The day began early for many who made their way to downtown St. Louis for the inaugural game at the new Busch Stadium. The official attendance was 41,936, but many more skipped work, school and daytime TV without a ticket to be part of the festivities. At around 10 AM the stadium was officially dedicated as people dressed in red crammed around the third base entrance.
The Cardinals’ mascot, Fredbird, pumped up the crowd, just before Cardinals president Mark Lamping exclaimed, “What a beautiful day for a baseball game,” which was greeted with a thunderous applause.
St. Louis politicians, Governor Matt Blunt and other dignitaries spoke, while former Cardinals Red Schoendienst and Stan Musial looked on. After the speeches, Muisal’s statue, which was a popular meeting place at old Busch Stadium, was re-dedicated at its new space.
Fans were allowed into the stadium at noon, but many remained outside for quite some time to take in the new brick structure, which replaced the once-modern round metal stadium. Old Busch served as the Cardinals home from 1967-2005. The views are new at the current edition of Busch. The outfield is open and gives fans a view of the skyline and the Gateway Arch. The architectural company HOK of Kansas City, which also designed Camden Yards and many other new stadiums and arenas, also designed new Busch Stadium.
The opening day ceremonies were the same as they were at old Busch Stadium. The Budweiser Clydesdales pulled a wagon around the park. Soon after, the Cardinals players were driven around the warning track, waving to fans from convertibles.
The game featured three home runs and a 6-4 win for the Cardinals. The first homer ever in the new stadium went to Milwaukee’s Bill Hall, who did it in the second inning. The first St. Louis home run was from defending National League MVP Albert Pujols, who smoked a line drive to left field, which almost soared over the fans and out of the park. Pitcher Mark Mulder also went deep with a two-run homer in the eighth.
Afterwards, fans milled about the stadium and downtown taking in the experience. It will be years before the so-called “Ballpark Village” will be completed. It will feature shopping, restaurants and bars. Right now the scene outside the stadium includes cranes, dusty trucks work trucks and what’s left of the rubble from old Busch.
For many, those less than welcoming sights were easily ignored.