Who Played Here: St.
Louis Browns (Baltimore Orioles), April 23, 1902 to September 27, 1953;
St. Louis Cardinals, July 1, 1920 to May 8, 1966.
Opened: April 23, 1902
First night game: May 24, 1940
Last game: May 8, 1966
Capacity: 8,000 (1902); 18,000
(1909); 34,000 (1926); 30,500 (1953).
Louis Browns (1902-1952); St. Louis Cardinals (1953-1966)
Cost: $500,000 (1925 refurbishment)
Sportsman's Park was baseball's equivalent of a fun house - it was a place
of magic, where stars named Dizzy and Rajah and Enos could shine, where a
midget and a one-armed outfielder
could play with the big boys, and where the game's most depressed
franchise could rise to storybook prominence and win a pennant. It
was a place where Stan the Man and Rogers Hornsby carved out legendary
careers, where the Horse Lady whinnied and where a goat was used to keep
the outfield grass trim.
How could you not lovee Sportsman's Park, with the colorful Budweiser
eagle that flapped its wings atop the massive left field scoreboard for
more than a decade, as if threatening to carry the ballpark and everybody
in it off to baseball heaven? This was a ballpark that could make
you laugh out loud, gasp with awe, or weep with frustration - sometimes
all in a single afternoon.
It stood for 33 years as a house divided, hosting both the successful St.
Louis Cardinals and the hapless St. Louis Browns. The St. Louis Browns
played here from 1902 to
1920, when it was rebuilt out of steel and concrete - from then until
1953, it hosted the Browns and the St. Louis Cardinals, who moved over
from Robison Field. The Browns struggled to draw crowds, while the
Cardinals prospered; finally, in 1953, the hapless Browns moved to
Baltimore as owner Bill Veeck was encouraged to sell the team. In
the spring of 1953, Veeck sold Sportsman's Park to August Busch Jr., owner
of the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Browns became tenants of the
Cardinals. The Browns moved to Baltimore following the 1953 season,
but the Cardinals remained at Sportsman's Park for another 13 seasons.
The park underwent minor renovations in 1953, dropping the capacity to
30,500. It was also renamed Busch Stadium. (The National League
refused to allow the name to be changed to Budweiser Stadium after the
brand of beer sold by Busch's company, Anheuser-Busch.) The
Cardinals continued to play home games at Busch Stadium unti 1966.
On May, 8, 1966, the Cards played the final game at the old park, a 10-5
loss to the Giants. Following the game, home plate was taken from
the park to the new Busch Memorial Stadium, and Sportsman's Park was
closed for good. It was torn down shortly after. However, the
site is still used for ball games; a baseball field belonging to the
Herbert Hoover Boys Club is now located where the park used to stand.
Eddie Gaedel stunt: In 1951, Bill Veeck bought the moribund St. Louis
Browns - the year that the American League was celebrating it's 50th
birthday. Veeck thought he could make more money with a bad
team and a lot of gimmicks than he could with a winning team. One of
his gimmicks involved Eddie Gaedel, a 3'7" 65-pound midget, who was sent in to
lead off the second game of a double-header against the Detroit Tigers on
August 19, 1951, by which time the Browns were 36 games out. Veeck
threw an immense birthday party for the AL, with fireworks, jugglers,
acrobats, a band led by Satchel Paige, baseball clown Max Patkin, and a
birthday cake that was rolled out to the pitcher's mound.
Out of the cake popped Eddie Gaedel, wearing the number 1/8. Veeck
had offered him $100, and told him what he wanted to do - he had measured
Gaedel's strike zone in a crouch at 1 1/2 inches high, and threatened to
shoot him if he took a swing. But Gaedel had thoughts of glory, and
kept trying to show off his swing. He asked Veeck, "How tall
was Wee Willie Keeler?" Veeck replied with a straight face,
"He was six-foot-five-inches tall."
The Browns first batter was Frank Saucier, but Gaedel was sent in as a
pinch-hitter. To Veeck's horror, he didn't go into a crouch, but
instead stood straight up in a fair approximation of Ty Cobb's
stance. Nevertheless, Tiger pitcher Bob Cain was laughing so hard he
walked him on four pitches. Gaedel took first base, and everyday right
fielder Jim Delsing went in
to pinch run for him - on his way out, Gaedel patted Delsing on the rear
in true baseballer fashion.
Veeck later hired Gaedel for other stunts. The last of these came at
Comiskey Park in 1959, when Veeck was
owner of the White Sox. Gaedel and three other midgets, all dressed
as martians, dropped from the sky and "captured" the White Sox
tiny double-play combination of Nellie Fox
and Luis Aparicio, who would finish
one-two in AL MVP voting that year. The Martians quickly made Fox
and Aparicio honorary Martians, and informed the crowd that they were
there to help them in their battle against the giant Earthlings.
Unfortunately, the story of Eddie Gaedel doesn't have a happy
ending. His brush with fame faded quickly, and three weeks after his
appearance he was arrested for disorderly conduct, and he ended up working
for the Ringling Brothers Circus until 1961. In June of that year,
with his health suffering terribly, he was robbed and beaten, and although
he managed to get back home, he died of a heart attack in his bed.
Later, a man asked his mother if the Hall of Fame could have the bat and
uniform from Gaedel's major league appearance. She gave him the
equipment - but he wasn't from the Hall of Fame and she was left with no
mementoes of her son's appearance.
Sportsman's Park in 1909 featured a
roofed double-deck grandstand that wrapped behind home plate from first
base to third, a covered single-deck grandstand that extended down the
left field line and single-deck bleachers that bordered the entire
outfield, with lines that measured 353 feet (left) and 320 (right) and a
center field distance of 430. A renovation after the 1925 season
nearly doubled the capacity to 34,000 and gave the park what sportswriter
Red Smith called "a garish, county fair sort of layout" - a look
it would retain over the next four decades.
The covered double-deck grandstand was extended down both lines to the
foul poles, the wooden bleachers were replaced by concrete and the right
field stands were roofed, creating a pavilion that would become the park's
signature feature. Because the right field line was reduced to 310
feet, the 11 1/2-foot fence was topped by a 33-foot screen that extended
156 feet toward center - a Green Monster-like barrier that would stand
from mid-1929 through the life of the park, with only a one-year respite
The pavilion, with its screened view, was
the last vestige of segregation in major league baseball - the area to
which blacks were restricted into the 1944 season. Overall, fans not
obstructed by steel support beams were close to the field and interaction
was encouraged. The players' clubhouse walkway traveled through the
home dugout and an inside corridor that was open to the fans-at first with
no restriction, later with only a chain-link fence providing seclusion.
Generally a lively park in the 1920s and 1930s, the small park had
comfortable alleys in left-center and was short of length to right
field. The 33-foot wall in right gave way to a regular
11-and-a-half-foot wall in right-center, where the power alley was less
than 360 feet. During the 1930s, the ballyard boosted home runs by
However, the cozy dimensions belied the fact that a lot of line drive
shots couldn't clear the imposing right field wall, even though they had
the distance to go for home runs in other parks. "The screen
made it much more interesting," said former Cardinals right fielder Stan
Musial, who saw many of his potential home runs get sucked back into
play by the imposing barrier. "The ball would fly out there and
the runner didn't know if it was going to hit the screen, go over it or
how it would bounce. It was hard to score (because outfielders
played so shallow) on a single to right in that park."
The dimensions and the high screen in right favored high ball hitters over
line drive hitters, though Musial and Rogers
Hornsby never complained about their home - Musial hit 252 career HR
at home and 223 on the road, while Hornsby hit 23 more home runs at home
than on the road (94 versus 71) while he was a Cardinal.
But hitters with looping, upper-cut swings - guys like Johnny Mize and Joe
Medwick fared very well. In 1938, Mize cracked 22 home runs at home
and just 5 on the road; in his Triple Crown season of 1937, Joe Medwick
hit 18 of his 31 home runs at home and from 1937 to 1939 hit 41 homers at
home and 25 on the road.
Home Run Leaders at Sportsman's Park:
Home Run Leaders at Sportsman's Park- Visitors:
St. Louis, Missouri:
Located at the intersection of Grand and Dodier, the famous St. Louis
corner, which had served the city's baseball needs dating all the way back to
1871. This was
the third version of Sportsman's Park, all located
at the same place. Left field (NE), Sullivan Avenue; third base (NW),
North Spring Avenue; first base (SW), 3623 Dodier Street; right field (SE), 2911
North Grand Avenue, later North Grand Boulevard. Same location as earlier
Sportsman’s Parks, but turned around so that home plate was in the
The old ballpark fit well in it's neighborhood because it occupied just
one square block - since it wasn't surrounded by acres of parking, it was
an easy ballpark to get to. The reconstructed steel-and-concrete
structure stood as a sports monument into the 1966 season in a thriving area
near Gaslight Square, the Fabulous Fox theater and upscale residential
field: 368 (1909), 340 (1921), 356 (1923), 355 (1926), 360 (1930),
field: 430 (1926), 450 (1930), 445 (1931), 420 (1938), 422 (1939)
corner just left of dead center: 426 (1938);
corner just right of dead center: 422 (1938);
field: 335 (1909), 315 (1921), 320 (1926), 310 (1931), 332 (1938),
75 (1942), 67 (1953).
to center: 11.5 (concrete)
mark in right-center to right: 11.5 (1909), 33 (11.5 concrete below
21.5 wire, July 5, 1929), 11.5 (1955), 36.67 (11.5 concrete below 25.17
- Renamed Busch Stadium in 1953.
- The local newspaper, the
Globe-Democrat, had an ad on the right-center wall that showed the
star of the previous game. Just to the right of this ad, the league
standings for both leagues were listed.
- The Busch eagle would flap its wings
after every Cardinal home run. It sat on top of the left-center
scoreboard. During World War II there was a War Chest sign there.
- The Herbert Hoover Boys’ Club, with
a baseball diamond where the major league one used to be, now stands
on the site of the stadium.
- Cardinals office was at 3623 Dodier;
Browns office was at 2911 North Grand.
- There were pavilion seats in the power
alley in right-center.
- A second deck, from first base to
third, was added in 1909 and expanded to the foul poles in 1925.
- Bleachers were added to parts of the
outfield in 1926.
- The flagpole stood in fair territory
until it was removed in the 1950s.
- Bill Veeck’s family lived in an
apartment under the stands in the 1950s.
- When he bought the stadium from the
Browns in 1953, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch almost named it Budweiser
Stadium but was prevented by league pressure.
- A helicopter carried home plate to
Busch Memorial Stadium after the last game at Sportsman’s Park on
May 8, 1966.