Embracing the aloha spirit, the Cardinals accepted an opportunity for a Hawaiian adventure and avoided trouble in paradise.
Agreeing to a request by the Padres, the Cardinals participated in the first regular-season major-league games played in Hawaii 20 years ago in April 1997.
The three games against the Padres in Honolulu were part of a 10,200-mile Cardinals road trip that included stops in Miami and Los Angeles.
“There is a special challenge every season. This will be one of them,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The risk was worth the reward. The Cardinals won two of the three games played in Hawaii, drew large crowds to Aloha Stadium and enjoyed the visit.
“If this isn’t heaven, it’s close to it,” Cardinals outfielder Ron Gant said.
The Padres, who in 1996 played the Mets in Monterrey, Mexico, in the first big-league regular-season series outside the United States or Canada, were seeking to expand their fan base and marketing reach by scheduling a 1997 series in Hawaii.
Initially, the Padres asked the Astros to move a series from San Diego to Honolulu, but the Houston club declined.
The Padres then turned to the Cardinals.
Cardinals management approached catcher Tom Pagnozzi, the club’s players union representative, and asked him to put the idea to a vote of his teammates. Pagnozzi said Cardinals players voted almost unanimously to play the Padres in Honolulu rather than San Diego.
“It was not a close vote,” Pagnozzi told the Post-Dispatch. “It was completely one-sided. That surprised me a lot.”
Said Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty: “We gave the players the right to say yes or no. We wouldn’t have done it if the players hadn’t agreed to it.”
Jocketty said the Padres “are paying our expenses over what they would have been if we had played in San Diego.”
While in Hawaii, Cardinals players were to get double the usual amount of meal money _ $125 per day.
“Another 100 beans and I’m going to be styling in Hawaii,” Cardinals reliever Dennis Eckersley said.
Cross country trip
After finishing a homestand in St. Louis on Monday, April 14, the Cardinals went to Miami to play three games with the Marlins. After losing the series finale on Thursday afternoon, April 17, the Cardinals boarded a plane in Fort Lauderdale for a 12-hour trip to Honolulu.
The Padres, who finished a road trip in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 16, got to Hawaii on Thursday, April 17, a day ahead of the Cardinals.
“Maybe they’re already drinking Mai Tais,” Cardinals pitcher Todd Stottlemyre said.
The Cardinals arrived in Honolulu at 2 a.m. on Friday, April 18. The Padres scheduled a workout at Aloha Stadium for their players that day. The Cardinals told their players to take the day off.
La Russa told the Post-Dispatch he probably would use the off day to visit the U.S.S. Arizona. Players John Mabry, Mark Sweeney and T.J. Mathews went surfing. Third baseman Gary Gaetti tried snorkeling.
The Cardinals and Padres were scheduled to play a doubleheader on Saturday, April 19, starting at 4:05 pm on the artificial surface of Aloha Stadium.
In the opener, Cardinals starting pitcher Matt Morris was struck on his right hand by a Tony Gwynn line drive in the first inning.
Morris completed a scoreless first and batted in the second, then departed when he couldn’t grip the ball.
Mark Petkovsek relieved and pitched six scoreless innings. Mathews and Eckersley finished with a scoreless inning apiece and the Cardinals won, 1-0. The run was scored in the sixth when, with two outs, Brian Jordan doubled, swiped third and went home on catcher John Flaherty’s wild throw. Boxscore
“I had a good fastball down in the zone,” Petkovsek told the Honolulu Advertiser. “As we progressed into the game, I used my changeup and curve a little more.”
The Cardinals won the second game, 2-1, behind the three-hit pitching of Alan Benes and a RBI apiece by Sweeney and Mabry. Boxscore
Attendance for the doubleheader was 37,382.
The Cardinals became the first team to sweep a doubleheader with three total runs since the Indians beat the Blue Jays by the same scores on May 17, 1981.
In the 2:05 pm series finale on Sunday, April 20, the Padres won, 8-2, before a crowd of 40,050. The Cardinals’ highlight was Gant’s inside-the-park home run.
Gant circled the bases and belly-flopped across home plate after center fielder Rickey Henderson crashed into the wall while pursuing the drive. “I thought I had a pretty good jump on it, but when you get out toward the wall it seems like you’re going downhill _ and then I stumbled a little bit,” Henderson told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Boxscore
Reaction from the Cardinals to the Hawaii experience largely was positive.
“The trip wasn’t really a problem,” La Russa said. “We had plenty of time with the day off. The toughest part of this was playing a doubleheader and then coming back the next day to play when it’s really warm.”
La Russa was surprised the Padres organized the Hawaii weekend, not Major League Baseball (which did endorse it). Thus, the Padres were promoted more heavily and more favorably than the Cardinals.
In his column for the Star-Bulletin, Dave Reardon wrote, “La Russa didn’t like his team being billed as the Washington Capitals to the Padres’ Harlem Globetrotters. Can’t blame him.”
After the finale, the Cardinals went to Los Angeles, had an off day on Monday, April 21, and opened a series against the Dodgers with a 6-4 victory on Tuesday, April 22.