We bade farewell to Cincinnati and Covington bright and early. I was running on only a few hours' sleep, so I was exhausted but content -- Cincy was awesome and, at the moment, probably ranks as one of the top three baseball cities I've visited since we started taking these trips. But next on the agenda was a city that excited me even more: St. Louis, which is widely considered to be the greatest baseball city in the world (with all due respect to Cubs fans). I'd heard great things about the city, the stadium, the fans, the "sea of red" that fills the ballpark every day, and was very much looking forward to seeing it all for myself.
We arrived in St. Louis five hours later and were immediately greeted by a spectacular sight: THE ARCH. I have to admit, I am usually a sucker for national monuments and things of that nature... but I particularly liked the Arch! I couldn't stop taking pictures of the damn thing -- it was like when I went to Paris and by the end of the trip, I was just reflexively taking pics of the Eiffel Tower. The Arch was very cool, and we had a perfect sky for a backdrop throughout the day.
Our hotel was pretty damn sweet. We were right in the heart of the city -- mere minutes away from both the Arch and the ballpark. Our rooms turned out to be huge, almost suite-like, with a kitchen and everything. Nice little slice of luxury -- but the piece de resistance was when I looked out the window and saw the glorious visage of the Arch standing tall overhead. Nice!
After chillin' in the room with some beers for a bit, it was time to head to Busch Stadium, where we hoped to take a stadium tour. I was impressed by the stadium's grand exterior, and even more impressed when we entered and saw the field. It was pristine (probably even more than usual, since the All-Star Game was just here a few days ago), with an awesome view of the city skyline (and the Arch, of course) beyond the outfield fences. I felt a great thrill as the tour took us onto the actual field -- this wasn't the first time I'd been on a major league baseball field, but it never gets old. We then entered the Cardinals' dugout and enjoyed some photo ops. I could've spent the entire tour on the field and in the dugout -- and frankly, I kind of wish we had. The rest of the tour was kind of lame -- it was basically just a walking advertisement for Busch Stadium's luxury suites and premium tickets. It was nice to see all the tributes to Cardinals history all over the place -- the old-school baseball card wallpaper was nice touch -- but I really don't give a shit about the dining options in the Champion's Club. Our main tour guide was also kind of a tool. Still, the field was awesome and I couldn't wait to watch baseball being played on it later.
After the tour, we grabbed some grub -- yes, more BBQ, this time at PAPPY'S SMOKEHOUSE. Now, I know I raved about the pulled pork sandwich I had at the ballpark in Cincy yesterday, but that was nothing, apparently. The good folks at Pappy's weren't messing around. The decor was no frills but the food was out-goddamn-standing. The pulled pork was ridiculously tender and delicious when slathered with their special hot BBQ sauce. The slaw was tangy and fresh and quite possibly the best I've ever had, but the baked beans took the meal to a whole other level -- perfectly prepared and drowned in tasty BBQ sauce. I hesitate to anoint it the "perfect BBQ meal" because we still have K.C. to look forward to... but Pappy's is definitely the frontrunner at the moment.
Next, some of us headed to the Arch for a closer look. The optical illusion of the Arch is interesting. It looks grand from a distance, but not particularly overwhelming -- but as you get closer, you realize just how huge it is. Depending upon your viewing angle, the Arch sometimes looks two-dimensional, sometimes shimmery, shadowy and ominous, sometimes inviting. Always cool. It was also fun to don our gloves throw the ball around in the grass alongside the Arch. What it all boils down to is that I really like this Arch!
But even more than the Arch, I love me some baseball, and soon it was time for the game. We headed back to Busch, admired the statues of Cardinals greats surrounding the stadium (Mets brass, for God's sake, take note!!!) and then went inside..... and almost immediately, our opinion of the stadium plummeted. Whereas the field is very nice, the lower concourses are obscenely ugly. With the dark, dingy lighting and exposed piping in the ceiling, it feels like you're walking through a dilapidated cavern. Very strange. The upper concourses were eerily similar to Citi Field (damn cookie cutter stadiums), but Citi makes it much easier to actually find and get to your seats. Our seats at Busch were good -- first base side in the upper box area -- and the view was very nice. I enjoyed the "sea of red," but did not enjoy the concession prices, which were so high that I ended up not getting a damn thing out of principle! The team store seemed far more overpriced than usual, too -- good thing we got a free t-shirt at the gate!
As for the game, it was fun. The Cardinals won 6-1 thanks to a strong outing from Chris Carpenter and a veritable one-man show by my boy Pujols: Two solo homers (including one curtain call) and several nice defensive plays. The man is a beast, and that is why I wore his t-shirt (well, also because he's been the lynchpin of my fantasy baseball team for years). All in all, the Busch Stadium experience was a bit of a mixed bag -- nice place to watch a game, but the rest of the stadium was kind of "eh." In that sense, considering my high expectations for what I thought would be an EXPERIENCE in all caps, I guess it was kind of a letdown. Ah well. (That said, the Cardinals do have the hottest "party patrol" girls I've ever seen -- they wore ridiculously short shorts and their act was unexpectedly sexual in nature: Lots of gyrating, bouncing and shooting t-shirts into the crowd with a slingshot that necessitated one of them to bend suggestively. TAG!)
After the game, we grabbed some grub at Max & Erma's (kind of like a midwestern TGI Friday's) and then headed back to the Arch to take some nighttime shots. It was pretty awesome because if you play with the angles, you could do some funny shit. Here are some examples:
K.C. on deck!