Saturday, April 9, 2022

April 9, 1953: Busch Buys The Ballpark


    On April 9, 1953, it was announced that St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck was selling Sportsman's Park to Cardinals owner August A. Busch Jr. for a cost of $800,000. By today's standards that would equate to $8.5 million. The park was long overdue for repair and Busch had a plan in place for an extensive renovation that included a planned name change to Budweiser Stadium, wider seats, and an Anheuser Busch eagle over the left field wall that would flap its wings when a player hit a home run. 

    The sale came on the heels of the American League rejecting a proposed move to Baltimore for Veeck's club, which turned Veeck from landlord into tenant, as he signed a 5 year lease for the Browns to occupy the ballpark. However, as we all know the Browns move to Baltimore would ultimately be approved and 1953 was the last season the Browns called St. Louis home.

    Busch had big plans for the stadium. Over the next couple of years more than $1.5 million was invested into the ballpark. Before the sale took place the park had fallen into such disrepair the cash strapped Browns could not seem to so much as replace the tarp that was used during a rain delay. It was said that the tarp was so bad that when they pulled it off the field there were puddles everywhere. Along with the wider seats and the Anheuser Busch eagle, Gussie invested into a state-of-the-art drainage system, new restrooms, concessions stands, drinking fountains, turnstiles, and improved dugouts. The ballpark was also painted green, red, and metallic blue to enhance the fan's experience while taking in a game. 

    One thing that Busch did not get his way with was changing the name to Budweiser Stadium. MLB Commissioner Ford Frick and others did not want to commercialize the game by letting an owner name his stadium after an alcoholic beverage. Therefore, Busch went with his family name and Busch Stadium was born. Less than a year later Busch Bavarian Beer was born and the Cardinals owner was able to get the last laugh with that one. 

    The site of the ballpark that sat at Grand and Dodier was the home of baseball as early as 1867. The team that became the Cardinals had played on the grounds from 1882 to 1892 before moving into Robison Field in 1893. The Browns opened the new version of Sportsman's Park on the site in 1902 as a member of the American League. The Cardinals returned as tenants in 1920 and celebrated nine pennant winning seasons there as well as six World Championships. It was known as home of the St. Louis Cardinals until Busch Stadium II opened in May of 1966.  

    Sportsman's Park was the original Baseball Heaven. Just to think of the memories that were made within those walls is something that one can hardly wrap the mind around. All these years and two ballparks later when we join our friends, family and other fans within the walls of the stadium that we call Busch be sure to remember how special it truly is. 

Check out this video about Sportsman's Park



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