16 years after it fell, Busch Stadium 2.0 holds special memories 

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Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

Old Busch Stadium, aka Busch Stadium 2.0, will always be a special place for me–even if the building has been gone for 16 years. That’s because, on Dec. 7, 2005, the building was essentially blown up, turned to rubble for the new stadium to rise up next door. Before Ballpark Village could enjoy a couple of phases of development, it was the site of the 1966-built home field for the St. Louis Cardinals, both the baseball and football team.

Busch Stadium, Dec 7

But it’s funny how certain places– establishments holding key memories in your life– don’t lose much luster after their physical form disappears. While it’s nice seeing scoreboard relics-team names and other structure elements of it-posted around the field box area of the new ballpark, there’s nothing like closing your eyes and thinking back to where it all started.

There are two things that stand sacred in that Busch 2.0: falling in love with baseball as a kid and officially marrying the sport as a young man when I worked there for eight seasons. My job was changing scores on the manual scoreboard, the one that was tucked up in the upper terrace levels of the stadium, right underneath the mini white arches that lined the top deck. Calling it a dream job would be an understatement.

From 1998 to that fateful 2005 fall night where Roy Oswalt turned off the lights for good on Busch 2.0– just two days after Albert Pujols hit that legendary blast off Astros closer Brad Lidge –I worked the scoreboard downtown. It was 800-plus games, and hundreds of very late nights with a quiet park. The gift of having the team owner’s son move in next door to my grandmother in Brentwood, I jumped at the chance of working on high scaffolding with a bunch of guys who I didn’t know initially, but became close friends with for life.

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Behind The Scoreboard

A couple of those souls aren’t around anymore to enjoy the still-warm recollections of ice fights during games and playoff beer can destruction. The late Troy Siade and Mike Meyer, two men who helped me transition from a teen who talked too much to a young adult who talked too much, turned an already thrilling job into something truly special. Jim Kleinschmidt, scoreboard veteran and a good friend a decade and a half later, put it best: I can’t believe they actually pay us to do this job.

For those eight years, we were the sweaty rock stars of Busch 2.0 employment. Early birds would arrive at the board around four in the afternoon and prep the board: switching team names, pitcher numbers, or clearing the board from last night’s action. When the ticker started printing or the laptop was booted up, the night took off. But that came after a visit to the press box, where Jack Buck could be sitting to your right and Mike Shannon would arrive in full-black in 95-degree heat pouring coffee.

Oops

Having Joe Buck point out a wrong score on the air didn’t exactly feel good, nor did Al Hrabosky jokingly alerting us that a “0” was placed in a slot upside down after a four-hour lopsided loss–but being a part of the crew down at the park was a dream unfolded for me. From stepping into the park for the first time around 1988-89 and seeing baseball soak into my DNA to officially working there required a constant pinch of the forearm. How did I get here?

Would I do it today if the board came back? No. As much fun as it would be getting back behind the board and making a few new memories, it wouldn’t be the same as it was back in 2004. Every scoreboard employee huddles in front of a cleared-off board with the Cardinals and Astros waging a pennant war. A year later, the same two teams met in front of the door to the World Series, and the stadium closed for business.

I would only want to work the board with a new crew. The shoes they would have to fill wouldn’t be fair. Since that is impossible, all one can do is cherish the good times-like when Mark McGwire hit that illustrious 62nd homer in 1998. That was a night you could feel Busch Stadium shake a little.

Sometimes, it’s best to remember instead of thinking about recreating. When that building came down 16 years ago, the memories endured. They always will.

Busch Stadium Dec 7