The final day of baseball at the original Busch Stadium, formerly known as Sportsman’s Park, featured a melancholy mix of star power and nostalgia, with an unusual twist at the end.
Fifty years ago, on May 8, 1966, the Giants beat the Cardinals, 10-5, in the last game played at the ballpark on North Grand Boulevard in St. Louis.
Known as Sportman’s Park until it was renamed Busch Stadium in 1953, the ballpark was the home of the Cardinals from 1920-66. It also was the home of the American League Browns from 1902-53.
On what The Sporting News described as “a delightfully warm Sunday afternoon,” the best all-time players from the two St. Louis franchises _ Stan Musial of the Cardinals and George Sisler of the Browns _ were honored in ceremonies before the game.
The starting pitchers were Larry Jaster for the Cardinals and Bob Shaw for the Giants before a crowd of 17,503.
The Giants led, 5-0, after three innings. The Cardinals rallied behind a barrage of home runs.
Tim McCarver and Bob Skinner each hit a two-run home run off Shaw in the fourth. Skinner’s blast landed deep in the center field bleachers. “That’s as good as I’ve ever hit a ball,” he said.
Shannon, who first had played in the ballpark as a 14-year-old in the Catholic Youth Council tournament, hit a solo home run in the fifth off Joe Gibbon. It would be the last home run hit by a Cardinal in the ballpark.
In the sixth, with two outs and the score tied at 5-5, Giants slugger Willie McCovey, hitting for shortstop Hal Lanier, delivered the game-changing hit, a three-run, opposite-field home run to left off Tracy Stallard.
The Giants never looked back.
With a fifth-inning single, Charlie Smith got the last hit by a Cardinal in the ballpark.
With a walk in the ninth, Jerry Buchek, a St. Louis native, was the last Cardinal to reach base in the ballpark.
Giants second baseman Tito Fuentes produced five singles in five at-bats.
Willie Mays hit the last home run at Busch Stadium I. It was a solo shot in the ninth off Cardinals left-hander Hal Woodeshick.
Lindy McDaniel, who pitched for the Cardinals from 1955-62, earned the win with five innings of scoreless relief for the Giants.
In the bottom of the ninth, McDaniel struck out Jimy Williams, walked Buchek and got Alex Johnson to bounce into a double play.
“I didn’t really think much about it until that last inning and then I suddenly realized that if I held ’em I’d be the last pitcher to work there,” McDaniel said. “I was always a Cardinals fan as a kid. The Cardinals were the only club I really wanted to sign with. My idols were Stan Musial and Dizzy Dean before him. It was a real good feeling for me, winning the last game in the old ballpark in St. Louis.” Boxscore
When the game ended, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, in a brief ceremony, gave the deed to the ballpark to Richard Amberg, president of the Herbert Hoover Boys Club. The stands would be demolished but the field was to remain for use by the youths.
As a band played “Auld Lang Syne,” Bill Stocksick, who planted home plate in 1909, was given the honor of digging up the dish. It was transported by helicopter and placed in the new Busch Stadium II in downtown St. Louis.
When the ceremonies ended, children were permitted to run around the bases. One of manager Red Schoendienst’s daughters scooped up some dirt around second base, where her father had performed as a player, and planned to place it in a bottle as a souvenir, The Sporting News reported.
A bulldozer appeared on the field, preparing to tear down the stands.
Stan and Red
In the Cardinals clubhouse, Musial walked into Schoendienst’s office.
“They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but this old diamond has been pretty good to us, Red,” Musial said to the manager.
Wrote The Sporting News: “The two old Redbirds sipped a beer in a farewell toast to the old stadium where both became famous.”
As the farewells played out, general managers Bob Howsam of the Cardinals and Chub Feeney of the Giants made a stunning announcement.
First baseman Orlando Cepeda, who was 2-for-4 with two RBI, a walk and a run scored in the Busch Stadium I finale, was traded by the Giants to the Cardinals for pitcher Ray Sadecki.
Howsam and Feeney had agreed to the deal during the game.
The acquisition of Cepeda would be an important step in rebuilding the Cardinals into a championship club in 1967, their first full season in the new stadium.