Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Travelblog, St. Louis - Part II

Here’s a rundown of my non-baseball encounters and observations during my weekend trip, which I’ll categorize as The Good, The Bad and The Quirky…

It’s been nearly 40 years since I laid eyes on the Gateway Arch for the first time, and it’s still a thrill seeing it whenever I get back to town.  Coolest man-made thing on this planet, bar none.  "And that’s all I have to say about that…"—F. Gump

And this would be the old factory just across the street, which gives you a general idea of the wretchedness of the neighborhood the ballpark resided in.  The area was already in decline 43 years ago when the stadium closed and both sets (decks?) of Cards fled to downtown, and sadly, the ‘hood has yet to recover—it now makes the 22nd & Brooklyn area here in K.C. where old Municipal Stadium once stood seem like Beverly Hills by comparison.  By all indications, Sportsman’s was a neat old ballpark, and if Doc Brown ever gets that damn flux capacitor thing working, I plan to time-travel to attend a game there, drink Budweiser till I bust and listen to Harry Caray and Jack Buck call the Cards’ game on the radio.

Unlike Kansas City sometimes, St. Louis reveres its history, and grand old theaters like the fabulous Fox Theater still thrive there today.  Like so many of its Depression-era brethren, the Fox experienced death (closed in 1978) and re-birth (renovated and revived in 1982) and it hosted Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday concert in 1986, which was featured in Taylor Hackford’s fine documentary film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll!.  George Thorogood’s Live in ‘99 CD was recorded there, as well.  I’d love to see the inside of the Fox, and one of these fine days, I’m gonna get my hiney down to this beautiful old place and catch a concert.

I’ve been trying to get a good photo of this rascal for years, but it’s very difficult to access it from ground level because of its location, so this shot on the fly from the highway will have to do.  It looks even prettier when it’s all lit up at night—they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore!  I love seeing old-school signage like this (the big Citgo sign across from Fenway Park in Boston being another good example) still surviving in this age of fancy hi-def electronic advertising boards.  Sadly, the upkeep costs must be very exorbitant, and I fear these behemoths will soon go the way of the dinosaur and the 8-track tape.

Back in the ‘80s, the good people of St. Louis concocted the brilliant idea of converting its aging and obsolete train depot into a shopping center and tourist attraction, and Union Station is one of my regular stops when I’m in town.  Kansas City struggled for years trying to figure out what to do with its own Union Station, but duplicating St. Lou’s shopping center idea proved to be redundant with Crown Center already right across the street, so we’re stuck with the underwhelming Science City attraction here.  Too bad, because our US could’ve been every bit as fun as St. Lou’s.  Sadly, like most shopping malls across the land, the StL Station has lost a few tenants since the last time I was there, like the British-themed shop that specialized in Beatles memorabilia, as well as Hooters and several other stores, but there’s a Hard Rock Café there and numerous other unique shops—well worth the visit, if you’re in town.

…but if I did, I don’t think I’d mind being sick in this handsome structure, the new St. Louis University Hospital, which has materialized since my last visit.  Looks pretty snazzy to me.


Okay, St. Louis doesn't always revere it's history after all.  This is what now occupies the former site of the mighty St. Louis Arena on Oakland Avenue, where the Blues used to play.  Time marches on, and it’s great that the land isn’t going to waste, as it now houses a hotel and office complex (which includes a radio station conglomerate, I believe), but given how St. Louis honors its past, I’m very disappointed there’s no historical marker on the site some ten years after the Arena was demolished.  The "Old Barn" was beloved by many St. Louisans (St. Louisites?), and it was my favorite old school hockey arena ever (see my tribute post), and is totally worthy of some sort of commemorative marker.  Come on, folks—get on the ball!  Or should I say get on the puck?

I was having a dandy time imbibing down at Laclede’s Landing after the Cardinals game Saturday night, and had every intention of being (as the Who song goes) "out of my brain on the train" on the way back to my hotel out by the airport.  Unbeknownst to me, the MetroLink trains turn into pumpkins at Midnight and I missed the last one by ten bleepin’ minutes, thus resulting in an unexpected $25 cab ride—D’OH!  Okay, my bad for not checking the train skeds in advance, but you’d think on weekend nights they’d run them at least until after the bars close down to keep some of the drunks off the streets.

Avoid the Motel 6 by Lambert Airport in St. Louis.  I generally have pretty good luck at Tom Bodett's favorite chain, but this location left a lot to be desired—poor upkeep, unsavory clientele, assholes begging for change in the parking lot, etc.

This is one of the more unique office buildings I’ve seen in a while.  Better hope that one leg doesn’t collapse, tho!


Pardon my Spanish, but I got a kick out this BBQ place downtown, which was closed at the time I snapped the photo.  The sign still rang true, though, as one of those horse-drawn romantic love carriages happened by and the horsie-doody was quite odoriferous!

This caught my eye just down the street from Sportsman’s Park.  I’m so pleased to see this—those private Pest Control clubs are so damn hard to get into these days, unless you know another member! 

Meantime, just up the block, the cops were executing search and seizure on a vehicle while a handcuffed young white couple watched helplessly on the curb.  I didn’t see a "COPS" camera crew anywhere around, tho…

This is the view from centerfield straight to where home plate used to be at old Sportsman’s Park, north of downtown on Grand Blvd., where Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean and the rest of the great St. Louis Cardinal players—as well as the decrepit St. Louis Browns—did their thing. I believe The Beatles played at Sportsman’s in ’64 and/or ’65 as well, when the park was known as Busch Stadium. The property is now site of the Boys & Girls Club of America, and ironically, its football field is in pretty close alignment with where they laid out the gridiron for the St. Louis football Cardinals in the early ‘60s.


Dr Jenn said...

So very much to comment on here. LOL. I will stick to the stadium. When we lived in the greater Los Aangeles area, mom was engaged to a fellow who had box seats to the Arena and I can remember going to the games (they hosted both Football and baseball) and my favorite pastime was to walk around and scope out the area and watch the crowds. I can't really remember much of games there, LOL, I was BUSY!

dr sardonicus said...

You're a brave man to visit the neighborhood around Grand and Dodier alone these days.

Years ago, there used to be a Chevy dealership on the other side of Grand beyond the right field fence. During the 1928 World Series, Babe Ruth hit a home run that cleared the right field pavilion, flew over Grand Boulevard, and broke the Chevy dealer's showroom window.

The Beatles played the then-new downtown Busch Stadium in 1966, only weeks after it opened.

Brian Holland said...

I've been to the old Sportsman's site a couple times before, and it never ceases to amaze me what a disaster area it is--it makes downtown Baghdad look positively posh by comparison. And not to sound racist, but as I drove through there, I had the feeling I was the only white person for miles...