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Every St. Louis Cardinals fan has a bucket list of activities to take part in at some point in their lives. But even the most die-hard fans haven’t done everything there is to experience in and around St. Louis. From visiting Ballpark Village to learning how to do an Ozzie Smith backflip, author Dan O’Neill provides ideas, recommendations, and insider tips for must-see places and can't-miss activities near Busch Stadium. But not every experience requires a trip to St. Louis; long-distance Cardinals fans can cross some items off their list from the comfort of their own homes. Whether you're attending every home game or supporting the Cards from afar, there's something for every fan to do in The St. Louis Cardinals Fans' Bucket List.
About the Author
Dan O'Neill is a sportswriter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He lives in Oakville, Missouri. Adam Wainwright is a starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, a World Series champion, and a two-time Gold Glove Award-winner. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with his family.
Read an Excerpt
The St. Louis Cardinals Fans' Bucket List
By Dan O'Neill
Triumph Books LLCCopyright © 2016 Dan O'Neill
All rights reserved.
Things to Do
Throw Out the First Pitch at a Cardinals Game
WHERE: The pitching mound, Busch Stadium, 700 Clark Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63102. Go to the Cardinals' website at http://stlouis .cardinals.mlb.com/stl/fan_forum/attpitch/index.jspb and enter a contest to be selected.
WHEN: Before a Cardinals game
WHAT TO DO: Throw a baseball 60'6" ... or less
COST: If you're 50 Cent, Carl Lewis, Carly Rae Jepsen, or Mariah Carey ... public humiliation. But if you can throw a ball, nothing.
BUCKET RANK: * * *
At some point in their lives, just about everyone has wondered what it might be like to throw out the first pitch at a ballgame. Technically speaking, the Cardinals still have a "first pitch" before every home game. But they also have a second pitch, third pitch, fourth pitch ... a number of ceremonial pitches.
The designated Cardinals player who has the duty of catching the "first pitch," usually an unheralded rookie, might wind up catching three2/3 ..." innings some nights. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but you get the point. In fact, stadium operations has come to officially reference the activity as throwing out a "ceremonial pitch" rather than a first pitch.
This privilege used to be strictly reserved for politicians, Hollywood celebrities, distinguished alumni, those types. You may recall President Barack Obama throwing out the first pitch to Cardinals All-Star Albert Pujols before the 2009 All-Star Game at Busch Stadium III in St. Louis. The president wore a black Chicago White Sox jacket, which was genuine on his part, but not particularly popular with the sea of red that night.
Five years earlier, President George W. Bush did it right. Bush wore a Cardinals-red jacket when he became the first to throw the presidential Opening Day pitch in St. Louis. He fired a strike to Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny and later told broadcaster Mike Shannon, "I've done a lot of exciting things since I've been the president, but standing out here in Busch Stadium is one of the exciting ones."
Hail to the chief!
The concept of the first pitch actually started when Prime Minister Okuma Shigenobu made a ceremonial toss before a Japanese League game in Koshien, Japan, in 1908. Two years later, U.S. President William Howard Taft started the tradition in America, celebrating Opening Day at Washington's Griffith Stadium in 1910.
Since the Taft toss, every president has thrown a baseball as part of the fun at a major league park, be it at Opening Day, the All-Star Game, or the World Series. Warren Harding is generally considered one of the worst presidents in history. But he was a real baseball fan, so he had that going for him ... which was nice.
Harding liked throwing out first pitches so much, he threw two of them in 1923 — one at Yankee Stadium and one at Griffith Stadium two days later. If he was first-pitching today, Harding would probably go on the disabled list after all of that, and eventually be a candidate for Tommy John surgery.
To start, the ceremonial pitch ritual featured the honored guest tossing a ball to a player or coach from his seat in the stands. Some may recall Cardinals owner August A. "Gussie" Busch doing so from his owner's box beside the dugout on occasion.
However, President Ronald Reagan altered the playing field when he insisted on making a ceremonial pitch from in front of the mound before a Baltimore Orioles game at Memorial Stadium in 1984. President Bill Clinton went a few steps farther in 1993, throwing a first pitch from the mound at Camden Yards. He was the first president to actually toe the slab.
The first pitch can be heartwarming as well as ceremonial. For instance, in May 2015, 106-year-old Arnold Vouga was among those making a ceremonial pitch at Busch Stadium. A lifelong fan, Vouga recalled attending Game 4 of the 1926 World Series between the Cardinals and Yankees at Sportsman's Park. Babe Ruth hit three home runs that day, the last of which left the park and crashed through a window of the auto dealership on the opposite side of Grand Avenue.
Vouga said he once bumped into Stan Musial at a drug store and the Cardinals star was buying cigars. "I told him those weren't very good for him," Vouga said. "And he told me, 'Yeah, but they sure taste good.'"
From presidents to faithful fans, it has reached the point where anyone might have the opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. Celebrities are still in the mix, but so are corporate sponsors, winners of charity auctions, those who have performed community service, those who have served in the military, and others.
The Cardinals also conduct the AT&T Make Your Pitch Sweepstakes, in which fans can win the opportunity to take the mound, as well as tickets to a game. You go to the Cardinals' website, make a written pitch as to why you should be selected, and hope for the best.
For example, one Make Your Pitch offering from Larry in St. Charles, Missouri, went like this:
"I've always wanted to throw out the first pitch. To have thousands of people cheer for me as I win the World Series has been a dream since I was a child."
Dear Larry, you might be a little confused. See, having thousands cheer for you as you win the World Series is not the first pitch, it's the last pitch. Baseball hasn't made that a ceremonial function or sponsored event just yet. But hang in there, it might be coming.
Frame the Classic 1968 "Sports Illustrated" Magazine Cover
There have been a lot of terrific Sports Illustrated covers featuring Cardinals players over the years. Certainly, the January 24, 2013, regional issue of the magazine, which honored the life of Stan Musial by printing four consecutive covers in its pages, is a gem. Musial appeared on the cover of the magazine eight times.
But perhaps the most notable — or notorious — SI cover concerning the Cardinals was the October 7, 1968, edition that featured the "World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" dressed in street clothes and seated in front of their Busch Stadium II cubicles, with their uniform jerseys hanging alongside.
The cover was actually a fold, necessary to get all of the players and the manager, Red Schoendienst, into the frame. On the inside fold of the image there was a headline and graphic: "The Highest-Paid Team in Baseball History."
The partial cover image featured Roger Maris, Tim McCarver, Bob Gibson, Mike Shannon, and Lou Brock. The unfolded image included Orlando Cepeda, Curt Flood, Julian Javier, and Dal Maxvill, as well as manager Schoendienst, seated alongside in his Cardinals garb, holding his cap.
The image is striking, revealing a group of fashionably dressed, confident, young, successful men — black, white, and Hispanic — a world-champion baseball team unplugged. The graphic also tells a story about how times have changed.
Keep in mind, this cover came out exactly one year to the day before Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies: October 7, 1969. The Cardinals center fielder refused to report and challenged baseball's reserve clause. He lost, but Flood's actions opened the door to baseball free agency and eventually changed the economics of sports.
So what did these world-champion, extravagantly paid, 1968 Cardinals make? The graphic lays it out:
Add it all up, and the "highest-paid team in baseball history" made $607,000, or $1 million less than Cardinals reserve outfielder Peter Bourjos, who collected $1,650,000 in 2015. The major league minimum was $507,500.
But there is one more thing especially compelling about the 1968 cover: the events it appeared to set into motion. No doubt you have heard of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, which suggests any players or team that appear on the magazine cover are doomed to misfortune.
Urban legend? You be the judge, and consider what took place when that SI cover hit the newsstands — which still existed in 1968.
The day before the magazine officially came out — October 6 — the NL-champion Cardinals demolished the Detroit Tigers 10–1 to take a 3–1 lead in the World Series. At that point, the "El Birdos" appeared to be a lock for their second consecutive world championship.
Gibson, who struck out a record 17 Tigers in the opening game, struck out 10 more in Game 4 and beat 31-game winner Denny McLain for the second time. At that point, Gibson had won seven consecutive World Series starts. With his record regular season earned run average of 1.12, he seemed untouchable.
Also in Game 4, Lou Brock pounded his second homer of the Series, to go with a double, a triple, four runs batted in, and his seventh stolen base in four games. At that point, Brock was batting .500.
As a team, the Cardinals banged out 13 hits, seven of them for extra bases. They were rolling.
On October 7, 1968, the magazine officially came out. That same day, the Cardinals lost Game 5 under strange circumstances. It was a game they led 3–0 after the first inning — and still led 3–2 in the top of the fifth when Brock doubled and Javier singled to left.
Normally a defensive liability, burly Detroit outfielder Willie Horton uncorked a strong throw to the plate that was right on the money. The speedy Brock, the game's premier base runner, inexplicably elected to arrive standing up rather than sliding. He was ruled out on catcher Bill Freehan's quick tag. The inning and the momentum died. The Tigers rallied and won 5–3.
Back at Busch Stadium, hoping to close out the series at home on October 9, the Cardinals managed just one run off McLain in Game 6 and were blasted 13–1. The Series was tied 3–3.
Still, no reason for Cardinals fans to worry. The reigning champions had the home field for Game 7 and they had Gibson in the green room. Gibson had won back-to-back Game 7s (1964 and 1967), pitched seven consecutive World Series complete game victories, dominated the Tigers in two previous games, and dominated all of baseball with a 1.12 earned run average, and would be named the National League's MVP and Cy Young Award winner after the season.
How could the Cardinals lose, right? They did.
They did because Brock — featured on the cover of the April 15, 1968, Sports Illustrated — was picked off first base in the bottom of the sixth. After the October 7 edition came out, Brock had no more steals, committed an error, and was thrown out on the base paths three times over the last three games.
They did because Flood — featured on an August 19, 1968, cover of Sports Illustrated as "baseball's best center fielder" — misplayed Jim Northrup's seventh-inning drive into a two-run triple. Flood was also picked off base in the sixth inning.
They did because the only run they mustered off Detroit left-hander Mickey Lolich was Shannon's two-out homer in the ninth.
They lost 4–1.
The "highest-paid team in baseball history" lost three straight, including Game 7 on October 10, 1968, after the SI cover came out. Not saying the jinx is real or anything, but....
Thanks a lot, Sports Illustrated.
Sports illustrated cover
On May 27, 2013, Sports Illustrated re-created the cover it did in 1968 with a slightly different twist. The Cardinals' starting pitching staff is shown seated in front of their cubicles, and the headline is "The Cardinal Way," an expression adopted by team enthusiasts and generally despised by opposing parties.
As an alternative, or complement, to the 1968 version, the 2013 cover is much easier to acquire. Unlike the '68 cover, the May 27, 2013, "Cardinal Way" cover is offered on the www.sicovers.com website and can be purchased for $19.95 before shipping.
In the cover story, SI writer Ben Reiter explained why it made sense to put the Cardinals on the cover and recreate the special image from 45 years earlier.
"When we think of the Cardinals, we think of a distinct organizational culture: Anodyne, diligent, supportive, resolute," wrote Reiter. "Mostly, we think of consistency. Their 11 championships have been well distributed. No son or daughter of St. Louis born since 1902 has reached the age of 25 without having lived through at least one victory parade."
The graphic that went along with the photo had nothing to do with salaries. This time it was about the club's starting rotation. It also reflected the advance time involved in committing to a cover photo and story. It read:
"ARCH SUPPORT: Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, and Jake Westbrook turn MLB's best rotation — and St. Louis' depth ensures the staff won't skip a beat even with Garcia and Westbrook injured."
What you have here is a rare case of the SI jinx actually going into effect at the time of conception. Obviously, the magazine shot the photo and planned the story shortly before finding out Garcia and Westbrook were lost to injuries. In too deep to pull out at that point, the editors chose the option of running the qualifying sentiment in the graphics, covering their tracks.
That's not where the bewitching ends. That 2013 Cardinals team finished with the exact same record as its 1968 cover predecessor, 97–65. It also lost in the World Series, falling in six games to the Boston Red Sox.
From that SI cover group, Garcia made only nine starts before missing the rest of the 2013 season with nerve damage in his pitching elbow. He did not appear in the postseason, missed most of 2014, and missed a large chunk of 2015, as well.
Westbrook finished 7–8 with a 4.63 earned run average in 2013. He did not appear in the postseason and was out of baseball altogether by 2014. Miller went 15–9 in 2013 but didn't pitch in the postseason past the division series. In November 2014, Miller was traded with prospect Tyrell Jenkins to the Atlanta Braves in a deal that brought outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden.
Wainwright, clearly identified in the picture as the leader of the pack, had a terrific regular 2013 season, finishing 19–9. But after going 2–0 in a division series win over Pittsburgh, the right-hander's luck went south.
He was 0–1 in the NLCS and 0–2 with a 4.50 ERA in the World Series. Lynn was 15–10 with a 3.97 ERA during the '13 season, 0–1 with a 4.76 ERA in the Fall Classic.
In fact, the Cardinals' best pitcher when the postseason push came to shove was someone not pictured on the SI cover — rookie Michael Wacha.
Wacha was 4–1 with a 2.78 ERA down the regular season stretch for the Cardinals. His performance was so impressive it kicked Miller to the postseason sidelines. Wacha flirted with a no-hitter while beating the Pirates in the division series. He went 2–0 with a 0.00 ERA against the Dodgers in the NLCS. He beat the Red Sox 4–2 in Game 2 to get the Cardinals even in the World Series.
Wacha finally showed he was human, succumbing to the Red Sox and a hostile Fenway Park in Game 6, but the message is clear: if you want to be successful in sports, stay off the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Name a Child or Pet "Vinegar Bend"
In the annals of baseball, there have been some unforgettable names — William Van Winkle "Chicken" Wolf, Urban Shocker, Coco Crisp, Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, Razor Shines, Choo Choo Coleman, and Chief Bender, to offer just a small sampling.
And the Cardinals have had their share of interesting names, from Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, to Dizzy Dean, to Stubby Clapp. But when it comes to memorable names, it's hard to top David Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell.
There's nothing particularly mysterious about the name. Mizell was born on Aug. 13, 1930, and his place of birth is listed as Vinegar Bend, Alabama. Hence the nickname.
The township of Vinegar Bend is located in the far southwest corner of the state, part of Washington County, some 15 miles southwest of Chatom. As of 2014, Vinegar Bend had a population of 196 and an average household income of $46,951.
The town occupies just a bit more than nine miles of Alabama real estate and used to have a ZIP code of 36584. But when the bridge on the main road into Vinegar Bend was closed for repairs, the U.S. Post Office there closed for good.
Vinegar Bend got its name when a train passing through the area careened off the tracks and spilled its load of vinegar there.
The funny thing is, Mizell was not actually born in Vinegar Bend and never actually lived in the town. He was born across the state line in Mississippi. But the family's residence was on the Vinegar Bend, Alabama, mail route, so his birthplace was recorded as being Vinegar Bend.
Wilmer Mizell was raised by his grandmother and uncle and went to high school in Leakesville, Mississippi. His father died when he was just two years old and his mother became ill shortly thereafter.
As a baseball player, he was the stereotypical, hard-throwing kid, straight off the farm. When he was 17, Mizell attended a Cardinals tryout camp in Biloxi, Mississippi, and struck out the only three batters he faced. A short while later, scout Bobby Lewis signed the young left- hander to a contract.
As hard as he threw, Mizell had problems with control and holding runners on base early in his career. His first professional pitch for Class D Albany sailed 20 feet over the backstop.
Excerpted from The St. Louis Cardinals Fans' Bucket List by Dan O'Neill. Copyright © 2016 Dan O'Neill. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Adam Wainwright vii
Chapter 1 Things to Do 1
Throw Out the First Pitch at a Cardinals Game 2
Frame the Classic 1968 Sports Illustrated Magazine Cover 5
Name a Child or Pet "Vinegar Bend" 11
Play St. Louis Cardinals Monopoly 15
Rail the Dice on "First Pitch" Tickets 18
Attend Cardinals Fantasy Camp 20
Ride the Redbird Express 25
Cross the Stan Musial Bridge and Visit Donora, Pennsylvania 28
Cruise with the Cardinals 33
Get Opening Day in St. Louis Declared a Civic Holiday 38
Get Over 1985 45
Forgive Don Denkinger 48
Catch a Souvenir Ball at a Cardinals Game 53
Get Beaked by Fredbird 57
Settle the Feud between Tony La Russa and Ozzie Smith 62
Own a 1994 Fleer Pro-Visions No. 5 Ozzie Smith Baseball Card 66
Join Redbird Nation 69
Purchase a Personalized Brick at Busch Stadium 71
Donate to Cardinals Care 75
Chapter 2 Things to Read 81
Read A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports 82
Read October 1964 by David Halberstam 85
Read Bob Gibson's Stranger to the Game 91
Read Tony La Russa's Books 94
Chapter 3 Places to Go 99
Attend Cardinals Spring Training 100
Meet Someone at the Stan Musial Statue 109
Visit the Real Stan Musial Statue in Springfield, Missouri 114
VISIT Ballpark Village 117
Visit the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum 122
Sit in the Cardinals Club Seats for a Game 125
Visit Grant's Farm 129
Attend the St. Louis Baseball Writers Awards Dinner 139
See a Cards-Cubs Game at Wrigley Field 142
Chapter 4 Places to Eat 153
Eat at Soup's Sports Grill 154
Eat at Harry Caray's Restaurant 161
Eat at Mike Shannon's Grill 164
Chapter 5 Things to See 168
Experience Opening Day in St. Louis 170
See a Game at AutoZone Park in Memphis 173
See Cardinals Exhibits at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown 177
Watch The Pride of St. Louis 182
See a Springfield Cardinals Texas League Game in Springfield, Missouri 185
Take a Busch Stadium Tour and See Trinket City 188
Witness a Cardinals No-Hitter 193
Chapter 6 Things to Know 201
Learn to Play "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on the Harmonica 202
Learn to Score the Cardinal Way 207
Learn to Do an Ozzie Smith Backflip 212
Chapter 7 Things to Hear 217
Listen to Sam Bush's Song "The Wizard of Oz" 218
Hear Bob Costas Refer to Ozzie Smith as a Power Hitter 221
Hear Ozzie Smith Sing "Cupid" 223
Hear Jack Buck's 9/11 Poem 226
Chapter 8 Things to Wear 235
Get a Cardinals Tattoo 236
Grow a Mustache Like Al Hrabosky 239
Own a Brockabrella 244
Add a Cardinals-Red Blazer to Your Wardrobe 246