Busch Stadium

2010 Regular Season. St. Louis Cardinals host Milwaukee Brewers at the new Busch Stadium (St. Louis, Missouri). to see two NL Central Division teams matched for the standings. Its the fourth of July game, when all players wear the specialty uniforms on the field for 4th of July weekend. Also included this year was the white cap with the team’s logo embroidered in the front with the stars and stripes of the red, white, and blue colored yarn. The Independence Day editions would also be worn on Memorial Day and on September 11th.

Public transportation will easily get you from Lambert–St. Louis International Airport straight to the trendy Union Station mall, to Busch Stadium, to The Arch, among other stops on the Metrolink train system. Stadium Station is across the street from the main entrance of Busch Stadium. If you’re a diehard Cardinals fan, you probably remember the first time you went up the escalators of the train’s platform to the street level and slowly started seeing the red brick architecture of the stadium. And, if you’re not aware of the baseball history that comes with the St. Louis Cardinals, look no further than the array of statutes in front of the main entrance. There are about ten of them.

This is actually Busch Stadium III (opened 2006). Busch Stadium I (1953-1966) was previously known as Sportsman’s Park III. And you guessed it, there was another lineage of fields named Sportsman’s Park. Baseball games on the site of Busch Stadium I, alias Sportsman’s Park III, can be traced back to the 1860’s. Busch Memorial Stadium, or Busch Stadium II (1966-2005) was among the cookie cutter parks built in the 1960’s & 1970’s. Baseball tradition in St. Louis is better known as the “Cardinal Way,” regardless of where home has been. St. Louis Cardinals are one of the winningest MLB franchises with (11) World Championships, second only to the New York Yankees with (27). They enjoy the loyalty of fans who know the history of baseball in St. Louis. They and the Boston Red Sox tend to have the better local market Nielsen ratings.

Prince Fielder, Ricky Weeks, and Carlos Gomez were still playing with Milwaukee Brewers. Lorenzo Cain was debuting with the Milwaukee Brewers before he was traded away to the Kansas City Royals. He won a World Championship with the Royals in 2015 and eventually found himself back in Milwaukee with another trade in 2018. He still plays with the Royals in the 2021 regular season. Craig Counsel, the current Manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, was still playing the last couple years of his 15-year career. Although the 2010 regular season ended with a losing record, they would keep grinding to win the NL Central Division the following year.

In this game, Albert Pujols went 1 for 3 with a run scored. The 2010 Cardinals did not play in the post season. But Albert Pujols would blaze a path to a historic free agency, after meeting these same Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 NLCS and defeating them 4 games to 2, then winning the 2011 World Series where the Cardinals faced the Texas Rangers in one of the more memorable World Championships. In that series he would secure a place in history with Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, hitting three home runs in Game 3.

Hard to believe it’s been 10 years and that Albert Pujols is at the tail end of that 10-year $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2021 season was his farewell tour. That is no longer the case. Associated Press reported on May 7th that the Los Angeles Angels abruptly ended the future Hall of Famer’s tenure with the team. Apparently, Albert Pujols was dissatisfied with the irregular playing time and his demands did not mix well with his slumping offensive numbers. He was recently declared a free agent, the rumor is that of the possible teams looking at Albert are Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and St. Louis Cardinals. Officials from Dominican Republic also reached out to have Albert play for the Olympics qualification team. Its obvious that he still wants to play. Only Albert knows what he has left in the tank. What we do know is that Albert Pujols will go into the Hall of Hame, in a league of his own and wearing the St Louis Cardinals cap.   

      Milwaukee Brewers @ St. Louis Cardinals

A Braves’ New World

Milwaukee Brewers @ Atlanta Braves

2017 Regular Season. Atlanta Braves hosted Milwaukee Brewers at Sun Trust Bank in its inaugural year. It’s a hitter-friendly park. Wind was blowing out and Milwaukee Brewers brought their hitting sticks. On this day, the Brewers mustered runs in the first four innings to win 7-0 and ultimately salvage the last of a 3-game series with the Braves. They’ve been hot on the trail in the NL Central Division since, a thorn on the side of the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. Something unique to Truist Park has been “The Freeze.” Otherwise known as Nigel Talton. He is an Olympic sprinter who races a fan every game in the seventh inning along the outfield warning track. Volunteers are given a head start and can win $100 if they beat “The Freeze.” His plans to compete in the 2020 Olympics were cancelled in the process of qualifying. Maybe he will surface in Tokyo for this summer’s game. As for the Atlanta Braves, they went on to earn a wild card in the 2017 Play-offs and clinched the NL East Division the following 3-years after that. In their short time at Truist Park, Atlanta Braves have been in the Post Season all 4-years. 

Turner Field, the old home field in downtown Atlanta, was only 20 years old. But, the positive economic impact of a baseball stadium on any surrounding development is hard to ignore. Globe Life Field in Texas is the latest example of that. Construction of a new stadium is also a contentious issue in the communities they are built in. Those attractive growth numbers on paper do not always translate well to the bricks and mortar. Tensions bemoan the question “who will pay for it.” But that hasn’t been a deterrent by no means. The trend is that we see more ballparks going up more often. Hence, the case in Cobb County. SunTrust, the naming rights owners, merged with BB&T Bank in 2019 to form Truist Bank. The home of the Atlanta Braves is now known as Truist Park serving as the catalyst to the “2040 Comprehensive Plan, a vision for a new era.” Much energy went into this area 18 miles north of downtown Atlanta. making it a place to live, work and play, a place to attract visitors, residents, and businesses for the next 25 years.

For generations, fans have followed this franchise steeped in history, to the near inception of baseball itself. This oldest continually operating a professional baseball team in America can be traced back to the Boston Red Stockings, established 1871 and evolving to 10 different teams, in 3 different U.S. cities, and in 9 different ballparks. If baseball is still America’s pastime, then this may be the face of the pastime. In that timeline, they’ve won 17 NL Pennants, 20 Division titles and 2 Wild Card berths. Since the inception of the World Series in 1903, they’ve won 3 World Championships; one in each city they played in (1914 Boston Braves, 1957 Milwaukee Braves, and 1995 Atlanta Braves). And in the age of Ted Turner, the Atlanta Braves became “America’s Team” in the eighties and nineties, thanks to the innovations of cable and TBS Superstation. They would broadcast games beyond regional restrictions and across the country.

Four legends of the Atlanta Braves family, who recently passed away, were honored in the 2021 home opener. They all have had an impact on the franchise as well as the game.

  • Bill Bartholomay (1928-2020)

“Mr. B” a pioneer who brought Major League Baseball to the deep south. He was a Chicago Business Executive who joined a consortium that would buy the team. Despite a successful run in Milwaukee, his vision for the future of the franchise was in Atlanta. After legal battles and death threats, there would be a National League team in Atlanta. Bill Bartholomay was instrumental for over 50 years in this endeavor, ultimately partnering with Ted Turner in the 1970’s, the genesis of “America’s Team.” He will be honored throughout the 2021 regular season.  

  • Don Sutton (1945-2021)

In his 22-year Hall of Fame career as pitcher in the Big Leagues is well known. He never played for the Atlanta Braves. But, his first years in broadcasting was in Atlanta (1989). He would eventually become the voice of “America’s Team” for decades on TBS Superstation. Dependable, durable, and consistent are the words the Atlanta Braves use to define Don Sutton. He will be honored throughout the 2021 regular season.  

  • Phil Niekro (1939-2020)

The greatest knuckle ball pitcher of all time, an ace on the staff, a true great on and off the field, a brave to his core, he was an intense competitor who forced his hitters to swing at junk. He pitched 23-years in the big leagues that included 2-tours with the Atlanta Braves. In his first tour, he debuted in 1964 with Milwaukee Braves and was part of that historic move to Atlanta, Georgia. His number 35 will be worn on the caps of the Braves players this year.

  • Hank Aaron (1934-2021)

Model of dignity, an example of excellence in the face of adversity for all Americans to celebrate. April 8th, 2021 marked the 47th anniversary of his all-time home runs record at 715. This was the first time we remembered it without him. In his story, there is a 24-year Hall of Fame career with statistics that will give you brain freeze; just dominant. Through it all, his answer was simple, “keep swinging.” He was a humanitarian whose actions spoke louder than his words, a sense of courage and nobility that went beyond the diamond. His number 44 will be worn on the caps of the Braves players this year.

After a busy winter, Atlanta Braves are still ranked at the top of the NL Eastern Division this year, expected to win +90 games and putting them in a good seed for the post season. But, the elephant in the room will be the recent decision by MLB to move the All-Star Game and MLB Draft out of Atlanta due to recent legislation aimed at voter restrictions to the ballet box. In a statement by Commissioner Rob Manfred (released April 2, 2021) he wrote, “We will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron during this season’s All-Star festivities. In addition, MLB’s planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of our All-Star Legacy Projects will move forward. We are finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.” Opinions are split on the issue, a reflection of the polarized society that we live in. But, its simple.

Baseball reflects American culture in many different ways. In hindsight, there have been more than just a few crossroads along the way where social issues were merged with the game. James Earl Jones once said as Terrance Mann in the film Field of Dreams, ‘America has been erased like a blackboard and rebuilt again. But baseball has been the mark of time.” For the most part, the Braves have been a witness to that. Coincidence is more than just ironic that the Braves are in the midst of another contentious moment. In a Braves’ new world, they celebrate the life of  four legends while having the All-Star game and MLB Draft moved out of town on short notice, yet another model of a country divided.

Miller Park

Minnesota Twins @ Milwaukee Brewers

2010 Regular Season at Miller Park and the Milwaukee Brewers are hosting the Minnesota Twins. There are other stadiums with retractable roofs. But this one is fan-shaped that starts at midpoint and extends out to the perimeter of the structure. Completed in 2001, its one of the largest construction projects in Wisconsin history, great place for a ball game. Casey McGehee and Rickey Weeks hit home runs for Milwaukee which means “Bernie Brewer” went down his slide beyond left field. Prince Fielder was still roaming first base before the career ending injury in 2016. This was my second visit and the Twins were in town both times. Milwaukee is about a 7-hour drive to from Minneapolis. The trip is not long at all for the Twins faithful who turned out for the game. Milwaukee baseball is one of the best kept secrets in the sport. It’s a long tradition that traces back to 1901 at the start of the American League (AL). That team would move to St’ Louis to become the St. Louis Browns. For the early 20th Century, Milwaukee Brewers were a Minor League Team. Milwaukee Chicks of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played a single season in 1944 and won the Championship.

Before Miller Park, the Milwaukee Brewers played in Milwaukee County Stadium Where the Milwaukee Braves also once played. That Braves era captured the rising stardom of future Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, becoming the NL MVP and a part of the World Champions in 1957. The Milwaukee Brewers were originally the Seattle Pilots. In their only season of 1969, the Pilots finished last in the AL West with a record of 64-98, as expected with any inaugural expansion team. Bud Selig, who was the eventual Commissioner of Baseball, led a group that purchased the Pilots, then moved them to Milwaukee as Brewers just days before the start of the 1970 Season. Milwaukee Brewers were in the AL Division, in the same division with Chicago White Sox, until 1998. Now they are a thorn on the side of Chicago Cubs in recent years. Miller Park is a couple of hours from Chicago so Cub fans migrate here to support their team. In fact, its safe to say teams in the Midwest have a loyal fan base willing to take that road trip to a tail gate.

Hall of Famer Paul Molitor played on both the Brewers and Twins teams. He is remembered more for his 1993 MVP year with the World Champion Toronto Blue Jays. Yet, he left an indelible mark on the Milwaukee Brewers and the A.L. Championship run in 1982. Hall of Famers Robyn Yount and Rollie Fingers were also part of that historic 1982, better known in Milwaukee as “Harvey’s Wall Bangers” (named after their Manager Harvey Keunn), a colorful cast of characters that went on to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1982 World Series. Robin “The Kid” Yount who was called up out of high school played his entire career in Milwaukee (1974-1993), still the last 18-year-old to hit a home run in MLB history. “Fingers” who defined the value of a relief pitcher was at the tail end of his career. He was able to get 29 saves for the “Brew Crew” before the injuries. Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, and Bob Uecker have their numbers retired here. There’s a punchline in there somewhere. Only Bob Uecker can deliver on that. He’s been in baseball for 50 years and Milwaukee would not be the same without him.