As the St. Louis Cardinals pursue their 12th championship in 2013 on the field of the latest version of Busch Stadium, the site of the previous ballpark is undergoing a transformation from a vacant lot to what should be a vibrant home for Cardinals fans to celebrate, as well as learn about the franchise’s impressive history.
Seven years after the Cardinals moved into the new stadium, Ballpark Village is finally taking shape beyond the leftfield wall. Construction is ongoing on buildings that will host restaurants, beer gardens, views into the stadium and the premier aspect of the new development: the new Cardinals Hall of Fame.
The franchise had a hall of fame and museum for years across the street from the old stadium, but it was torn down a few years after the team moved to the new ballpark. The team’s hall of fame has since been online, but it should have a new home by Opening Day 2014.
The Cardinals have enough history to share with their fans to probably fill the entire Ballpark Village complex, but of course, brick-and-morter buildings only have so much space.
So, what must the team include in the new hall of fame?
First, the hall of fame should be a place to honor Stan “The Man” Musial as never before. The organization honored Musial many times during his life and has provided meaningful tributes since he died Jan. 19 at age 92. The Cardinals wear a patch to honor Musial on the left sleeve of their uniforms this season and he has long had a statue at the main entrance of the latest two versions of Busch Stadium.
However, any Cardinals hall of fame must begin with Musial. He probably doesn’t need another statue; he already has two outside the stadium, but the entrance to the hall of fame could be flush with Musial tributes and memorabilia. Maybe a large No. 6 could hang from the ceiling in the front lobby and video pieces about Musial could play in the background.
Also, fans that enter the hall of fame could be treated to a video piece that tells the story of Cardinals history, from when the team began play in 1892 through the 11 championships and the many great players who played on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Of course, the main attraction to any hall of fame is the people who are enshrined, and the Cardinals have plenty of nominees worthy of that honor.
The 14 people with their pictures on the leftfield wall are obvious choices. From Rogers Hornsby, who helped the franchise win its first World Series title in 1926 as a player/manager, to Tony La Russa, who guided the team to its 10th and 11th championships as manager, the people honored on the retired numbers wall comprise the greatest collection of Cardinals heroes.
But they aren’t the only people who should be enshrined the hall of fame. Longtime Cardinals fans all have favorite players from a bygone era, and the new hall of fame would be a perfect place to honor those players who were integral in the team’s success but don’t have their number retired and aren’t in the baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Frank Fritch from the 1920s and 1930s, Pepper Martin from 1928 through 1944 and Joe Medwick through much of the 1930s are all players before the television era who were vital to the team’s success in those years, and it would be special for the organization to give fans a chance to learn about those greats.
Players from the 1980s such as Willie McGee and Darrell Porter should certainly have plaques in the hall of fame, along with John Tudor, Joaquin Andujar and Todd Worrell. Before that era, Mike Shannon should be in the hall as a player and broadcaster, and Shannon’s teammates from the 1960s such as Tim McCarver, Orlando Cepeda and Curt Flood should be included.
Many other players throughout the years will certainly qualify for enshrinement, but the hall of fame is also a museum, and part of what will likely make it a must-see destination for Cardinals fans is the variety of memorabilia in the building.
Since the team has played in four different stadiums, portions of each should be represented in new exhibits. Sportsman’s Park hosted Cardinals baseball beginning in 1892, but the team also played on a field known by the same name in those early years before returning to the corner of Grand and Dodier avenues in the late 1920s.
That park was home to Cardinals baseball until 1966, when the team moved into the big concrete bowl in downtown called Busch Stadium. That park hosted baseball and football for many years and eventually gave way to the current Busch Stadium in 2006.
Each of those stadiums had their unique features, but the moments inside them are what made them special. Certainly, items from memorable moments such as Ozzie Smith’s “Go crazy, folks!” homerun in 1985 should be included, as well as mementos from Game 6 of the 2011 World Series when David Freese capped off a 10-9 win over the Texas Rangers in 11 innings.
Those moments were great, no doubt, but the Cardinals could really personalize the hall of fame if they have memorabilia from a variety of events in team history. Something from the day Glenn Brummer stole home against the San Francisco Giants would be cool, as would something from the day Lou Brock broke Ty Cobb’s stolen base record with 118 swipes in 1974 or anything from Bob Gibson’s record-setting 1968 season when he pitched to a 1.12 earned-run average.
It is long-past time for the Cardinals to have a home for their incredibly deep, lively history. The franchise has accumulated so many successes and wonderful stories through more than a century of baseball that its hall of fame and museum is certain to be one of the best in the country.
Hopefully the team does it right and Ballpark Village becomes the home to the proper roots for Cardinals Nation.