Cardinals fans may choose an upgraded Ballpark Village to see games

St. Louis Cardinals
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ST. LOUIS – When the St. Louis Cardinals return to play at Busch Stadium next month, it will likely be without fans in the stands. However, Fox 2 has learned the fan ban is not written in stone.

St. Louis is built for baseball; look at Ballpark Village. With all the changes in the $260 million Phase 2 expansion over the past year, people may not recognize a lot of it.

The new Sports & Social restaurant, bar, and social gaming venue opened a week ago.
The spiffy new outdoor plaza is ready. But the place is just not the same without the games.

News of the Cardinals return has been dampened by news that it will likely be to an empty ballpark; no fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A city known as “Baseball Heaven” seems to be searching for its baseball mojo.

“I don’t know if fans will be able to go a baseball game in this abbreviated season. It seems unlikely today,” said St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.

The city health department has approved the Cardinals proposed safety frame work for players only, she said. It will include spacing of players’ lockers, sanitizing gear, periodic COVID-19 testing, and daily temperature checks.

The Cardinals’ ticket director is still hopeful for socially distanced fans in the stands, perhaps up to 25 percent capacity.

“I’m just happy the season’s starting. It’s the way it is. Like, it’s set up right now with the pandemic,” said James West, a Cardinals fan. “It’s just how it’s got to go. Take what you can get.”

The mayor did not rule out fans attending games at some point.

“As I’ve said many times before, things have changed quickly,” Krewson said.

There’s also hope Ballpark Village will be able to use a portion of its close to 340 rooftop seats for people to watch the games in the stadium across the street.

“We are exploring the options to be able to utilize those spaces for fan viewing,” said Mike Lamartina, chief revenue officer for Ballpark Village. “Obviously, it would done at a reduced capacity and probably a different model and not through a ticket system…I don’t think we’ve lost the mojo. I think like anything we’ve seen on the heels of the pandemic and having the stoppage, we’re waiting to see what the next bit of information is. The public wants to understand how and when and what it looks like for them.”

Meanwhile, PBR St. Louis reopens Friday at Ballpark Village. The rest of the attractions will reopen in phases over the next two to three weeks.

Team practices at Busch Stadium begin next week, with games starting about three weeks after that.

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About the St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of Major League Baseball’s iconic franchises. The team with the “Birds on the Bat” have won more World Series titles than any other National League club, and are second only to the New York Yankees overall.

St. Louis has been home to a National League franchise since 1892, but the franchise wasn’t known as the Cardinals until 1900.

Behind future Hall of Fame second baseman Rogers Hornsby, the Cardinals won their first World Series in 1926 over the Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig Yankees. The ‘Gashouse Gang’ era Cardinals dominated the 1930s thanks to Dizzy Dean, Johnny Mize and Joe Medwick and won the 1934 World Series.

Did you know that Branch Rickey, who would later rise to fame for bringing Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues and breaking baseball’s color barrier, invented the minor league farm system we know today with the St. Louis Cardinals? It was Rickey who built a system of affiliate teams to grow talent that would later shine in St. Louis. In the 1930s and 1940s, that system produced the likes of future Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and Enos Slaughter, all of whom won World Series championships for the Cardinals.

The Musial-era Cardinals would later give way to a new generation, and it was Bob Gibson and Lou Brock who helped bring the World Series back to St. Louis in the 1960s. Gibson had one of the most dominant seasons in baseball history in 1968. He was so good baseball lowered the mound the following year.

The 1970s saw the end of the Gibson and Brock years, the trade of Steve Carlton to Philadelphia and the arrival of Keith Hernandez. Hernandez would share the 1979 NL MVP award with Pittsburgh’s Willie Stargell.

For the Cardinals, the 1980s could be summed up in a single word: Whiteyball. Behind Manager Whitey Herzog, baseball in St. Louis became synonymous with speed, stolen bases and defense. Shortstop Ozzie Smith was acquired from San Diego, and with Hernandez, second baseman Tommy Herr, a rookie outfielder named Willie McGee and closer Bruce Sutter, the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series over the Milwaukee Brewers. After Hernandez would dealt to the New York Mets, that core of players, along with slugger Jack Clark, would get the Cardinals to two more World Series trips that decade.

The 1980s saw the end of the Gussie Busch ownership era for the Cardinals. When he died in 1989, the Anheuser-Busch brewery took over after nearly 40 years under his watch.

In 1996 the brewery sold the club to the ownership group still led today by Bill DeWitt, Jr. The DeWitt family brought in former Oakland A’s manager Tony LaRussa, who would go on to be the winningest manager in team history. With another former Oakland hand running the front office in Walt Jocketty, the team acquired Mark McGwire from the A’s in 1997. The slugging first baseman would break Roger Maris’ single-season record for Home Runs in 1998 in a chase with Sammy Sosa that captivated the nation, only later to be tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs that McGwire admitted to years later.

In 2001, a young rookie named Albert Pujols burst on the St. Louis scene. Playing all over the field, he was the runaway winner of the National League MVP, setting the stage for the most dominant decade of offensive performance ever seen in a player’s first ten years in Major League Baseball. Catcher Yadier Molina came on board in 2004 as the Cardinals made their first World Series appearance since 1987. Two years later, a rookie pitcher named Adam Wainwright would fill in as the closer on a club that won its first World Series since 1982.

The Cardinals’ third World Series appearance in eight seasons may have been the most improbable when it came in 2011. A team that was left for dead at the start of September managed to roar into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season behind the pitching heroics of Chris Carpenter down the stretch. Once in the playoffs, the legend of David Freese was born. Freese, a St. Louis County native, won the National League Championship Series MVP by slugging three home runs against Milwaukee. Then in the World Series against Texas, down to the team’s last strike in what would have been a Rangers clincher, a Freese triple tied the game. A Freese home run in extra innings forced a Game 7, which the Cardinals won, bringing an 11th World Series crown home.

Albert Pujols left via free agency in the offseason and LaRussa retired, but the Cardinals kept moving forward, reaching the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox with former catcher Mike Matheny now managing the club. In some respects, the Cardinals are still recovering from what happened October 26, 2014, when outfielder Oscar Taveras, considered a potentially generational talent who could have become the face of the franchise, died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

The Matheny era would last 6.5 seasons, until he was replaced by current manager Mike Shildt in 2018.

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