A stadium by any other name

The Cardinals announced today that their new stadium will not be called Monsanto Field or Post-Dispatch Park or Casino Queen Stadium or [Help me out here, Tony. I need some more St. Louis companies to put here.].

For at least the next twenty years, the ballpark being built next door to Busch Stadium will be called . . . . Busch Stadium.

I don’t think anyone’s all that surprised. And while there’s no getting around the fact that it’s yet another corporate name, Busch Stadium has a couple of things going for it. It’s not just a corporate name, for one thing. It’s also the name of a prominenet family that’s been part of St. Louis for decades, and it honors August Anheuser Busch Jr. who more or less single-handedly saved the Cardinals for St. Louis in the 1950s. And it’s the same name we’ve been using for forty years. Consistency has some value. And finally, Busch Beer isn’t even Anheuser-Busch’s most popular product. We could have had something hideous like Tequiza Park.

This does, however, leave an opening. Tony, you need to start putting the pennies away so that in twenty years you can outbid Anheuser-Busch, giving us Custom Insurance Field. By then, maybe we’ll get to meet before games at the Pujols, Rolen, or Edmonds statues.

Original comments…

Jim: Steak ‘n’ Shake has always seemed like it should be a St. Louis company, although I think it’s headquartered in Indianapolis.

But I’m going to assume the new park narrowly missed becoming Schnucks Stadium.

Dan: I’ll meet you before the game at the Tommy Herr chapel and reading room.

Jason: I think in front of the new stadium there should be a beautiful fountain from which Natural Light should spew forth.

maura: dude, david lee roth totally tried that during the ‘a little ain’t enough tour,’ except his fountains were flowing with jack daniels (and iced tea in sheds located in dry counties).

my seats were too crappy to get near them. plus i was 16 and probably would have spit the jack out.

Call this an omen

When my alarm went off just now, the first three words I heard were the last three words of a news story: “…in Davenport, Iowa.” My first thought was, “If KFWB was going to do a story on our road trip, why didn’t they call me?” But really, I assume they were talking about the fact that both major Presidential candidates are there this morning.

The other half of this omen is that, when I went to the KFWB web site just now to verify their URL, one ad on the site read, “Arizona Office of Tourism wants to send you on a Road Trip!” Thanks, Arizona, but I’m already going on one, and you don’t really need to capitalize “road trip” there!

Original comments…

Levi: What must it be like to be in Davenport today? Crazy. Are the two candidates going to accidentally meet in a local diner and have a bare-knuckle brawl? I’m picturing the scene in _The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence_ where Liberty throws a steak on the floor and Tom Donothan orders him to pick it up. But in this case, there’s no Ransom Stoddard to intervene and prevent bloodshed. That’s okay. Kerry can take Bush in a fistfight any day.

Filling up one of the iPods

Another eBay purchase arrived today: the S.F. Seals “Baseball Trilogy” EP, purchased for a mere $2.00 plus shipping. Add this to some heretofore undiscovered baseball-related songs that I recently purchased from the iTunes Music Store, and we’re going to have quite the “baseball music” playlist. Among those songs: a 1948 Pittsburgh-centered version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” a song about Ozzie Smith called “The Wizard of Oz” (of course), Belle & Sebastian’s “Piazza, New York Catcher” (finally), and Christine Lavin’s “Ballad of a Ballgame” (which is technically about softball, but it’s an amusing enough song that I’ll give it a pass).

Original comments…

Cushie: I don’t know if you’ve seen Belle and Sebastian since the album with Piazza, New York Catcher came out. I saw them a few weeks ago and it turns out that song now has a call and response section.

This was in London, so you can’t really assume that the crowd knew all about Piazza, but when the line “Mike Piazza, New York Catcher, are you straight or are you gay?” rang out, the synchonized response, in time to the music was “Gay!” I was highly amused.

Cushie: PS. Can you post your baseball playlist? Could either do an iTunes Mix or export it from iTunes so we can see what you’ve found.

Dan: Jim — it’s a capella, but Jonathan Richman has a lovely little thing about Walter Johnson (called.. “Walter Johnson”) on, I think, “You Must Ask the Heart”

“All through baseball, he was loved and respected. Was there bitterness in Walter Johnson? Well, it was never expected”)

Jim: I’ve got that Jonathan Richman song already. I can’t turn down the request of someone named Cushie, so I’ll post the full baseball playlist in a bit. (I can’t do an iMix, because not all the items are on the iTunes Music Store.)

Game of the Week!

Warning: Those of you tired of reading about the Cardinals might want to skip this post. It’s long. I can’t imagine anyone could be tired of reading about the team with baseball’s best record, but then again, I can’t imagine anyone not finding Dick Cheney repulsive, and he’s married. And Vice President.

Last night’s Cards-Giants game was everything a nationally televised game should be: Two good pitchers with differing styles (Jason Schmidt and Woody Williams), two of the game’s best sluggers (Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols), and two of the game’s best teams in one of baseball’s prettiest ballparks. And it lived up to it, with the Cardinals winning 6-1, their margin of victory fattened in the late innings on a Giants bullpen that’s been as reliable lately as the Bridge of San Luis Rey. Most of the game was spent with the score 2-1 Cardinals, making every pitch–especially those to a certain lefty–fraught with peril.

The great moments in the game were primarily one-on-one moments, batter versus pitcher. There were no particularly great defensive plays or baserunning heroics; the fun was in watching the power of Jason Schmidt and the guile of Woody Williams matched up against the batting eyes and hitting smarts of the likes of Bonds and Pujols.

Some highlights from that:

1) In the first inning, with Edgar Renteria on base, Pujols faced Schmidt. What followed was as pure a power vs. power battle as you’ll ever see. Schmidt brought the 95-mph heat just above the belt, Pujols swung as hard as humanly possible, and he swung right through it. Stacey and I actually gasped. The next pitch was a little higher, around the shoulders, and Pujols couldn’t lay off. But you can’t hit that pitch, even if you’re Albert Pujols*. Then, in a textbook demonstration of how to pitch, Schmidt struck Pujols out on an off-speed pitch that started thigh-high, then dropped to the dirt. It was Pujols’s 29th strikeout of the year, to keep pace with his 29 home runs.
The next pitch Schmidt threw, to Rolen, was deposited far beyond the wall in dead center. That’s the second time in a couple of weeks that Rolen has followed a Pujols strikeout with a long first-pitch homer. Maybe catchers need to make going to the mound a regular step following a Pujols strikeout., if only to remind the pitcher not to throw a first-pitch fastball.

2) For a couple of years, statheads online have been arguing whether teams might be walking Barry Bonds too often, in a way that’s counterproductive. After all, the argument goes, if you walk him every time, he makes no outs. If you pitch to him, he makes four or five outs out of ten atbats. Maybe it’s worth the home runs that he hits to get those outs. The Cardinals seem to be the only people testing this theory. This post at Redbird Nation covers the last two years of the strategy. His take: Cards come out ahead, but just barely.
I don’t mind the intentional walk, but last night’s four Bonds at-bats did remind me of what automatically walking Barry takes away from the game. Four times Bonds batted, and four times, the Cardinals came right at him:
a) In the first, Bonds–knowing the Cardinals were going to challenge him, just barely got under the first pitch, an outside fastball, and drove it to the warning track, and John Mabry’s glove.
b) In his second at-bat, Bonds swung at the first pitch again, a fastball that made his eyes light up–then cut in a bit at the last second to jam him, a beatiful pitch that became an infield popup.
c) In his third trip, Bonds fouled off two, took two, then fouled off four straight, a variety of pitches, from a couple of inside fastballs to an outside slider to a hanging curveball that he just missed crushing. Finally, on the eleventh pitch of the at-bat, he flied out to the weird angle 420 feet away in right where home runs go to die.
d) In his last at-bat, the only time in the night when Bonds didn’t represent the tying or go-ahead run, round, effective lefty (and Chicago native) Ray King faced him. Bonds took a strike on a tough slider, fouled one off, took a ball low, then drove a pitch into McCovey Cove that, like a slalom skier missing a gate, went for naught because it was on the wrong side of the foul pole. Then King jammed him inside and got a grounder to Pujols.
They were four of the most fun at-bats I’ve seen all year. Bonds didn’t swing and miss even once, and he took very few pitches, for him. It really was baseball at its best, and the Cardinals came out on top–this time.

3) And speaking of good at-bats: I love good-hitting pitchers. Woody Williams, hitting better than .260 on the year, last night had a single in the second inning, but that wasn’t his best at-bat of the night. In the 7th, he worked Schmidt for ten pitches, including four fouls with two strikes, before finally being blown away by a fastball. Those ten pitches, pushing Schmidt to 118 for the night, were instrumental in getting Schmidt out of the game before the 8th inning and bringing on the Giants bullpen.

All in all, a great game. And we’re less than three weeks away from our trip now!

*I’m often surprised that hitters swing at the high fastball. It must just look too good to resist, even though you know it’s not good for you, like a deep-fried Twinkie. In little league, I was so short that my coach, Eugene Lindsey, instructed me to take pitches until I got a strike. I dutifully did so, and occasionally I would draw a walk. Most of the time, though, the first strike would be called and I, freed from all shackles, would blindly hack at whatever came my way. So I don’t have a lot of experience trying to lay off shoulder-high fastballs. Maybe some of the more accomplished ballplayers in the audience can weigh in on the seductiveness of the high heat.

Original comments…

Timmy: You’re blog is great…it’s good to see dedicated baseball fans, willing to travel the country…I recently flew out to Chicago to visit Wrigley (Pujols had 3 HRs) and Boston to visit Fenway (3rd visit to Wrigley, 1st to Fenway), and it’s an experience I’ll never forget…good luck on your trip (too bad you can’t see a Ranger’s game…the Ballpark is one of the nicer ones) http://getslaughtered.blogspot.com

Jim: Thanks, Timmy! If we do another trip in 2005 (or beyond), I definitely want to try to get to the parks in Texas. The Ballpark does look nice in the pictures I’ve seen of it, and since I’m a railfan, I know I’ll enjoy the orange-powered steam locomotive in Houston.

Jason: I’ve learned you can deep-fry a Twinkie, but you can’t deep-fry a Hostess cupcake.

Levi: Thanks for the kind words, Timmy.

One thing I forgot to mention: last night was only the fourth time this season that Bonds hasn’t reached base in a game he played.

stacey: levi pointed out the row of rubber chickens that fans have strung up at the giants’ ballpark to represent the number of times barry has been walked (intentionally, i think) this season. wow, that is a lot of chickens.

stacey: here we go: http://sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/sf/news/sf_news.jsp?ymd=20040620&content_id=776287&vkey=news_sf&fext=.jsp

Jason: You can deep-fry a chicken. But I dunno about deep-frying a rubber chicken.

More honorary hangers-on, and the July stats

Jason, Jenn, and Cat came over to my place today to watch Greg Maddux go for his 300th win, mainly because Cat is a big Greg Maddux fan who is bereft of WGN. In a secret ceremony involving Hostess Baseballs, I named them honorary hangers-on for the trip, especially if Cat ever remembers to visit this web site.

Now, here’s what happened here in July: the most visits came on Monday, July 12th, with July 13th right behind. Clearly, everyone was very interested in my Yankee Stadium pictures. The lightest day was July 17th, a Saturday. The busiest day of the week was Friday, although that’s skewed by the fact that there were five Fridays (and Thursdays) in July, and only four of the other weekdays.

The most popular hour was, once again, the hour Levi gets to work (that’s what it says on the statistics page now). The most “foreign” visitors came from .au (Australia). Uchicago.edu was the domain with the most visits. Covad.net (me at home) would have beat it slightly, although it’s likely that I wasn’t the only visitor coming through covad.net.

Interesting searches from the past month: “mcsweeney’s fantasy baseball,” “dierdre pujols,” “all star game burned out bulbs,” “chip carey quotes,” and “jeremy sumpter in foul ball.”

Original comments…

maura: there weren’t many mlb.com visits?

maura: maybe i’m just not aware that i now have a job where i am actually (shock horror!) BUSY AT WORK.

Jim: Does mlb.com perhaps get its Internet connectivity from Verizon? That’s the only New York-looking thing that shows up as having been a frequent visitor.