It’s the Cardinals and Cubs Friday afternoon in the 2012 home opener at Busch Stadium. Judging by what I see on television and hear on the Cardinal radio broadcasts, few cities in baseball do opening day as well as the Cardinals do. I’ve been going to Cardinal games since 1969.
I’ve been to two opening days in St. Louis. The Cards are 0-2 in openers I've attended. The first was in 1977. I saw the Pittsburgh Pirates hammer the Cardinals 7-0. The Pirates broke that game open with a four run sixth off lefty Pete Falcone. Noted Cardinal killer Dave Parker punctuated that inning with a two run homer. That was also the first game as manager at Busch Stadium for Vern Rapp. The second and most recent opening day for me in St. Louis was in 1981. The Cards lost to the Phillies 5-2. Highlight of the game was a triple play turned by the Cardinals. With the bases loaded, Gary Matthews hit into a 6-2-3-4 triple play. I’m still hazy on the specifics despite looking the play by play up at Retrosheet.org. Dick Ruthven went the distance and got the win as he limited the Cards to five hits.
The ’81 game marked a changing of the guard for the Cardinals. That was the first look at what would soon evolve into Whiteyball.
In the years since, it’s obvious that they’ve added to the pregame festivities. The home opener in St. Louis is much more of a holiday and an event now. Good seats were available for both games I attended at relatively late dates. Opening day tickets disappear pretty fast these days.
I’ll be at the station as the Cards and Cubs get started. And I’ll be wishing I was at the ballpark.