Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May 12, 1966: The House That Gussie Built Opens Up With a Winner

     On May 12, 1966, 46,048 walked through the turnstiles at Busch Stadium in St. Louis to witness the first game to be played at the new ballpark. The crowd would not leave disappointed, as Lou Brock came up with a game winning RBI single in the bottom of the 12th, which led to a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

     The game was full of firsts. The first starting pitchers were Ray Washburn who stood on the mound for the Cardinals. Washburn surrendered the first hit at the new ballpark to Atlanta's Gary Geiger. Washburn also recorded the first strikeout when he fanned Eddie Mathews in the second. The first triple and run scored came in a two-run third inning, when Mike Shannon picked up the first RBI at the new digs with a three-bagger that scored Jerry Buchek.

     The Braves got one back in the fourth, then Felipe Alou put them on top by becoming the first man to hit a home run at the stadium with a solo shot in the sixth. Alou would then become the first man in the history of the stadium to hit two home runs in the stadium when he launched his second of the day in the eighth, which gave the Braves a 3-2 advantage. Then came the first blown save by Billy O'Dell, as Jerry Buchek dropped in a looping single that scored the game tying run in the ninth. It simply set the table for Brock and the boys to walk away victorious. The first person to record a loss at the stadium was Hall of Famer, Phil Niekro, who pitched a scoreless 11th, before a hit batsman, an error, and an intentional walk put Brock in position to win it in the 12th. Last not but not least, Don Dennis was the winning pitcher that day. He retired one man in the top of the final inning. That one man was Felipe Alou, so it was a pretty big out in the historic contest.

     That was first of 3,227 games played at the stadium that had 96 arches adorning the roof. The doors would stay open until 2005. The memories made within its walls were memories that should and will be cherished for years to come. I often refer to it as where I grew up. I can remember being there as a kid and listening to the fans chant Daryl time and time again hoping to disrupt Daryl Strawberry's day. I can remember watching Jack Clark parking one in the seats and thinking "Wow, he's awesome." One of  my all-time favorite memories from Busch Stadium II came when Larry Walker made his debut with the club in 2004. I had seats on the third base line, and remember vividly standing with the crowd when Walker came into pinch hit in the seventh. He ended up striking out, however, the crowd let him know he was a part of Cardinal Nation in grand fashion by giving him a standing ovation. To top it off, Walker got another standing ovation in the ninth, before being intentionally walked to get to a young rookie catcher by the name of Yadier Molina. The rookie dropped in a bloop single to win it. It was such a great game and it is one of many memories I cherish from the old ballpark. I truly did love the place.

I would love to hear your favorite memory from Busch Stadium II. You can find me on twitter @CardinalHistory or look up On This Day In Cardinal Nation on Facebook.

Check out the box score here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN196605120.shtml

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