tonight, 'we go crazy!'"
We bought an extra Spiezio soul patch for Jack (as I noted in the previous section), and Alec promptly placed it on the statue. The Spiezio patch didn't last on the face very long, but was there long enough for us to enjoy in pictures.
Apparently KSDK (local NBC affiliate, channel 5) saw us, as Alec later saw a short segment about "some fans who added Jack Buck to Spieziomania" on KSDK's postgame coverage. Yeah, we were on TV, as some news crew filmed us putting the soul patch on Jack. It was from some distance away, but according to Alec, it was definitely us.
Center Field Gate, Eighth Inning ≈ 10:05pm
By the time we got back to this area, the crowd had multiplied. Like crazy. Nothing but a sea of red as far as you could see. For the 46,638 inside the stadium, there was at least a thousand or more in the few blocks surrounding the stadium.
There was a stage set up across the street from the stadium--it had been there since the October 1 game (last game of the regular season) that Glenn, Rashaad, and I attended. This time there were tables or bleachers or such on it, and people had filled that area up as the night wore on. (It was pretty empty when we first passed it... I suppose they found the view better from up there.)
Ran into some staffers of the Maneater (at least, the St. Louis natives), as they were in town attending some journalism conference. Maggie, Meg, Abby, Drew, and many others were all there in excited anticipation...
With the crowd as hyped up as it was, we decided not to leave this place. And soon, we all found ourselves counting outs...
Center Field Gate, Top of the Ninth, Two Outs ≈ 10:23pm
Rally towels were in the air, inside the stadium, outside the stadium... Hands were up, people had been chanting "Let's go Cards! Let's go Cards!" nonstop.
But the tune had changed. Suddenly, the crowd outside the gate began in unison: "One more out! One more out!" Cell phones were being raised, the volume was being pumped up. Like I said, you didn't need to see the game unfold, you could feel it happening and you knew what was going on. But then...
With two outs, pinch-runner Ramon Santiago on third, and a full count on ex-Cardinal Placido Polanco, Wainwright threw a ball, allowing the dangerous Brandon Inge to perhaps tie the game up.
The crowd outside groaned in unison. People were getting anxious. They were getting concerned.
But the situation didn't take too much out of crowd. A roar from within the stadium heralded strike one on Inge...
And then strike two.
An eternity passed. "One more pitch, Wainwright, come on... Throw that nasty curveball like you did to Beltran..." We waited longer... (Maybe someone called time... Or maybe we were just that anxious...)
At 10:29:40pm, we went crazy. We all went crazy.
Everybody jumped up and down, everybody was exchanging high fives and hugs... Fireworks were launched. This was it, this was victory... After a long road of doubt and highs and lows and adversity... This was victory.
Eh, but soon the crowds became restless. "Let us in! Let us in!" they chanted. People were climbing the fences to get a better view of the celebration on the field.
I was saying that they shouldn't even bother... A guard on the other side was silently eying the crowd...
But you know? They proved me wrong, as the Cardinals proved the sportswriters wrong. Soon, an usher opened the center field gate, allowing everybody a little taste of baseball heaven in it's greatest moment.
The masses literally bumrushed the gates. The crowd actually was moving me, I was being dragged or lifted and had no control over where I was going; no choice but to go with the flow. It was a bit scary and painful to be pinned by the crowd (not to mention the camera was dangling in my hand), but everything came out alright.
Inside Busch Stadium, 10:40pm
Inside Busch Stadium. For the World Series clincher postgame. For free...
We were inside. They let us in. I couldn't believe it and I still can't. Madness.
They were presenting the World Series trophy to the team. You couldn't find a place to see the field for the life of you. We were some of the first to go to the big soda machine area, because behind the soda machines was simply a screen. And a view.
We were inside the stadium for a good 40 minutes... And it's all a blur to me. I know we made our way around to the Coca Cola Scoreboard Patio and checked out what was on the stadium TV system...
...and Alec and I found our way into some seats on the first base line. I sat there for a good few minutes just taking it all in... And to think, they let us in here for free. (Also, the parking garage let everybody out for free, too... So the only money I spent was on gas and the Spiezio patches... AMAZING!)
Downtown St. Louis, 11:30pm
Bedlam in St. Louis. But in a good way. Everybody was energetic. Everybody was screaming, exchanging high fives with everyone they encountered. People were riding on top of cars, jumping up and down and letting loose...
And it was good. The entire city rejoiced in unison. The sound of car horns constantly permeated through the air. The noise wouldn't cease until we were miles away from the stadium.
But it was okay. I'd waited years for this, especially after the heartbreak of the 2004 postseason... After the almost-miracle of the 2005 postseason... And I can honestly say that I'd followed almost the entire 2006 season, through it's ups and downs... (My former roommate, Zach, can attest to the fact that I had early regular season baseball on the TV at all times in April and May, before school ended. Something about the novelty of the new stadium drew me in early in April and after that novelty wore off, I kept coming back.) It's the first time I can really say I more or less followed a full baseball season--and it makes the World Series title feel that much better.
But the city and a lot of other people had been waiting for longer than I've been alive. St. Louis has been said to have the "best fans in baseball" and they've been patient and supportive of the team for the 24 bittersweet years since the team's last World Series title. And as sweet as it feels to me, as big as this feels to me, I can't imagine how it must feel to those who have been waiting longer than I've been alive.
The night was theirs as much as it was mine.