MANHATTAN -- Back when he actually was a rookie and looked every bit like a rookie, St. Louis Cardinals infielder Brendan Ryan hopped in a taxi outside the team hotel room here in Manhattan and told the cabbie to take him to "the stadium."
With the clock ticking toward when he was supposed to be present, dressed and ready in the Cardinals' clubhouse, the cabbie pulled up at the destination and said something like: "Here ya go ... Yankee Stadium."
Ryan, of course, meant the other stadium, Shea Stadium, where his teammates wondered how he got lost this time. When he finally arrived at Shea -- late -- Ryan began what he later described as one of the most memorable series of his career. He still called it that Monday, gushing about his fondness for Shea and for playing in New York. That same series, in the 11th inning of June 2007 game at Shea, Ryan, filling in for an injured David Eckstein, cracked what became the game-winning home run. It was his first big-league homer. After the game, he checked his cell phone and saw some missed calls from some ex-girlfriends. To which he uttered the line: "Their loss." It was during a visit to Shea Stadium that Ryan sat in the visitors' dugout and wondered aloud what they could possibly be building out there past center field. "Looks huge," he said. Told it was a new ballpark, Ryan nodded that "of course!" nod and so began his nostalgia for Shea. His loss.
"Oh well," he said Monday, when asked about the old place, "time to make new memories."
Didn't take him long.
Even though he was tagged with an error in the box score, Ryan had a superb game in his Citi Field debut. He hit a solo home run that momentarily put the Cardinals in position to rally Monday night, and he had two (or more, depending on your definition) snazzy plays in the field. Ryan's home run was his first since 2007, and it ended the longest streak of at-bats by a non-pitcher without a home run.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, he went 434 at-bats between home runs.
Before getting to Ryan's new diet, and perhaps the latest quote from Queens that will stick with him, it's home runs that seem like a good place to start today's 10@10 ...
1. As mentioned in this morning's game story, the New York Mets have used the 15-day disabled list 14 times this season with 13 different players. The latest is Carlos Beltran, who went on Monday with a bone bruise in his right knee. The Mets' active roster now has 27 home runs combined, or one more than Albert Pujols has this season on his own.
2. The Cardinals new downtown ballpark, which opened in 2006, seems downright retro now with all the handful of ballparks popping up in the years since Busch Stadium III christened itself with a World Series championship. Next summer, Target Field in Minnesota will be the fourth new ballpark to open in the past three seasons and another, in Miami, is allegedly on the horizon. Two new stadiums opened in New York this season at a combined cost of more than $1.8 billion to build. I always kept a list of ballparks I'd been to and ones I wanted to go to, and starting in college I went to one old ballpark (i.e., Tiger Stadium) I had not been and one new ballpark (Safeco, etc.) I had not been every summer. In the sight-seeing mood? That's today's poll:
3. Adam Wainwright strolled through the parking lot that used to be Shea Stadium on his way to Citi Field on Monday. The righthander who made one of the most memorable pitches in Mets' history -- his curveball that froze Beltran was voted the biggest New York sports moment of 2006 by at least one NYC paper -- won't throw a pitch in this series. He said Citi Field has "enough of that Shea Stadium feel" that he wasn't gripped by nostalgia. Others weren't quite as polite, as the tables in the new visitors' clubhouse were about has big as the visitors' clubhouse at Shea. Besides hanging "SHEA" next to the other retired numbers at the new ballpark, the Mets did leave a few footprints from Shea. In the parking lot Wainwright walked through, there are five plaques marking the spots of the three bases, home plate and the pitching rubber. Here is the spot that Wainwright stood before throwing that bases-loaded curveball to Beltran:
And this what it looks like now from the spot where Yadier Molina crouched to catch the curveball tha struck out Beltran and delivered the National League pennant to the Cardinals:
4. Ryan returned to the lineup Monday after struggling with leg cramps for several days in the heat of Missouri. Ryan said the team trainers determined he wasn't dehydrated, he just wasn't eating right. The Cardinals' infielder is going to change his diet to combat the cramps. His new diet, according to him: "Eat as much as possible, as often as possible." He's not kidding. The Cardinals have told him to devour more protein -- steak, chicken, shakes, bars, whatever. Eat more, eat more often, and eat better. Ryan said he has struggled to keep on weight and that he wasn't "consuming enough calories" to protect his muscles.
5. Former Cardinals play-by-play man Wayne Hagin is now a voice of the New York Mets, and he welcomed his former team to town with his enjoyable ode to a certain young man's climb the majors, how he almost quit and how he's done something "not Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or anyone else you can name" has done.
6. Reading Hagin's blog entry at the WFAN web site reminded me that we all missed an anniversary: June 2, 1999. That was the day that Post-Dispatch wrote this about the Cardinals' draft and their selection of the club's first-round pick, the first pitcher they took in the first round since Braden Looper (1996): Chance "Caple hopes to be a winner and an inspiration someday for the Cardinals. The Cardinals selected the righthanded pitcher from Texas A&M with the final pick of the first round, the 30th choice overall." Really, June 2 of this year was the 10th anniversary of another selection, the 13th-round selection, Pujols. The pick may have made the agate that day, but it didn't make much of a ripple beyond that. The stories were Caple and Chris Duncan, two of the Cardinals' first three picks, and there wasn't a mention at all of Pujols. For kicks, I went through the P-D morgue to find the first mention of Pujols in the paper his name now dominates (687 articles in 2008). It came in 1997, in the small print of a high school state semifinals preview and it described a Class 4A game between Parkway West and Fort Osage at Columbia's Simmons Field. Here was the tidbit:
Players To Watch: Parkway West, Matt Bremehr, LF, (.429, 5 HRs, 33 RBIs), Paul Hamilos, 3B, (.427, 12 SBs), Jim Faintich, P, (5-3, 2.46 ERA); Fort Osage, Albert Pujols, SS, (.471, 11 HRs, 32 RBIs), Chris Francka, P, (8-1, 1.63 ERA, 9 HRs), Eric O'Connor, P, (5-1, 1.10 ERA).
7. FARMNIK REPORT: The Cardinals' latest affiliate to begin play was the only affiliate to score a run Monday. The short-season Batavia Muckdogs won, 6-5, against Williamsport. Left fielder Jairo Martinez went 3-for-3 with an RBI. Shortstop Ryan Jackson has impressed with his glove, but his bat will be what everyone watches. He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and has a .125 batting average oh-so very early in his pro career. Batavia drove in only two of their six runs. Reliever Scott Schneider pitched three scoreless and hitless innings and struck out three in his debut for Batavia. ... Springfield, vying for the first-half division title, lost 2-0 to Arkansas. The S-Cards (37-32) are tied atop the Texas League's North Division. The opposing starter walked six batters, but the S-Cards managed just four hits total and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Ryan Kulik took the loss despite allowing only one earned runs. The S-Cards bullpen -- a tandem of Sam Freeman and Marco Gonzalez -- pitched four scoreless innings, but walked a combined six against two strikeouts. ... Sarasota shutout Palm Beach, 5-0. Adron Chambers and Shane Peterson each had two hits and each had a double. Peterson is hitting .301 this season. Blake King allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits in his two innings of work. He also committed an error on a pickoff throw. ... The Gulf Coast Cardinals open play today, with international signing Roberto De La Cruz in the lineup at designated hitter, recently drafted Virgil Hill Jr. starting in center field and intriguing draft pick Ty Bighames batting behind De La Cruz and starting in rigth field.
8. Quick numbers: Since April 26, a stretch that includes his turn on the disabled list, outfielder Ryan Ludwick has 120 at-bats and only 22 hits (.183), but that's not the most striking number of the span. Ludwick has six extra-base hits in those 120 at-bats -- and all of them are homers. He hit his 11th homer of the season Monday at Citi Field. ... According to Elias Sports Bureau, Monday was the 17th time in the past three seasons that a reliever had been brought into the game to face Pujols in a double-play situation. It was only the second time that Pujols has ground into a double play in those 17 chances.
9. Monday's loss at Citi Field dropped the Cardinals to 9-9 in the first game at a new ballpark. The Cardinals had won three of their previous four initial games, including their first game at Busch III. Some notable first-visit games at current ballparks:
- Cardinals 9, Rockies 5 at Coors Field (June 1995)
- Cardinals 8, Dodgers 3 at Dodger Stadium (May 1962)
- Cardinals 6, Brewers 4 at Busch III (April 2006)
- Braves 1, Cardinals 0 (13 innings) at Turner Field (May 1997)
- Cubs 7, Cardinals 0 at Wrigley Field (April 1914)
10. Philadelphia Phillies first baseman and Lafayette High alum Ryan Howard's trip to the hospital this past week with the flu forced him to end the longest active consecutive games played streak in baseball. He had played in 343 games, dating back to May 2007. That would have passed the Iron Man title -- though, isn't "Iron Man" a little overstating it until, oh, 1,000 games? -- to Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. Except: He got a day off this past week too, ending his run at 319 games.
The current active leader? All the way down at 274 consecutive games is San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Only 14 1/2 seasons to go before he ties Cal Ripken Jr.'s record.
Gonzalez will be 41 when he does it.