Did you see how many empty seats there were on Monday?
I was taken aback by the amount of empty seats — and even entire sections — at Busch Stadium. It's the last week of the season! Like, if there was ever a regular-season game to attend, it would be this, right? One of three against the team the Cards are currently set to play in the Wild Card Game? With a chance to overtake them and claim home-field advantage for that game?
Maybe another way of looking at it: What if I told you, on the day Mike Matheny got fired, that this would be the scenario in the final week of the season? And then I asked you: How many fans would you expect in attendance? You'd say a sellout, right?
The announced attendance was 36,508, this following a weekend of sellouts.
It was a Monday. School is back in session. And yes, it was a gloomy day in St. Louis — and there proved to be rain later in the night, as the Cards-Brewers game was delayed in the seventh.
Still, it was a weird image.
It's hard to lock down an exact reason for why the place wasn't packed. But there are surely suggestions to make.
For one, the home-viewing experience has never been better. I do get it. The technology enhances the home viewing in ways that make you feel like you're there — and, of course, gives you crisper and multiple views and angles of the game. And the Cardinals have a strong product on television. The Fox Sports Midwest pregame show and postgame shows are entertaining and informative. The stats are timely and in-depth. And they take the viewer into the manager's office, the clubhouse and the dugout for one-on-one interviews. And of course, Dan McLaughlin might be the most-underrated performer in St. Louis sports. He's brilliant on the broadcast, weaving the past with the present, and is able to balance a quartet of co-hosts. He's never rattled.
So yeah. Amazing technology. Your own home and food and beer, while treated to a broadcast experience worthy of the best fans in baseball?
As for the Cardinals franchise itself, as long as you're watching the game somehow, the club is cool with it. As long as you're consuming Cardinals, that's all that matters. They have these wildly lucrative television deals for a reason.
And yes, the lower bowl was filled at Busch on Monday — and most days. The good seats, if you will, are always claimed. It's the upper-deck seats where there were huge pockets on Monday, and other times during the summer.
The fans are making statements, I suppose. They're weighing the options of coming downtown or not. And, you hear this explanation every generation, but it remains true — it's pretty costly to come to a professional sporting event.
Wrangle the family into the car, drive downtown, face traffic — why is the 11th Street exit closed during a Cardinals homestand? — and then pay for parking, pay for food, pay for drinks and sit so far away from the action that you can't even identify the pitcher without looking at the scoreboard?
Another reason? As reported in the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday, crime stats released by the FBI show an increase from 2016-17 in St. Louis.
And then there's also the “Braves” argument. For years, the Braves were so good that their fans just expected greatness and only showed up for major postseason play. Is that's what is happening here?
That argument can be debated, because where I'm coming from, I'd think that the fans would be yearning for meaningful baseball. Yearning to witness and be apart of thrilling September baseball, as a prelude to October baseball. It's like — these fans endured so much consternation the past two and a half seasons. And now, under manager Mike Shildt, the franchise is resuscitated. The team is playing entertaining baseball. This is a team you'd want to be a part of, a team with young flourishing players.
But that's the thing. Maybe the fans are emotionally invested — but just don't feel like making the drive downtown?
All this said, if the Cards have games here next week, the place will be packed.
20. Vince Coleman and the tarp
Vince Coleman was nearly swallowed by the automatic tarpaulin at Busch on Oct. 13, 1985. He missed the rest of the NLCS as the Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers but he was missed sorely as the Cardinals were upended by Kansas City in the World Series.
19. Laga leaves the park
Journeyman Cardinals first baseman Mike Laga hit the only ball to leave Busch Stadium, on Sept. 15, 1986. He fouled a ball high on the first-base side, and the ball went out of the park and into a flower bed below.
18. Remembering Jack Buck and Darryl Kile
Solemn occasions became stadium landmarks in June 2002, when Busch was the site of funerals for Jack Buck and pitcher Darryl Kile, who died within four days of each other.
17. McGwire goes 545-feet
McGwire knocked a 545-foot homer off Florida's Livan Hernandez on May 16, 1998, and dented the Post-Dispatch sign well above the center-field wall. A huge Band-Aid adorned the sign the next day and for the rest of the season.
16. Oquendo takes the mound
Current Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo became the first position player in 20 years to have a pitching decision when he worked four innings and suffered a 7-5 loss in 19 innings to the Atlanta Braves on May 14, 1988. The game lasted so long after midnight that fans came from bars that had closed to get a nightcap at Busch. Supersub Oquendo barely could raise his arm the next day but was afraid to tell manager Whitey Herzog that he couldn't play center field.
15. Seat cushion night
Tom Herr hit a 10th-inning, game-winning grand slam to beat the "Pond-scum Mets" on April 18, 1987. It was Seat Cushion Night, and for obvious reasons after the sellout house celebrated this moment -- the last Seat Cushion Night at Busch.
14. Roger Freed's grand slam
Roger Freed, who had been reported headed to Class AAA by this scribe, belted a pinch-hit grand slam off Houston's Joe Sambito to erase a three-run lead in the 11th inning on May 1, 1979. Said Freed: "Tell Rich Hummel that home run was not in Springfield."
13. Brummer steals home
Glenn "Tractor Head" Brummer stole home -- with two outs and an astonished third-base coach watching -- to win a 12-inning game with the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 22, 1982. The pitch probably would have been strike three to batter David Green if the catcher had waited to catch the ball behind the plate and if umpire Dave Pallone hadn't abandoned his post to get a better angle on the slide.
12. Carlton whiffs 19 Mets
Lefthander Steve Carlton, who unfortunately gained most of his 300-plus victories with the Phillies, set a major league record in a Cardinals loss on Sept. 15, 1969. He fanned 19 New York Mets, but Ron Swoboda hit two two-run homers in a 4-3 victory by the eventual world champions.
11. 1966 All-Star Game
The 1966 All-Star Game. Gibson, one of the pitchers selected to the NL squad, stayed at the hotel and relaxed in the pool as he rested a sore arm. The other All-Stars played on in 100-degree-plus heat in the only All-Star Game staged at the stadium.
10. Forsch fires a no-hitter
Bob Forsch threw the first of his two no-hitters, against Philadelphia on April 16, 1978. The no-hitter was the first tossed at Busch Stadium. Forsch's second, in 1983 against Montreal, was the last.
9. Brock swipes 105
Brock swiped bases Nos. 104 and 105, breaking Maury Wills' single-season record, on Sept. 10, 1974, against Philadelphia. He would motor his way to 118 before the season ended.
8. Gibby sets a World Series record
Gibson set the World Series record of 17 strikeouts in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
7. No. 3,000 for Gibson
Bob Gibson's 3,000th strikeout came against Cincinnati's Cesar Geronimo on July 17, 1974. Gibson, the second pitcher to reach this plateau, ranks this one ahead of No. 8 on the list "because I knew I was going to get to 3,000. I didn't know I'd get 17."
6. and 3,000 for Brock
Lou Brock's 3,000th hit, on Aug. 13, 1979, off Chicago's Dennis Lamp. Brock's Hall of Fame candidacy hardly needed validation, but 3,000 hits to go with his 900-plus steals punched his ticket.
5. Big Mac hits 70
McGwire's 70th homer, on Sept. 28, 1998, capped a two-homer day and gave him a record that would stand for three years. Ultimately, it would be challenged amid the steroids controversy.
4. ... but first he hit No. 62
Mark McGwire's 62nd homer, breaking Roger Maris' mark, on Sept. 8, 1998. At the time, with Sammy Sosa chasing him, no one knew that McGwire would even win the home run title.
3. Edmonds' walk off
Jim Edmonds' combo of Games 6 and 7 in the 2004 NLCS. He won the sixth game with an extra-inning homer. He turned around the seventh with a diving catch in center field that saved two runs and led the Cardinals into the World Series for the first time in 17 years.
2. Ozzie's shot
"Go crazy, folks, go crazy." That was the late, great Jack Buck's exhortation following Ozzie Smith's memorable, game-ending homer against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series.
1. 1982 World Series
Since the World Series is the pinnacle of this sport, the only time the Cardinals clinched the Series on their home turf at the current Busch Stadium (1982), ranks first. Bruce Sutter fanned Milwaukee's Gorman Thomas on a high fastball to end a World Series championship drought of 15 years.
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