Historic Sportsman’s Park Closes, May 8, 1966!

Historic Sportsman’s Park Closes, May 8, 1966!

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 Historic Sportsman’s Park Closes, May 8, 1966!

Fifty-one years ago yesterday, an era came to an end in St. Louis. Busch Stadium, known for most of its 64-year existence as Sportsman’s Park, shut its doors for the last time. One of baseball’s grand old parks, Sportsman’s was the long-time home of both the Browns and the Cardinals. The last game was a 10-5 Cardinal loss to the Giants. Played in front of 17, 503 fans, the game featured home runs by Willie Mays, Willie McCovery, Jim Ray Hart, and Tim McCarver. The winning pitcher was Lindy McDaniel in relief; and the loser was Tracy Stallard. The umpiring crew featured names familiar to old-time baseball fans: Al Barlick, Augie Donatelli, Stan Landes, and Mel Steiner.

“Sportsman’s Park” was actually the name of several baseball facilities, all but one of which was located on the same piece of land. The last version opened in 1902, and was the home for the Browns until the franchise moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles in 1954. It was the home park of the Cardinals from 1920 until1966. Over its storied past, three All-Star games,1940, ’48, and ’57; and ten World Series, 1926, ’28, ’30, ’31, ’34, ’42, ’43, ’44, ’46, and ’64 were played there: All these series featured pennant-winning Cardinals’ teams, except 1944, which featured both the Cardinals and the Browns. It was also the home of the NFL Cardinals from 1960-65.

Baseball was played on the grounds of Sportsman’s Park as early as 1867. It was the home of the St. Louis Brown Stockings in the National Association and later the National League from 1875 to 1877. In the 1880’s it became the home of Charles Comiskey’s powerful St. Louis Brown Stockings of the American Association. When the American League Browns moved from Milwaukee in 1902, the franchise built a new version of Sportsman’s Park, which then became their permanent home until 1954.

Although the Browns had been the stronger St. Louis team in the early decades of the 20th century, they were never been quite good enough to win a pennant. After the previously-weak Cardinals moved into Sportsman’s Park in 1920 (as tenants of the Browns), the two teams’ fortunes reversed with the Cardinals’ winning the first World Series played there in 1926. From then on, the Cardinals were clearly St. Louis’ favorite team.

The two St. Louis teams met in the 1944 World Series, which won by the Cardinals 4 games to 2. This was the last World Series played entirely in one ball park as the home field for both clubs.

The 1964 World Series featured brothers playing against each other: Ken Boyer of the Cardinals and Clete Boyer of the Yankees. The Cardinals’ victory prompted the Yankees to fire Yogi Berra and replace him with the Cardinals’ manager Johnny Keane. Both managers were St. Louis natives, but neither had ever played for the Cardinals or Browns.

The original Sportsman’s Park site is now home to the Herbert Hoover Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

Gary Livacari

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Information: Excerpts edited from the Sportsman’s Park Wikipedia page.

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I’m a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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