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In March 1988, the NFL approved the move of the St. Louis football Cardinals to Arizona, leaving the St. Louis baseball Cardinals as the sole tenant of Busch Stadium II for the first time since it opened in 1966.

curtis_greerThe departure of the football Cardinals ended 28 years of NFL existence in St. Louis, but it turned out to be a boon to the baseball Cardinals, who benefitted from improvements to Busch Stadium II.

In April 1988, when the defending National League champion Cardinals opened their baseball season a month after the football Cardinals left St. Louis, 1,000 seats and 10 luxury suites were added to Busch Stadium II, increasing seating capacity for baseball to 54,224.

A year later, among the upgrades made to the stadium for the 1989 Cardinals baseball season were a 65,000-watt sound system, seven new concession areas and remodeling of 11 others.

In 1992, the baseball Cardinals installed a spongier and darker artificial playing surface. Four years later, they went to a natural grass surface at Busch Stadium II for the first time since 1969.

Bill Bidwill, owner of the football Cardinals, had asked the NFL on Jan. 15, 1988, for permission to move to Phoenix because he believed Busch Stadium II limited his revenue opportunities and he didn’t have hope a football stadium would be built in St. Louis. The NFL wanted Bidwill to relocate the football Cardinals to Baltimore because it intended to place an expansion franchise in Phoenix.

Bidwill preferred Arizona. Sun Devil Stadium in Phoenix offered 73,000 seats (20,000 more than Busch Stadium II did for football). Bidwill stood to gain $2.5 million from luxury suite seats. He also was optimistic of having a domed stadium built in downtown Phoenix.

On March 15, 1988, NFL owners voted 26-0, with two abstentions, to approve the move. The two abstaining were Raiders owner Al Davis and Dolphins owner Joe Robbie.

(Davis, in a legal battle with the league, told the New York Times, “It’s all a sham. They vote any way they want and allow anyone they want to move.” Robbie told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he abstained out of loyalty to his friend Joe Foss, who headed a group seeking an expansion franchise in Phoenix. “A man who forgets his friends doesn’t deserve friends,” Robbie said.)

Cardinals defensive lineman Curtis Greer said Bidwill had given St. Louis the chance to build a stadium and keep the team.

”I would think that you’ve got to appreciate Mr. Bidwill’s patience in trying to give the city of St. Louis time to get a new stadium,” Greer said to the Post-Dispatch. ”I think it was about 3 1/2 years since he first talked of moving. He took the route of being courteous and following the guidelines of the league. I think you’ve got to admire a guy like that.”

St. Louis mayor Vincent Schoemehl ripped the NFL for permitting the move. Schoemehl told the Post-Dispatch that “communities have a right to be treated better” by the NFL.

“This is a reflection on them (the NFL) and not us,” Schoemehl said. “I think our code of conduct in this city is frankly superior to theirs.”

Regarding the NFL commissioner, Schoemehl added, “I find it hard to hold Pete Rozelle in high regard.”

Seven years later, St. Louis regained a NFL franchise when the Rams moved there from Los Angeles. The Rams played their first four home games of the 1995 season at Busch Stadium II before relocating to a domed stadium built for the franchise in downtown St. Louis.

Previously: Football Cardinals finally got it right with Don Coryell

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In 1943, the defending World Series champion Cardinals shifted their spring training site from Florida to Illinois. Compared with where other big-league clubs had to go, the Cardinals considered themselves fortunate.

billy_southworth2With the United States pouring resources into its fight against Germany and Japan in World War II, big-league baseball offered to help conserve by placing travel restrictions on where clubs could train in the spring.

Clubs were ordered to choose sites north of the Potomac and Ohio rivers and east of the Mississippi River.

The Browns of the American League selected Cape Girardeau, Mo., located 135 miles south of St. Louis. (Because Cape Girardeau is on the west bank of the Mississippi, the Browns technically were in violation of the rules, but baseball officials allowed it.)

The Cardinals picked Cairo, Ill., the southernmost spring training site of all 16 major league clubs. Cairo, then a town of 14,000, is located where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi. It is 40 miles south of Cape Girardeau.

“We’re going farther south than any other big-league training outfit,” Cardinals owner Sam Breadon said to The Sporting News. “We’ll be only a short distance from Tennessee and the weather down there is always from 12 to 15 degrees warmer than it is in St. Louis.”

Here is where the big-league teams trained in 1943:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

CLUB……………1943 TRAINING SITE……………1942 TRAINING SITE

Braves…………..Wallingford, Conn……………………..Sanford, Fla.

Cardinals……….Cairo, Ill……………………………………St. Petersburg, Fla.

Cubs………………French Lick, Ind……………………….Catalina Island, Calif.

Dodgers…………Bear Mountain, N.Y…………………..Havana, Cuba

Giants……………Lakewood, N.J………………………….Miami, Fla.

Phillies…………..Swarthmore, Pa……………………….Miami Beach, Fla.

Pirates……………Muncie, Ind…………………………….San Bernardino, Calif.

Reds………………Bloomington, Ind…………………….Tampa, Fla.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

CLUB……………1943 TRAINING SITE……………1942 TRAINING SITE

Athletics…………Wilmington, Del………………………..Anaheim, Calif.

Browns…………..Cape Girardeau, Mo…………………..DeLand, Fla.

Indians…………..West Lafayette, Ind……………………Clearwater, Fla.

Red Sox………….Medford, Mass………………………….Sarasota, Fla.

Senators…………College Park, Md………………………Orlando, Fla.

Tigers……………..Evansville, Ind…………………………Lakeland, Fla.

White Sox………..French Lick, Ind………………………Pasadena, Calif.

Yankees……………Asbury Park, N.J…………………….St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Cardinals didn’t report to Cairo, Ill., until mid-March, at least two weeks later than they usually went to St. Petersburg. They trained outdoors on a large field and indoors in a high school gym.

According to The Sporting News, the field drained well, “usable the day after a heavy rainfall,” and the gym was like “a steam room” because the Cardinals kept the temperature above 80.

Cardinals manager Billy Southworth projected a positive attitude, telling The Sporting News after the first week of workouts, “Let us have three days outdoors out of every five and we’ll be in thoroughly satisfactory condition for the pennant race. And let us have warm weather through most of the last two weeks and we’ll be in as good condition as we could attain anywhere in the country.”

The Cardinals’ Cairo spring didn’t hurt. They repeated as National League champions in 1943. They trained again in Cairo in 1944 and 1945 (winning a World Series title in 1944) before returning to St. Petersburg in 1946.

Previously: How Mort Cooper pitched 2 straight 1-hitters for Cardinals

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