After Joe Schalfly’s first contribution to this blog, Making Ends Meet, was greeted with such enthusiasm, I asked if he had additional remembrances to share about growing up in the Central West End. Not long after, Right Time, Right Place, showed up in my inbox, and I’m delighted to share it with all of you now.
This piece describes a 1950’s excursion on the Redbird Express from the CWE to Sportsman’s Park. For those not familiar with Sportsman’s Park, which was located at Grand and Dodier and was home field for the St. Louis Browns and both the football and baseball Cardinals until the opening of the new Busch Stadium in 1966, here is a YouTube video produced by Living St. Louis’ Jim Kirchherr found on the Nine PBS website. Kirchherr explains the important role the ball park played in St. Louis history.
Right Time, Right Place
“The Redbird Express collected Cardinals fans from all over the bi-state region and deposited them at Sportman’s Park at Grand and Dodier in North St. Louis. During the 1950’s, the bus ride provided by the Express was crucial to allowing the under-10 crowd to attend games.
My best friend and I boarded the Redbird Express one evening to attend a Cards v. Phillies game. We hoped to buy several cheap grandstand seats from our savings with room left over for an incomparable ballpark hot dog. As we waited in line, a tall burly, but friendly, policeman approached us and asked if we would like to sit in the box seats next to the Cardinals dugout. It took barely a second for our eyes to tell him that nothing could be more thrilling. As the tickets moved towards our trembling outstretched hands, we quickly absorbed the extent of our great luck.
Sportsman’s Park could have been lifted from Field of Dreams. The time we spent that magical evening cheering on the Cards from the best seats in the house, has remained etched in our memories. To add to the mystery, during the 7th inning stretch, a kindly elderly lady sitting in an adjacent box looked over at us and smiled. Only years later did I discover that she had given the tickets to the policeman to bestow upon carefully selected youngsters. She was Mrs. Roscoe Hobbs, part of a major railroad tie company in St. Louis, riding high as railroads expanded even more after WWII.
Our final indelible memory was how the game ended. During the bottom of the 10th, with 2 out, glorious Cardinal 1st baseman Bill White stepped to the plate and proceeded to foul off 19 pitches and break a bat in the process. Still alive, White powered the next pitch well above the pavilion in right field, ultimately landing on Grand Avenue, breaking the tie (maybe a windshield) and ending the game. Harry Caray was so excited, he had to be restrained in the booth. Our ride home on the Redbird Express could not have been more sweet.”
Thank you again, Joe. I’m sure everyone who reads this will enjoy it as much as I did.