Busch Memorial Stadium opened in 1966 as the first true downtown major-league ballpark of the 20th century. Fans can see the St. Louis Arch rising above the left field roof from the upper deck and now can arrive on the city’s light-rail line. Planned as an urban renewal project, it was an early example of the round multipurpose stadiums that swept the sports world in the 1960s and 70s.
Busch had a grass field until 1970 and a standard shaped dirt infield until 1974, when small dirt sliding pits replaced the large skin surface. (Monsanto, the manufacturer of Astroturf, was based in St. Louis, so perhaps replacement of the grass was inevitable.) The hard, fast playing surface and deep outfield dimensions (330-383-414-383-330) logically led to teams that emphasized speed, outfield defense and pitching over power, typified by players such as Lou Brock, Curt Flood, and Bob Gibson as well as Whitey Herzog‘s teams of the mid-1980s. Although quite unfriendly to sluggers, it was a neutral park with respect to scoring.
In 1982, is official name was shortened to Busch Stadium, which had been the name borne by its predecessor, Sportsman’s Park, in its final twelve years. In 1996, the stadium was altered by the reinstallation of a grass field, creation of a picnic area in the left-field stands, and shortening of the power alleys by 11 feet and center field by 12 feet. The result so far, paradoxically, appears to be a park less conducive to scoring and more conducive to home runs than before; Busch remains a pitcher’s park.
Busch Stadium is a sea of crimson during baseball season, not only because of the all-red seats, but because so many fans wear scarlet apparel in support of the Cardinals. The stadium’s baseball capacity has grown and then ebbed over the years, but currently stands just under 50,000. Between 1966 and 1987, it was also the home of the NFL Cardinals before the team moved to Arizona. Reflecting the team’s long association with America’s largest brewery, the traditional seventh-inning stretch rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is followed after the bottom of the seventh by the Budweiser “King Of Beers” jingle.
Busch Stadium is currently the fourth-oldest park in the National League. In 2001, plans were floated to replace it with a new neotraditional facility immediately adjacent, and a vigorous political debate on the desirability of such a project is currently underway.