In introducing this website…I can’t help but be reminded of the dramatic speech given by James Earl Jones’s character Terrence Mann in the movie Field of Dreams…if you’re like me, you’ve seen it more than once and know the setting….Ray Kinsella, owner of this farm turned fantasy is being pressured by his non-believer brother-in-law to come to his senses and “sell the farm, Ray…you’ve got a stack of bills to choke a pig and come fall you’ve got no crop. You can’t have a ballfield in the middle of rich farmland.”
Folding the Baseball Encyclopedia, Mann rises to deliver the most elegant tie of past to present ever heard in the annuals of sports cinema, and certainly one that any one of us with links to the bygone era , or so now it seems, of the 50’s…60’s….and 70’s…can recite by memory, as easily as I write it down now….with a lump in my throat.
“People will come Ray…people will most definitely come. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll arrive on your doorstep, as innocent as children, longing for the past. Feel free to look around, you’ll say….it’s only twenty dollars per person. And they’ll hand over the money without even thinking, for it’s money they have and peace they lack.”
“And they’ll step out onto the field and find they have reserved seats along one of the baselines, where they sat as children and cheered their heroes. And it’ll be as though they’ve dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their face. Ooohhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
Most youngsters today can’t relate to this, but us Boomers and those born a bit after can close our eyes and see ourselves throwing a wiffle ball into the air on a playground in the city, swinging the bat, and sending that ball sailing over the fence…any fence close by…any wall …. with the sound of Harry Carey whistling through our heads, or maybe you were like me and just mimicked Harry’s, and our very own, call to fame out loud..
“There’s a drive…way back….it might be outta here…it could be…IT IS…a home run…Holy Cow…a three run shot on to the pavilion roof in right center field…and the Cardinals lead four to one…listen to this crowd!!”
And wasn’t it amazing how we could open our mouths wide, expel that air, and suddenly the roar of some 50 thousand plus would come cascading down to validate our heroic feat? What a great way to spend an afternoon.
I can remember days, nights, and weekends spent alone at my grade school gym…going one on one with an imaginary opponent… or sometimes setting up folding chairs to dribble around a stationary Oscar Robertson or Jerry West…weaving, faking left… then right… then suddenly hearing the excited voice of Hawks broadcaster Jerry Gross ringing out “Thompson….around West….to the right of the key….Hawks down by one…five seconds left…fakes left…drive back right…pulls up with a baseline shot…at the buzzer…GOOD…IT’S GOOD….no time left on the clock and the Hawks have beaten the Lakers here at Kiel Auditorium….110 to 109…Thompson with an off balance, ten footer has ‘em heading home happy tonight.”
For those who may not remember, there was a Busch Stadium on the city’s north side for nearly one hundred years. I can still recall Saturday afternoon’s in the early 1960’s, waiting patiently for the bleacher entrance to open like a huge garage door and let me (and maybe you) run up those brick stairs with glove in hand, two hours before game time, and wait for that sacred baseball to come flying through the warm summer air and settle into that glove….tangible proof that Stan or Kenny or Willie had slammed one in batting practice just for me…(or…well…allright…. maybe you got that one…but hey, next one’s mine!)
Great as the games were, it was more fun afterwards, when we’d wait near the hot dog stand across the street from the clubhouse door (remember all that white gravel?) The players would park their cars in that lot, and we’d chase them down for autographs. I got Stan’s only once, but the real kicker was a ride home one time from Lindy McDaniel…I still remember the car…a 1960 Rambler…had a station wagon look to it…my friend in the back, me with Lindy up front…we bragged about that for a year!
Summers were also spent following the Hawk’s Caravan around to the various playgrounds in the city and county with the likes of Lennie Wilkens, Clyde Lovellette (a cowboy who carried his six-shooters on the road….Gilbert Areneas wasn’t the first!!) Mike Farmer, Cliff Hagan and others demonstrating their skills and helping youngsters improve their game in the off-season. Better yet were the times spent at Concordia Seminary, watching the team in pre-season practice in September and rookie camp in June. And at the risk of bragging, I was one of the lucky few who were able in the summers of ’66 and ’67 to shoot around with the players many a night at the ‘Sem’…talk about heady stuff…getting instruction on how to drive around an opponent from Ritchie Guerin….defensive tips from Joe Caldwell…how’d that happen? Well, let’s just say I had a friend who had a friend who’s father worked for the team…one of those deals…but hey, think that would happen today? Not likely…again, a product of a sports culture vivid only in the memory of those who were lucky enough to embrace it at the time.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I’ll let the era speak for itself. The memories I’ve tried to bring back are all from a personal collection garnered over the past fifty years. They’re all mine, collected from newspapers, magazines, and various personal artifacts from twenty plus years as Press Box Announcer for the St. Louis Football Cardinals and Rams. The desire in constructing this site is to make them yours as well. Enjoy the pictures, and please read the captions that accompany each one. They really go hand in hand and compliment the action. I’m sure you’ll see yourself in many of them. And, oh yes, you don’t have to be fifty or older to relate….I hope this site becomes fodder for those sports bar arguments that often come up….you know the ones….who was better…. Albert Pujols or Stan the Man?…. John David Crow or Steven Jackson?… King James or Bob Pettit? And if you’re under the age of thirty-five, asking yourself “who’s John David Crow….who’s Bob Pettit”??…..well…that’s why we’re here.
So, like Ray Kinsella, it’s my belief that people will come…and in doing so will be able to recapture a bit of sports past in the Gateway City. Like the photos themselves, each memory is different, individual and personal…yours, mine and ours. Hopefully you gladly played catch with your father and will feel the memory of even those times come alive as you take this walk down memory lane…
“What are you looking at…you ghost?”
If you build it….HE will come
“Oh, my gawd, it’s my father…ease his pain…go the distance….it was you.”
No Ray…it was you!!