Wednesday, April 29, 2015

An Evening with Red and Lou

Last month, an email arrived for me touting “An Evening with Red and Lou”. This was of course (as any Cardinal fan knows) an evening with Lou Brock and Red Schoendienst. Lou Brock was my first favorite St Louis Cardinal player. The first year I started being really interested in the Cardinals was in 1974 when Lou Brock broke Maury Wills stolen base record. Red Schoendienst was the Cardinal manager that year. I wanted to go but I’d knew I’d spent a lot of money on ball games over the past few months. Donna came to me and having gotten the same email, urged me to go. She agreed to go with me so I went ahead and got a couple of tickets.

We ended up going the day before and I got to even see the Cardinals Reds game for cheap that night. Our hotel was only about two blocks from Busch Stadium (where the event would be held). On Monday night, we walked on over and waited in line for the gate to open. Donna suddenly noticed that Lou Brock was being driven in on a golf cart prompting chants of “Lou” from the crowd. The doors opened at 6 and we were promptly led down the stairs through the Cardinal Club and onto the warning track on the field!

We were allowed to walk from one dugout to the other on the warning track and sit in both. The field was roped off so my dream of throwing a pitch from the mound will have to wait. The 1967 World Series trophy was available for a photo op so we got our pictures made with it and were each given a complimentary copy. Several people carried around trays of food. One was small pieces of Beef Wellington which were excellent. The other was deep fried artichoke. I’d never tried an artichoke in my life but we tried them. They were not bad, they tasted somewhat like an eggroll. After about an hour, we were ushered upstairs to the Redbird club for dinner.

We had an interesting group at our table. One couple had been married for 53 years and their family had bought them tickets. There was one gentleman from the area who was a staunch Blues fan and kept up with that all night. A couple of young men were from Carbondale. One of them had a friend who worked on John Calapari’s staff at Kentucky. He soon moved to a seat next to me when he found out I was a UK fan/alum to show me photos he had of the locker room and discuss UK basketball. The food was excellent – Mushroom stuffed chicken, mashed red potatoes and the best grilled asparagus I’d ever eaten. For dessert, we had an excellent chocolate custard.

Finally, it was time for the main event. Dan McLaughlin (FOX Midwest broadcaster) introduced Lou and Red to huge cheers from the crowd. Dan talked to them for about an hour and a half asking them all sorts of questions about their baseball careers. It was especially funny to hear about Red’s tryout for the Cardinals when Branch Rickey’s secretary gave him a quarter to get him through spending the night. He tried to sleep on a bench at Union Station but was kicked out. He ended up in a “fleabag” motel which he woke the next day covered in bedbug bites! Red was especially entertaining and held up quite well for being a 92 year old. I loved every minute of the Q&A session and Donna admitted she enjoyed it as well. As we left, we got our final gift - a baseball enclosed in Plexiglas personally signed by both Red and Lou.

I am already excited to go back for another one. Dan McLaughlin said they were trying to set up another one of these with Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee – two of my favorite players from the 1980s Whitey Herzog teams. If you are a big Cardinal fan (like me), it’s something I’d recommend doing.

Monday, April 20, 2015

An unexpected visit.

Donna and I had planned to go to Busch Stadium on Monday night to attend a special event (I'll blog about that later). So, I made a reservation at the Drury Plaza by the Arch which was only a couple of blocks away for the Monday night so we'd have somewhere to stay afterwards. Within a couple of days, I got an email from Drury offering me an option to add a night for 59.99. This was a great price and plus we could relax and get there the day before so I called them and added Sunday night to our reservation.

We left Sunday afternoon. The highway 60 bridge across the Mississippi River to Missouri is out for what seems like the hundredth time in my lifetime. There is a ready made detour in which you go through Cairo and then pick up I-57 outside of town to I-55. Driving through Cairo is always depressing to me. I've read in various books (such as some of Mark Twain's) of what a prosperous river town Cairo was in the 1800s. It started a decline in the 1900s to what it is today. It's just a bunch of boarded up storefronts with a few open places sprinkled in. We caught I-57 and got to Arnold church of Christ in plenty of time for Sunday night worship. We always enjoy going there when we are in the St Louis area. Their preacher even came to the hospital to see me when Donna had her back surgery a couple years ago.

After we got out, we headed up I-55 to our hotel. The Cardinals had a game with the Reds at 7:05 but the traffic wasn't bad at all. The Drury Plaza is a step above the usual Drury we stay in. The lobby is nicer. The dining area for the 5:30 Kickback Drury is famous for is much larger and nicer. We got there in time for that. I had a hot dog, penne, meatball and soup. It was all pretty good especially for free.

While we ate, I kept monitoring Stubhub. I thought that as the came got closer to start time, the ticket prices would drop. They dropped into the 30s and I was ready to pull the trigger. I then found out something about Stubhub I didn't know. I assumed after the game started, the prices would go down. Well, it turns out that Stubhub stops ticket sales when the game starts. So, I settled into our room to watch the game on ESPN. As the bottom of the 1st started, we heard several loud booms scaring Donna. I then realized what they were - I told her Matt Carpenter would hit a home run on the next pitch. Sure enough, he did. The feed on ESPN was about 30 seconds behind real time - Busch Stadium shoots off fireworks when a Cardinal player hits a home run and that's what we heard.

As I watched the first part of the game, I talked out loud about still wanting to go since it was so close. Donna encouraged me to go, so I decided to go to Busch Stadium and go to their outdoor ticket kiosk to see what I could get. As I got close to the stadium, I did something I had told myself I would never do. As one of guys that hang around Busch Stadium came by with a sign saying "I have Tickets", I actually said "Yes" when he asked if I needed tickets. So, he stopped and said "I have dugout boxes". I said sure and he showed me his tickets. They were in Section 348 which I knew was in the upper deck so I let him know that. I started to walk away, so he pulled out an actual dugout box ticket. These tickets regularly go for around 100.00 but the game was two innings old and I already had my set limit (30.00). So I told him 20.00. He said 80.00. I started to walk away. He said 50 and I said 20. He said 40 and I said 20. he finally got to what I had decided I'd pay which was 30. I thought I'd done a pretty good job for my first real bargaining attempt on tickets in my life. I did tell him I'd come looking for him if the ticket was counterfeit. I could tell it was part of someone's season ticket set since it was perforated. I walked up to the gate and the ticket worked just fine.

I got into the stadium just in time to look up and see the Reds had tied the game. I went to the usher and heard the magic words "Your seat is way down there". My seat was only about 10 rows behind third base. It was the bottom of the third. The game went by quickly. Finally in the bottom of the 8th, John Jay led off with a double. Yadi got him to third and Kolten Wong drive him in with a deep fly ball. Jordan Walden came in and gave up a hit but closed out the game for the 2-1 win. The game only lasted a little over two hours and I was back to my hotel by 9:20pm. Donna even knew about when I'd back because she'd heard the fireworks go off when the Cardinals won.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Cavalier

Now that the boys have been gone for several years, we had gotten down to three cars. Donna drives her Chrysler 300. I would drive our 1995 Chevy Cavalier to the USEC plant and if I needed to go much further than that, I took our 2005 Town and Country Minivan. In October of last year, we vacated the plant. I work from home three days a week and work at our Governor's Crossing office two days a week. So, I drive the minivan there. I think I have driven the Cavalier maybe twice since then. One of those was to simply drive it since I hadn't driven it in a few days. A couple of weeks ago, Donna came in and asked "Did you notice the exhaust pipe was broken on the Cavalier?". I had not so I went out to look. It had completely rusted through and broken off underneath. Given the age of the car, it wasn't worth fixing so we made plans to get rid of the car.

Just like when we got rid of our Blazer a few years back, it was like getting rid of a member of our family. I remember when Donna went to pick it out in the summer of 1995. It's the only car we ever actually ordered instead of buying off the lot. I remember the color Donna chose was Hawaiian Orchid (purple to my eight crayon mind). The car got good gas mileage (over 30 mpg). With front wheel drive, it drove really well through the snow. We made several trips to Myrtle Beach in it. It survived a hailstorm in 2004 I believe. We finally bought a minivan once the boys got too big for all four of us to fit in the car. It became Jonathan's car when he started driving to high school in 2006 and became Josh's car to drive to high school after that. Then it became my USEC commuter car. We had put over 211,000 miles on the car.

I first tried the web and found a few local junkyards. I tried sending a message to the first one on the list via their "Contact Me". I got an autoresponse saying "We'll get back to you as soon as possible". That was several weeks ago, so I went to the second on the search result list. I got an initial reply saying they might be interested and I replied asking for a date and time for them to come look at it. I never heard from them either. As a side note, one of the worst things you can do with a web site presence is be non-responsive to people who try to contact you from it. Anyway, I readied myself to contact the next junkyard on the list, when my brother-in-law Steve got in touch with me and said he was interested in it. He looked at it and said he wanted it which made me very happy to find someone to take it off our hands. We went down to the Ballard County courthouse on Tuesday to do the transfer and on Wednesday, he took the car away.

I am glad we were able to find someone who wanted the car, but it still feels like we've lost a member of the family. Maybe I should try not to get too attached to these vehicles...