With the Cardinals advancing to the World Series for the 3rd time in 7 years and the 18th time overall in 2011 my interest in Cardinal history has been reawakened.  Something I’ve long thought about was the previous home of the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns of the American League.  Many St. Louisian’s don’t realize that the Browns left St. Louis after the 1954 season for Baltimore.  They subsequently changed their name to the Orioles to distance themselves from the losing ways they displayed while in St. Louis.  They experienced relatively little success compared to their National League counterparts.  They advanced to the 1944 World Series to play the Cardinals but lost in 6 games to the Redbirds.  The all St. Louis series was nicknamed the “The Streetcar Series”.  It marked the last time that all games of a world series were played in the same ballpark, Sportman’s Park.  In the mind of many historians the series was somewhat tainted because because many stars were off fighting in World War II.  The Cardinals had stars such as Stan Musial in their lineup.  As a result, many felt the Cardinals won against watered down competition.

The Cardinals are arguably the 2nd most storied franchise in Major League Baseball.  They have won 10 world series, 2nd only to the New York Yankees 27 wins.  The Cardinals has appeared in 18 World Series tied with the Dodgers and Giants for 2nd most all-time behind the Yankees 40 appearances.  In my opinion they are the most storied National League franchise with more history and hall of famers than most other franchises combined.  For years they were the most western outpost of Major League Baseball.  KMOX carried Cardinal games in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and further south and west.  As a result there are Cardinal fans are strewn all over the midwest and south despite the presence of other teams in closer markets in modern baseball.

Many other franchises of similar stature have historic stadiums woven into the fabric of their city.  The Cubs have Wrigley Field.  The Red Sox have Fenway Park and the Orioles have Camden Yards. Other franchises have demolished and built new parks in the same spot to preserve the atmosphere of the team being in the city.  The Cardinals left Sportsman’s Park after the 1966 season and moved to Busch Stadium (Busch II).  Busch is located in the southern part of Downtown, an area that was extremely blighted in the mid 60’s as people and businesses moved to the suburbs.  Sportsman’s Park, on the other hand was located at Grand and Dodier, just north of St. Louis Avenue.  This area was a bustling neighborhood in the 30’s-50’s.  The population was dense with over a million people living in the city limits at the time.  There were businesses, markets, and restaurants in every commercial bay up and down Grand Ave.  On game days the neighborhood bustled with over 30,000 visitors there many days for games.  My Grandmother, who lived on The Hill, was a member of “The Knothole Gang Club“, an organization that gave children tickets to the games got a dime if they rode the streetcar up Grand to the games.

In the 60’s things were headed down hill fast and the departure of the Cardinals didn’t help.  Its now known as the JeffVanderLou Neighborhood after 3 streets that make up the neighborhood’s borders. From a realtor’s perspective it has amazing housing stock but has suffered from disinvestment and demolition of key buildings for nearly half a century.  The fabric of the neighborhood is largely gone with few owner occupants to boot.

With the Cardinals being such an institution in this city you have to wonder how this neighborhood and the city might be different had the Cardinals chosen to build Busch Stadium on the sight of Sportsman’s Park.  It would probably look a lot like the Wrigleyville or Lakeview neighborhoods in Chicago.  Many of the historic buildings would be preserved and there would be a young population of renters.  There would also be expensive rehabbed single families and condos lining the surrounding streets.  This would have altered the perception many have of North St. Louis today as well.  Delmar would no longer be the dividing line for Southsiders.  The area north of Midtown and Grand Center would have started to see investment and change much sooner than it did.  Overall I think it would have been a positive thing to see the ballpark remain on the north side for the both the nostalgia factor and the rebirth of the city, however we will never know.

Regardless, we are spoiled as Cardinal fans with all their success and big moments.  The city benefits from it great no matter where the stadium is located and it becomes a huge social/cultural event for the entire metropolitan era.

Carpenter’s not losing tonight!  Go Cards!!