The past two weeks we have looked at the challenges that the new season of spring creates. There are good things however that come with the spring rains, Cardinal Baseball. Now you may ask how I can tie in fire and fire safety to Cardinal Baseball, but to find this out you will have to read on.
The St. Louis Cardinals have a long rich history not matched by many clubs. Over the years, as the same club, they have had several names; St. Louis Brown Stockings (1882) St. Louis Browns (1883-1898), St. Louis Perfectos (1889), St. Louis Cardinals (1900 to present). When the team changed from the Browns to the Perfectos they also changed the color of their stockings to red. The story goes that a reporter overheard a lady comment on the new stockings and what a beautiful color of Cardinal Red they were, the story was written and the name stuck.
The team played their games in Sportsman Park on the corner of Grand and Dodier until the season of 1893 when the owner of the team move them a few blocks away to Natural Bridge and Vandeventer and the “New Sportsman’s Park”. The owner at the time, Chris von der Ahe, originally bought the team to support his bar, beer and baseball would have a long tradition in St. Louis.
On April 16th, 1898 a fire started by a discarded cigar quickly consumed the grandstands and several other structures. Somehow crews worked overnight to construct temporary seating and amazingly the game the next day was played as scheduled. This fire however sent the owner into bankruptcy and the team was sold to Frank and Stanley Robison in 1899. The stadium, known as the New Sportsman’s Park, now was known as League Park.
It was this sale that brought one of the greatest pitchers of all times to St. Louis, Cy Young. The Robison’s also owned the Cleveland Spiders whom Cy Young played for and upon the purchase of the now Perfectos, Cy Young was sent to St. Louis.
The history of fire in this all wood ballpark was not over though. On May 4th of 1901 a fire broke out under the stands and quickly the structure was completely engulfed in flames. The team was to begin a month long road trip giving the owners time to once again rebuild.
When Frank Robison died in 1908 his daughter Helene Britton changed the name of the ballpark again to Robison Field. Incidentally Ms. Britton was the first female owner of a Major League Baseball team. Ms. Britton sold the Cardinals to Sam Breadon in 1917 and the stadium was then renamed as Cardinal Field. Cardinal Field, the all wood ballpark was closed in 1920 when the team moved back to Sportsman’s Park.
The history of this great franchise does not end there; many great players have worn the birds on the bat along with 11 World Series Championships. As a side note people sometime confuse the St. Louis Browns who became the St. Louis Cardinals with the St. Louis Browns who played in St. Louis from 1902-1953 before becoming the Baltimore Orioles. These two teams shared Sportsman’s Park from 1920-1953, one NL team one AL team. The Cardinals remained at Sportsman’s until Bush Stadium was completed in 1966.