250 Stadium Plaza
St. Louis, MO
Who Plays Here:
St. Louis Cardinals (NL)
First Opened: May 12, 1966
Surface: Grass (1966 to 1969); artificial (1970 to 1995); grass
(1996 to date).
Architect: Sverdrup & Parcel
and Associates; Edward Durell Stone (design collaborator); Schwarz &
Van Hoefen, Associated
Owner: St. Louis Cardinals
The venerable Busch Stadium
officially opened on May 12, 1966, and was built in hopes of attracting the
fans necessary to support a major league franchise. It was the first major redevelopment of the downtown area,
at a time when it was not fashionable to build stadia in the downtown
area. But it
spurred a rebirth of downtown St. Louis. Through the 1999 season, more than
70 million people have attended 2,617 games.
The ballpark is actually the
second Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The original was known as
Sportsmanís Park until August Busch purchased it from the St. Louis
Browns in 1953 and changed the name to Busch Stadium. It served as
the home of the Cardinals until the new Busch Stadium was opened, as the
centerpiece of the downtown revitalization project.
Five World Series have been
played at Busch. The Cardinals won the Series in 1967 and 1982 but lost in
1968, 1985, and 1987.
Throughout the years, Busch
Stadium has added improvements that include new scoreboards, a
state-of-the-art sound system, and a Family Pavilion. The playing field at
Busch Stadium is 10-to-30 feet lower than the street level.
structure is almost a perfect circle, with a diameter of 800 feet, and covers more than 12 acres.
130-feet tall, measured from the playing field to the top of the stadium.
The even, 8-foot fences, and symmetrical dimensions make it a prototypical
"cookie-cutter" park - one of the first of its kind.
The idea of a circular
stadium goes back over 2,000 years to Emperor Vaspasian; and inspired a
trend of circular, multi-purpose facilities, when America thought symmetry
and consistency was beautiful in ballparks - witness RFK in Washington;
Three Rivers in Pittsburgh; Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia; Cinergy
Field in Cincinatti; and Atlanta's Fulton-County Stadium.
But Busch Stadium has made a
few nice changes to win over the purists. The top of the stadium is
adorned with a series of arches, mimicking the Gateway Arch, which is
located a few blocks away. Now that the St. Louis Rams have moved to
a dome stadium, Busch is quietly adapting itself to baseball. A
manually operated scoreboard was introduced in 1997, and natural grass
replaced artificial turf the previous year. The visitors bullpen was
made visible to the fans, and the seating capacity was redesigned (and
reduced from 57,673 to 49,676) to better accommodate the fans sightlines.
If I had to vote to preserve
one cookie-cutter stadium, I would cast it for Busch. The new
touches to the stadium have made it truly unique. And inside the
stadium, the magic of St. Louis baseball takes over - no city is as
passionate about their tram, and the Cardinals logo is painted everywhere
- on the grass, on the red seats, and on the surrounding downtown
buildings. The atmosphere here during McGwire's home run chase was
In 1996, natural-grass replaced the
artificial turf that had been in place since 1970.
Game - May 12, 1966 (Cards defeat Atlanta, 4-3)
Hit - Jerry Buchek
Double - Gary Geiger
Home run - Felipe Alou
Grand slam - Curt
Stolen base - Lou Brock
Victory - Don Dennis
Save - Nelson
Photos courtesy of ballparks.com
The ballpark used to be a tough place
to homer, and for years Whitey Herzog built winning teams based on speed,
pitching and defense. Today, players like Andy Van Slyke, Tommy Herr and
Willie McGee would be out of place. In three of the last four seasons,
this park has boosted home runs and runs, even as the National League has gotten
more run-happy, what with the addition of more hitter-friendly parks and Coors
The reason? Perhaps it is the fact that the grass has slowed down
grounders, making hitters more willing to go to the air. Also, it
seems that the ball carries better than it used to. While not a
launching pad, it is certainly a fair park; during the hot Missouri summer months, when
the field warms up, the ball carries well down the lines and flies out to
the alleys. The infield is kept hard as a result of the dry weather, adding to the offensive
dimension of the ballpark.
The artificial turf used to give good, clean hops to infielders, but the
new natural grass is almost as good. Visiting infielders usually
keep their errors down, though the Cards themselves are defensively weak
in their infield.
Jim Edmonds would have been a perfect fit for the old Busch Stadium, but
with the center field wall a good 12 feet in tighter than it was in the
1980s, a center fielder with great range isn't as important as it used to
be. Still, a Gold Glover in center is a good idea, because of the
deepish power alleys.
benefits: The dimensions aren't too big or too small - they are
roughly average for the majors. Mark McGwire
hit 38 of his 70 HR in 1998 at Busch; in 1999, he added 37
dingers at home, versus 28 on the road. The dimensions of the
park alone don't explain this - most likely, McGwire plays better because
of the tremendous fan support he has here, and carries the team with
Albert Pujols hit .354 at home and .304 on the road. Cy Young
contender Matt Morris was 15-2 at home, with a 1.62 ERA in 122 innings,
and 7-6 on the road with a 5.15 ERA. An extreme groundball pitcher
who gives up few home runs, Morris uses the clean, steady infield to his
gets hurt: The lack of cheap home runs hurts light hitters, and
forces young hitters to become more complete in their use of the
park. The reachable power alleys are larger than average, hurting
teams without a good center fielder. St. Louis fans are among the
best in baseball, but can be demanding and rough on disappointments.
St. Louis, Missouri:
Near the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, and a few blocks away from
the majestic Gateway Arch. (Also, across the street from the National
Bowling Hall of Fame.) Left field (E), Broadway, Interstate 70, Gateway
Arch, and Mississippi River; third base (N), Walnut Street; first base (W),
Seventh Street and 300 Stadium Plaza; right field (S), Spruce Street; Stadium
Plaza surrounds the park.
alleys: 386 (1966), 376 (1973), 386 (1977), 383 (July 1983), 375
(1992), 372 (1996/97)
field: 414 (1966), 410 (1971), 414 (1972), 404 (1973), 414 (1977), 402
(1992); Backstop: 64 (Vin Scullyís unofficial measurement during
1985 World Series showed this to be 50 rather than 64)
and right fields: 10.5 feet (padded concrete), 8 (padded canvas, 1992)
field: 10.5 feet (padded concrete, 1966), 8 (wood, 1973), 10.5 (padded
concrete, 1977), 8 (padded canvas, 1992).
- Highest walk factor in NL in 2000
- From 1970 to 1976 the entire field was
artificial turf, except for the part of the infield that is normally
dirt on a grass field. In 1977 this was carpeted except for the
sliding pits. This is one of only two instances where there was
a full dirt infield with an otherwise fully artificial field, the
other being Candlestick Park in 1971.
- Ninety-six open arches surround the
field just below the roof.
- From 1966 to 1982, right field
scoreboard lights showed a cardinal in flight whenever a Cardinal hit
a home run; the same show was put on every time Lou Brock set a new