Tag Archive | "Baseball Experience"

Come To Play – The 2013 Royals

KANSAS CITY, MO (February 4, 2013) – The first pitch of 2013 is still a ways off, but the Kansas City Royals are stoking anticipation for the upcoming season with the announcement of their new advertising campaign and tagline, “Come to Play.”


Developed in partnership with Kansas City-based ad agency Walz Tetrick, the campaign spotlights the game experience with a “Come to Play” invitation for fans to come out to The K and soak in the excitement of seeing the Royals in person.

“Nothing beats going out to The K to be part of the Major League Baseball experience,” said WTA president Charlie Tetrick.  “With the offseason additions, this year’s team is a great combination of youth, experience and leadership.  Every pitch is an opportunity for something exciting and unexpected to happen.  When you add in the sights, sounds and smells of The K, it’s a unique experience that people throughout Royals territory treasure.  From the players and fans to the K Crew and Sluggerrr, ‘Come to Play’ is a rally cry that encompasses all of the excitement that is Royals baseball.”

The “Come to Play” campaign will be seen throughout Spring Training and regular season in TV and radio ads, outdoor boards, newspaper ads, online banners and other guerilla marketing opportunities that are now being planned.

Season tickets are currently on sale and available online at www.royals.com, by phone at 816-504-4040 or at the Kauffman Stadium Box Office.

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A Different Kind Of Baseball Record

This time of year, you would be hard-pressed to find me as close to obsessed with any other external factors as I am with baseball. But one thing ranks right up there—tied for first, some might say—on holding my attention, and that is music. It is especially true on this day…Record Store Day. And while music and records are not often talked about on this or any baseball blog, I can very specifically connect my audiophile and baseball-obsessed personas through the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals.

The early 80s were a much simpler time. Video—the tape kind, not digital—was still relatively new technology, computers were for either the super rich or the super nerdy, and the news was delivered to you on a thing called paper, using real ink. Remember when you watched Back to the Future Part II, when Marty McFly got razzed by kids when he had to “use his hands” to play the video game in the 80s café? Well that essentially takes place now…and the stuff we had in the 80s is just as archaic as it was portrayed in that movie (seriously, go back and watch that movie…those writers were scary close on a lot of things). And although CD technology was around, records and cassettes were still the dominant home audio media.

The baseball experience was different, too. Not as many games were televised back then, because pay television was still relatively new; virtually no sports were broadcast on cable or satellite TV. So watching the game meant watching the network or an independent local station like KPLR. The main outlet for experiencing baseball as it happened from the comfort of home was to listen to the radio. St. Louis Cardinals fans were just about the most spoiled in all of baseball in the 80s. Not only did they get to root for one of the dominant teams of the decade as Whiteyball peaked at Busch Stadium, but they had Jack Buck and Mike Shannon to tell them all about it every night. Imagine listening to Buck describe the defense of Ozzie Smith, the fire of Joaquin Andujar, the speed of Willie McGee, and the dominance of Bruce Sutter every night. Throw in the folksy charm of, by then, seasoned broadcaster Shannon and it was like listening to baseball poetry flow through the walnut-enclosed speakers.

And that is where records come in, one in particular. I had just turned five years old when the Cards won it all in 1982 so I really lacked the appreciation that event deserved at the time. I know I watched the win from my grandmother’s house in Cahokia, IL, because my uncle drove the five minutes or so to Busch Stadium during Game 7 to get me a souvenir. I have no memory of any of this, but it’s a nice story to hear once in a while at Thanksgiving. And remember, this was the 80s. Buying the DVD collection of each game broadcast as a keepsake was not an option. No, in those days, if you wanted to relive an event like this, you bought a record album. And the Cardinals released “Busch Beer Presents: Celebration” to commemorate the win. My dad bought a copy, and I loved listening to dad’s records as a kid.

“Celebration” is a full-length album, narrated by Buck, containing radio broadcast highlights from the regular season on side one and NLCS and World Series highlights on side two. It is truly the soundtrack to my introduction to Cardinal Baseball and all that was great about it in the 80s.

First and foremost, Buck’s narration is superb. It’s kind of like listening to your grandpa read you your favorite bedtime story. And the highlights are gem after gem of broadcast excellence, too. Maybe I have just listened to the album so many times the words are burned into my brain like Bible stories from Catholic School or the lyrics to my favorite songs. But I can hear the inflections and excitement in my head just thinking about the recording. “Not many picked the Cardinals to win it all in 1982,” states Buck to start the album on side one. And the end of side two, of course, culminates with a line nearly every Cardinals fan knows by heart: “Sutter from the belt, to the plate…a swing and a miss! And that’s a winner! That’s a winner! A World Series winner for the Cardinals!”

My dad also has the record from the Cardinals’ 1967 championship season. Historically, that one is just as significant for those that want to hear what it was like to have both Buck and Harry Caray at the mic for the Cards. But that didn’t really interest me as a kid; all of it happened too long ago (though I appreciate it much more now). “Celebration” was full of players and broadcasters I knew and loved, even if I didn’t quite remember the events when they first happened. It was a regular in the rotation when I was allowed control of the turntable.

The album is long out of print, I’m sure. I doubt it was ever released on CD, and I have yet to find it on iTunes. Occasionally, I stumble across the LP at the flea market or a yard sale. So “Celebration” truly is one of those rare pieces of Cardinals history that I love knowing so well. But while I wake up early to buy more records at local indie stores, you can rest easy knowing modern technology has not totally let us down.

There are six parts in total. Happy Record Store Day, and Go Cards.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer who also appears on InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he wants. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained

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The Cardinals In Time: Gussie And Der Bingle

During the offseason we have been taking a look at the past, giving readers a timeline of St. Louis baseball throughout history. Last time we learned about Gussie Busch’s takeover of a team that was hitting a long stretch of down seasons. He was determined to bring winning back to St. Louis, but did he have the firepower?

Gussie Busch

Gussie Busch had a mind of his own, and he rarely enlisted the help of more than one person at a time. When he realized that he was investing a truckload of money into this team and not seeing much in the standings, he decided to put someone else in charge of the team in the general manager position. The only person on his staff at Anheuser-Busch that actually had any baseball experience was Dick Meyer. Meyer’s experience with baseball only extended to playing first base for Concordia Seminary in St. Louis while he was a student there.

He took the job, but was not a fan of being in the public eye, so he passed the job off as soon as possible. Meyer wanted Bing Devine to take the job. Devine had been running the Cardinals Triple A team in Rochester for six years and had been doing good things there. He wanted Bing to come in and do what he had been doing there in St. Louis. What Meyer did not know was that Gussie had gone out and talked to a friend of his in Chicago who told him that Frank Lane, the general manager of the White Sox, was on his way out of town, and if Gussie was smart he would pick him up.

Meyer was in a bind. He had hired Devine to come in and take over as GM, but Gussie went behind him to get Lane. Luckily for the Cardinals Bing was a patient man, and hung around with the team. Frank Lane was in charge, and he was making his “Trader Lane” moniker very apparent. Whereas Branch Rickey always wanted to trade a player a year too early than a year too late, Lane just wanted to make trades anytime, anywhere, and with anyone.

In Lane, the Cardinals had a GM that was willing to sell the farm for a group of wily vets or sell his stars for a bunch of kids, depending on his mood. At one point he had a trade in his mind for getting rid of Stan Musial, but thankfully Gussie Busch would have none of it. While the Cardinals were horrible in 1955, winding up in seventh, they still had some good players, one of which was named Bill Virdon. Virdon had a fantastic rookie season for a lackluster team, so good that he won the Rookie of the Year award. For whatever reason, Lane turned around and traded him 24 games into the 1956 season, claiming that his eyesight was going bad and Virdon would wash out of baseball quickly. Eleven seasons later Virdon retired with a career .267/.316/.379 line. Washing out of baseball indeed…

Ken Boyer

The other key rookie to the 1955 season was Ken Boyer. Boyer stepped into the lineup as the everyday third baseman, a position he would hold down for eleven years with St. Louis. Going into 1956 Boyer was poised to have a breakout season, and breakout he did – quickly becoming one of the team leaders along with stalwart Stan Musial and the solid Wally Moon. Together, along with the arms of Vinegar Bend Mizell, Murry Dickson and Herm Wehmeier helped the Cardinals climb out of the National League basement, finishing around .500 and back up to fourth place.

“Trader Lane” kept up his busy ways in 1957, but Gussie Busch was growing tired of being left out of the loop. He wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes, and felt that, as owner (not to mention the guy who writes the checks) he had a right to be told who was being traded away/for before it happened. When Lane continued to try to fly under the radar of the boisterous owner, Gussie grew more and more frustrated.

Finally Lane put together a trade that broke everything into the open. He made plans with the Philadelphia Phillies to trade Boyer and Harvey Haddix for Phillies icon Richie Ashburn and another player. Busch flipped his lid and absolutely refused to let Lane make the trade. When Lane realized he was being handcuffed, he just up and quit, walking away and right into the GM job for the Cleveland Indians. Bing Devine, hidden away in the Cardinals’ front office for almost three full years, was ready and waiting to step in. His first act? Cancel out that Boyer trade before it went public!

Having succeeded there, he looked to see how the Cardinals could continue to improve on the 87-67 finish they had in 1957. At this point there were several solid players on the club beyond Musial (who kept on in his incredible career and finished second in the 1957 MVP race) and Boyer. Wally Moon and Joe Cunningham both had solid years, at the plate, Larry Jackson, Lindy McDaniel and Sam Jones were holding up the rotation, and the Cardinals were starting to look like they were contenders again.

In December of 1957, Devine made his first big trade, swapping pitchers Willard Schmidt, Ted Wieand and Marty Kutyna to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielders Curt Flood and Joe Taylor. If you have never heard of any of those players besides Flood, you are not alone, as none of the other four would really ever make a name for themselves. Flood would not really break out as a solid player until 1961, but keep his name in mind, as it will become important.

The team at the time was a very close-knit bunch. Players ate together after the game, there were really no loaners, and in a city like St. Louis which was still very segregated everyone on the team made sure that the black players were accepted and welcomed. No matter who you were on the team, from superstars like Stan Musial to young kids like Curt Flood, you worked with your teammates and passed along any wisdom you could.

Fred Hutchinson

The Cards’ manager at the time was Fred Hutchinson. “Hutch” did a great job making sure the team worked together cohesively; unfortunately he could not get them to put runs up on that scoreboard. At one point the team went forty-two innings without scoring a run! Poor Hutch could not pull wins out of that team, and Gussie Busch was becoming impatient. He fired his manager with just ten games left in the 1958 season, and the team limped to a 72-78 finish, sliding back down to fifth in the National League.

Bing Devine and others were frustrated with Gussie’s impatience and eventual removal of Hutchinson as manager, but they could not argue against the beer baron’s wishes. Gussie decided that he wanted Solly Hemus as manager for 1959. Hemus had spent parts of eight seasons playing in the birds on the bat, and when he left to play for Philadelphia in one of “Trader Lane’s” famous traders he personally thanked Gussie for his years in St. Louis and said he would come back anytime. Gussie was impressed by that statement and it convinced him that Hemus would be a great manager for the Cardinals.

Wrong. The following two and a half seasons were borderline traumatic for St. Louis fans, as Hemus made one boneheaded decision after another. He was a solid baseball man, but his incapability to use his black players was not a great move for the team or the city. He refused to use a young Bob Gibson after becoming convinced that the lanky pitcher would never amount to anything. The worst offense, however, was far and away his decision to bench Musial.

That was not an erroneous statement: Hemus started benching Stan the Man. Musial had a down year in 1959, hitting a rather mortal .255/.364/.428, but part of that was the way Hemus utilized both him and Boyer – having them bunt and hit behind the runner rather than just play the game the way they knew how. The thought of not playing the man every day had everyone up in arms, and the actualization of it was worse. How could a manager who so refused to play some of his most talented players for one reason or another expect to be around very long? The team floundered to a 71-83 finished, back down to seventh in the National League.

More change was coming for the Cardinals. Better days had to be coming… right?

Angela Weinhold covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com and writes at Cardinal Diamond Diaries. You may follow her on Twitter here or follow Cardinal Diamond Diaries here.

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All-Star Expectations

The Midsummer Classic is upon us. Regular baseball gets a reprieve and all eyes are focused westward to Anaheim and Angel Stadium, host of the All-Star festivities. Over the past weeks there has been an onslaught of news focusing on the rosters and Home Run Derby candidates. With baseball’s scribes, commentators, and armchair experts all salivating over the intricacies of this year’s list of participants, there is no shortage of debate on the worthiness of the players selected or the value of the game itself.

I leave that nit-picking to the professionals and the “expert” baseball fans. From my perspective as a new student of the game, the atmosphere of the All-Star experience is less about honors and statistics and more like a picnic in the park – a relaxing break that celebrates the spirit of baseball with the best of the best coming together for one glorious ballgame in the summer sunshine.

Learning to Appreciate the All-Star Break

Three years ago the All-Star game frustrated me. It interrupted the Cardinals’ baseball season and had rosters full of names I did not recognize from teams I knew little about. The Home Run Derby had confusing rules, and its repetitive pitch and swing, pitch and swing failed to capture my long-term attention. Sure, I enjoyed the actual game, hanging out with family and friends, but was not truly invested in the outcome – other than the somewhat manufactured National League home-team loyalty.

While I do appreciate a great game of baseball, the familiarity with players sweetens the experience for me. So it is only logical that as my baseball experience has deepened, my appreciation for the All-Star drama has grown as well.

I am not yet overly invested or concerned with the makeup of the rosters – as long as my Cardinals are well-represented of course. The American League is still mostly a blank page in my book. And honestly, my kids know a wider variety of MLB players than I do thanks to the time they spend slugging it out on their Bigs 2 video game.

This year, however, I have cleared my calendar for both the Derby and the All-Star game. With the Cardinals’ current team frustrations (key players on the disabled list and recent crushing losses) plus the resulting tensions in Cardinal Nation, I have been looking forward to a holiday from what has been a tense first half of the season. Hopefully this All-Star break renews my spirit – as well as the spirit inside the Cardinal clubhouse- and gives everyone the opportunity to relax and enjoy baseball again for the pure fun of it all.

All-Star Players on my Short List

The cast of All-Star characters is more familiar this year, but injuries have robbed me of some non-Cardinals faces I was looking forward to watching. Biggest disappointment: no Mariano Rivera. His classic grace and measured presence on the mound completes my image of what true baseball royalty should look like. If Mariano were a closer for the Cardinals, my life would be complete. (But he is a Yankee, so I try to keep my longing in check.)

Then there is Jason Heyward. With all the hype and publicity already projecting him the winner of this year’s Rookie of the Year, I expected to see something spectacular. Nobody scoops that award away from my Cardinal rookies David Freese and Jaime Garcia so easily without having the skills to back it up. I had hoped Mr. Heyward would prove himself to me in Anaheim, but due to that pesky disabled list, he is likely to miss the event.

Cardinals Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright, and Chris Carpenter will all be at Angel Stadium, making me proud. I have been smiling ever since hearing Holliday joined the pack of Home Run Derby sluggers. The familiar faces are my primary reason for tuning in, bringing excitement and nervous anticipation. Like a proud family member, I will be hoping they play well and are pleased with their performances. After all, there is nothing like a successful All-Star boost to jump start the 2nd half of the season.

Phenomenal defensive players spark my love of baseball, and the All-Star game gives me a place to cheer some non-Cardinal favorites tending third base for the National League. While David Wright (of the New York Mets) manages the hot corner quite admirably, my fingers will be crossed that former Redbird Scott Rolen (now with the Cincinnati Reds and an All-Star reserve) gets the chance to show off his magic glove as well. I am even relishing the idea of having Derek Jeter at shortstop, making it harder for the “good guys.”

With my baseball exposure mostly limited to National League teams and a steadfast loyalty to the Cardinals, I do find it disconcerting to actually be cheering for one of the Phillies or Mets or Dodgers. But I have begun to appreciate the feeling of unity that this All-Star experience brings to the table as baseball will be transcending boundaries on the All-Star field. For one week in the season, we are in the same dugout. Opponents become teammates and good-natured camaraderie replaces the focused battle faces.

All-Star Game Expectations

I am still learning about the history of the All-Star game, how players are selected, changes that have been made in the rules and the logic behind it all. In my opinion all the fuss about fan voting, roster selection, and awarding home field advantage in the World Series may be taking attention from what this game should represent.

While many baseball realists argue that All-Star nominations should reward leaders in key statistical categories, I contend using only that criteria may not reflect the desire of the fans. Do these highly compensated Major League ballplayers really need yet another honor to make them feel appreciated? I think MLB should instead view the All-Star Game as a way to repay the loyal fans that fill the seats.

Give us the marquee players, heroes, and fan favorites – the names we know from the headlines and the players we love. I want to see the beloved (and infamous) stars of the ESPN highlight reels. I want an All-Star game full of flashy plays and superior pitching to famed sluggers lurking at the plate, waiting to launch an errant pitch right out of the park.

Give me a good-natured battle full of heart and enthusiasm, the thrill of a fantasy baseball game come to life. Throw in some great background stories to introduce me to unfamiliar players, and I guarantee that my love of the game will continue to grow. Those are my expectations for this All-Star game. And I cannot wait to see how it measures up!

Play Ball!

Erika Lynn covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com, BaseballDigest.com and writes at Cardinal Diamond Diaries. You may follow her on Twitter @Erika4stlcards or follow Cardinal Diamond Diaries here.

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