added 4/14/2001 by Susan Evans and Darrell Pittman
After a sudden inspiration Wednesday night, my fiancée Susan and I decided to load the car and drive up to Saint Louis to see the Astros take on the Cardinals. We left Houston Thursday evening after we got off work. Coming under heavy rain at about midnight, we decided to stop over at Marshall, Texas for the night.
Friday morning, we hit the road about 8:00 AM, with 500 miles to go. With I-55 under construction, we spent a lot of time listening to the pre-game show on KMOX, 1120 AM, the flagship station for the Cards. There was an interesting interview with Larry Dierker, the kind of stuff we don’t hear much about at home in Houston. “The Wrangler” talked about how when he was 17 years old and was being recruited by the Cardinals, they offered him a new (at the time) 1965 Mustang if he would sign with them, but he chose a college scholarship instead. They also interviewed Jeff Bagwell, who was, as usual, humble and self-deprecating, but he also talked about how his three-month-old daughter Rice has changed his life.
As an aside: if you’re ever on I-55 going through Hayti, Missouri, you simply must stop off at Chubby’s Barbecue for some ribs. As much barbecue as I’ve had, theirs rates with the best. Realizing that we were cutting close time-wise to get to the game, as loyal Astros fans, we changed into our appropriate Astros attire in the car afterwards.
Susan and I parked our car at 7:03 at our hotel across the street from Busch Stadium for a 7:10 start. Unfortunately, we missed the first two innings because our tickets were at the will-call and the wait in line to get them was about thirty minutes. So, we listened on the radio outside when Orlando Merced went yard in the second inning. Finally getting to our seats at the bottom of the third, we could breathe a sigh of relief that we were going to get to see our Astros play and that they were ahead 2-0, just in time to see Jim Edmonds’ solo homer.
In the fourth, Ray Lankford doubled and was driven home on a ground-out from J.D. Drew, which tied the score at 2-2. The Astros tinkered with futility until the seventh inning. Julio Lugo got a lead off single to right and Craig Biggio hit a shot to the upper deck of left field. In our personal opinions, Lugo is the real hero of this game. He distracted Darryl Kile with his aggressive lead-offs which eventually caused Kile to throw a big fat breaking ball that didn’t break, right over the middle of the plate. Biggio took advantage and sent the ball soaring.
There were a couple of scary moments in the bottom of the 9th when Wagner allowed hits to Albert Pujols and Mike Matheny, putting runners on first and second. But then he settled down and got a fly-out and two strike-outs to end the game. He was throwing 94-97 mph stuff and kept his composure to earn the save.
Kent Bottenfield looked very sharp, unlike the shaky outing we saw in Houston last time. He even got a single in the 5th inning.
The Cardinal fans are very polite. Because we had heard that St. Louis was supposedly the best baseball town in America, we were very surprised at the number of fans who left the game after the 7th inning, especially on a Friday night and considering the close nature of the game. It was also nice to see that we were not the only Astros fans in the crowd. We saw several people decked out in their Astros gear.
Busch Stadium is a cozy venue. It feels friendly and comfortable. The fans are well educated in the game. For instance, they are courteous enough to wait until between innings to move around, unlike at Enron Field. The people were there to watch the game and cheer their team, not to gossip or read Danielle Steele novels.
The main problem at Busch Stadium is that they don’t sell real beer there… only Budweiser.
Darrell Pittman and Susan Evans