Our next game on this mini baseball tour was St Louis, where the Cardinals hosted the Braves at 600 pm on Saturday, August 12th. Google Maps indicated that the trip from Indianapolis to St Louis would take about three and one-half hours (not counting time to be built into the trip to explore the new ballpark and surroundings).
1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
With the time we had before leaving for St Louis, we decided to go find the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Located on the northwest side of town, it took about 15 minutes to get from the hotel to the speedway. When we arrived, the parking lot was empty, which was not surprising. We were content to take pictures of the outside of the Speedway before heading out.
However, we saw cars going into the the Speedway, one at a time. After some debate, we decided to follow the next car into the complex. After passing through the dark, narrow entrance, we emerged to see a building ahead of us, with cars in the parking lot. This was unexpected, as the Speedway did indeed appear to be open to the public, but that was far from obvious.
We parked outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. After paying the $12 entrance fee, we set out to explore the museum. Not being a “car guy” (though my brother Jeff is), I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the experience. Much to my surprise, I found the museum to be informative and well designed. Though there were knowledgeable museum employees ready and willing to help, they were fairly unobtrusive, which I found refreshing.
The collection of cars inside the museum was impressive, to say the least. It seemed as though virtually every era was represented, from the earliest machines to some of the more recent vehicles. There were also engines on display, generally grouped with the vehicles they powered. Finally, there were some NASCAR vehicles there as well, representing Brickyard 400.
After about an hour or so wandering among the cars and engines, we stepped outside. From the museum, we could see that there were cars on the track, but it wasn’t clear who was racing. From the appearance, it seemed as though people brought their personal vehicles to the track. It was fun standing near the fence, watching the cars race around the track. Not all of the drivers were either professional or experienced. One driver consistently missed the shift as he came around the corner closest to us, and it was obvious each time the missed shift occurred.
More than two hours had passed since we entered the Speedway grounds, and it was time to get on the road for St Louis. It was fun to visit an American icon of racing world, especially since it was so unexpected.
2. St Louis/Busch Stadium
We stopped at our hotel in Illinois before crossing the Mississippi River to St Louis Missouri. This was not our first baseball trip to St Louis; we saw the Mets play the Cardinals in 2004 on a hot Saturday afternoon in July. The old Busch Stadium was a cookie cutter multi purpose monolith, much like Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.
Much had changed in the vicinity since we’d been here last. On our prior trip, we left little time to investigate the portion of St Louis near the river (as our travel schedule was tight). Our first stop was the Gateway Arch. Unfortunately for us, the arch elevators were under repair, so no ride to top for us. Instead, we strolled the grounds to the river, affording a view of the river traffic. Being a nice late afternoon weather wise, the arch area was a popular destination.
Walking back up the steps from the river, the Old State Court House caught our attention. Being the history buff, I was intrigued by its appearance, a fine example of 19th century architecture. The Court House has deep roots in the history, with two landmark cases decided here. Visiting late on a Saturday afternoon was fortuitous, as we had the place mostly to ourselves. The court house reminded me of the court room scene in old movies, with the creak of the wooden floors and chairs.
With time running short, there was one final place to visit. The Basilica of Saint Louis (affectionately known as the Old Cathedral) is one of the oldest buildings in St Louis, with its roots dating back to the 18th century. Like the old State House, it was nearly empty when we arrived. Seeing this old building fed my fascination with churches. The ornate architecture was especially appealing, with careful attention to detail.
3. Busch Stadium
With the stadium just down the road for the Old State House, we were there is a matter of minutes. There are a number of parking lots in the vicinity of the ballpark, and we parked in the Cardinal Lot (which was reasonably priced) just across the street from the stadium. A good crowd was expected for tonight’s game, since the 1987 Cardinals were being honored. Parking near the stadium with a full crowd anticipated can make for a dicey exit, but the price was right, and the location ideal.
As usual, we walked around this beautiful stadium before taking pictures. Our seats were in the upper deck just left of home plate. Typically, we attempt to get better seats, closer to the field, but better tickets were hard to find. The Cardinals were honoring the 1987 team, and demand was high. Immediately, the view grabbed our attention. Having seen games from Busch Stadium on TV, the view seemed spectacular, but it was nothing compared to being there.
Of course, the Arch in the distance is impressive, but the reflection of one building on the glass of the other was nothing short of amazing. After mere minutes in the park, it had become one of my favorites. The pre game ceremony was nice, but not being a Cardinals fan, I did not have the same investment as others around me.
Following the ceremony, Carlos Martinez took the mound for the Cardinals. On this night, Martinez’s hair looked yellow, but we were far enough away so that it was difficult to tell. He faced the lineup of the Atlanta Braves, who we saw at home at SunTrust Park in June. After giving up two runs in the top of the first, Martinez settled down, allowing just a solo home run in the fifth. He registered a quality start, lasting six innings while giving up three earned runs.
As the evening turned into night, the stadium took on a different hue. Gone from view was the Arch, shrouded in darkness. The buzz of the large crowd, combined with the stadium lights, provided a great baseball environment. Though the darkness seemed to shrink the stadium to some degree, it is hardly the bandbox some of the newer MLB parks are.
The bullpen protected the lead handed to them by Martinez until the ninth. The Braves scored two runs, and left runners stranded at second and third when Nick Markakis struck out to end the game. A good game in a great ballpark was a fine way to start our weekend stay in St Louis. We would get another chance to see Busch Stadium tomorrow, as the Braves meet the Cardinals for the series finale.