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St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Hot dogs, Hall of Famers and memories of Sportsman’s Park

A rough season for Cardinals fans is finally over, here’s a look back at a different era in St. Louis baseball history

Exactly four months after my bar mitzvah, my dad took me to see the Cardinals lose to the San Francisco Giants in the final game played at Sportsman’s Park. 

It was May 8, 1966, a sunny Thursday afternoon, and I witnessed Willie Mays hit a home run for the Giants in a game that featured three other future Hall of Famers on the field: the Cardinals’ Lou Brock and the Giants’ Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey. Pitchers Juan Marichal of the Giants and Bob Gibson of the Cardinals, two more future HOF inductees, didn’t play that day. 

Four days later, the team moved to their new downtown home at Busch Memorial Stadium.

What I remember most was the smell of hot dogs. The aroma is special at a ballpark, especially a creaky old place like Sportsman’s Park. The ballpark was renamed Busch Stadium in 1953, the last year the Cardinals shared time there with the American League’s St. Louis Browns, who became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954.

The 2023 Cardinals team finished the season in last place in the Central Division, a rarity that bewilders St. Louis fans, many of whom can recite player stats and trivia from decades past. The lack of October baseball this year doesn’t alter the fact that the Cardinals have won 11 World Series titles — in three different ballparks. One of those was Sportsman’s Park.

So, we decided that as this disappointing season has wrapped up, we would take look back at a part of St. Louis baseball history — Sportsman’s Park — and explore longtime fans’ memories of attending games decades ago. 

Historic ballparks from that era are now down to just a pair: Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston. Visits to those ballparks frequently appear on the bucket lists of diehard baseball fans like Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham, senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Amoona.

“There is something about the classic parks that gives you the sense of the history of the game and nostalgia as well,” Abraham said. “As a Yankees fan, while I can’t stand the Red Sox, seeing a game at Fenway Park just brings that feeling together of connecting the generations of baseball fans, l’dor va’dor, as we say in Judaism.”

Aaron, Clemente, Maris, Mays and Musial

In 1882, Sportsman’s Park, located at Grand Avenue and Dodier Street, became the first home of the St. Louis Brown Stockings. The team changed its name to the Cardinals in 1900. They relocated down the street to Robison Field and, in 1920, moved back to Sportsman’s Park. 

Jewish St. Louisans who are old enough to remember attending Cardinals games at Sportsman’s Park have particularly vivid memories of small details from games they attended nearly 60 years ago.

Sam Goldstein, 71: “The main things I remember were two games. One was very unique. On Aug. 18, 1965, Hank Aaron hit a home run, but (Cardinals catcher) Bob Uecker said Aaron jumped out in front of the plate, so the umpire disallowed the homer. The other game was Aug. 7, 1965, when Willie Mays hit two home runs.”

Terry Taryle, 70: “I remember sitting in the upper deck. Stan Musial was playing left field. We kept yelling at him, and he eventually tipped his cap to us and we thought we were in seventh heaven.”


Joel Katz, 71: “My best memory was watching Maris and Mantle goof around right in front of us before the game playing catch, poking each other and waving up to all of us. Later that afternoon, both of them hit huge home runs over our right field grandstand.”

Johnny Goldstein, 75: “I remember seeing Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays play. They were both fast and would make incredible defensive plays, and they were fast on the bases. So it was always exciting seeing them.”

Family Days at the ballpark

Going to the ballgame was often a family affair. Baby boomers usually went to games with their parents.

Bob Daniel, 70 (Shaare Emeth member): “I remember going to a Sunday game with Mike Kahn, who lived down the street. We went with Mike’s dad, Bill Kahn, who was the executive director of the J. A great guy. We had tickets for a double-header. Mike’s dad drove this old beat-up Chevy II. You parked in a lot with cars in front of you and behind you. Mike’s dad told the parking attendant he was a doctor and he was probably going to be getting a call to leave early, so he had to give him a good spot. We did leave early and got out easily.”

Cheryl Martin, 70 (Central Reform Congregation member): “When I was a little kid, 4 or 5 years old, we went to Sportsman’s Park. I remember I was with my mom, and she happened to be opening her purse and a foul ball just fell right into it.”

Dennis Brodsky, 71: “My grandfather, Aubie Brodsky, would take us to home games on Sunday afternoons. We always sat in the bleachers. The tickets cost $1.” 


Steve Alper, 68: “My dad Dave ran Marte’s Shoes at 14th and  Washington for 40 years. He was the ‘shoe man of baseball’ and was good friends with all of the umpires. And I remember going into the umpires’ room, which was between home plate and third base. Umpires don’t rub baseballs anymore. The clubhouse attendants take care of it. But back then, the umpires would have to rub up 60 baseballs. They’d take mud and rub it into the baseballs. And I can remember rubbing baseballs with Al Foreman and Stan Landes, who were Jewish umpires.”

Joel Katz: “Sam Katz (Joel’s father, born in 1911) was a vegetable peddler to all the best restaurants and groceries stores. He seemed to always know a guy who knew a guy, and we got tickets whenever we wanted to go.

Johnny Goldstein: “My grandpa and my dad were both baseball fans, so I was there maybe 15 or 20 times a year until I got into junior high school. Then, my mom and dad let me take the Redbird Express bus, and I was literally there 25 or 30 times a year. I mean, just all the time.”

1964 World Series

The New York Yankees have the most World Series titles in Major League Baseball with 27, followed by the Cardinals with 11. The two teams met in the fall classic most recently in 1964. The Cardinals won the series in seven games.  

Mick Weltman, 71: “My fondest memory was when my cousin Dan Katz and I went to the last game of the 1964 season. That was the day the Cardinals won the pennant. I was 12. Our parents let us take the bus by ourselves. We got first row general admission seats. At the end of the game, the crowd went crazy.”


Bob Susman, 72 (B’nai Amoona member): “The final game of the 1964 season, the Cardinals were in a three-way tie for first place. I really, really, really wanted to go to the game, but I had no tickets. It was Sunday morning. I was sitting in the auditorium at B’nai Amoona and my father walked in. He scored tickets for the game, and he took my brother and me.”

Steve Alper: “I can still remember what I wore to the sixth game of the 1964 World Series: white corduroy pants and red and white checked shirt.”

Terry Taryle: “I went to the 1964 World Series game against the Yankees with my dad. We were in the bleachers. A friend of his slept outside the ballpark in line to get tickets. That was the game when Mike Shannon hit a home run off the scoreboard.”

Roy Wagman, 71 (United Hebrew member): “The seventh game of the 1964 World Series was on a Thursday. It was a day off for my father, who was a dentist. He somehow secured two tickets, and he took me out of school for the game, which was a real treat. He died only eight years later, and that day is still one of my fondest memories.”

Fine dining, for 25 cents

One of the culinary delights of going to a ballgame at Sportsman’s Park was a ballpark frank. Savvy fans knew where to get the best one: just outside the entrance.

Bob Susman: “The hot dogs and stale beer, that aroma can’t be replicated anywhere on earth.”

Dennis Brodsky: “We always got a hot dog across the street from where we went in. A hot dog and a soda for 25 cents. Inside the ballpark it was 35 cents.”

Steve Alper: “The best hot dog was right behind home plate, but not inside the stadium. It was at a parking lot right behind home plate. And I just remember eating that hot dog, which was obviously not kosher. You’d get that aroma starting there just walking in.”

Terry Taryle: “I remember the smell of hot dogs near the Carter Carburetor sign by the main entrance.”

Johnny Goldstein: “The first thing I think of is when you’d walk into the ballpark, the smell of the grilling hot dogs. That was compelling. But it was 600 of them grilling at a time that sent up a cloud of hot dog smell, which is a great thing.”

The catwalk

Two of the architectural highlights of Sportsman’s Park were the huge lights and a catwalk.

Bob Susman: “My recollection was the whole ambience. It was really a neat place. There were big lights that stood out against the sky, and when a fly ball was hit at night, it would disappear in the lights and then reappear. There was also that big scoreboard.”

Steve Alper: “Obviously, people have told you about the catwalk. You’d be able to watch the players. That was inside baseball. It was so cool to see them walk from the dugout up over the walk into the clubhouse.”

Johnny Goldstein: “You’d walk right under this walkway and there would be players from both teams walking to the field. I remember as a kid getting a scorecard and standing under the walkway and handing cards up to the players to get autographs. And that was just the most amazing thing about that ballpark. It wasn’t a covered walkway. It was an iron railing and they could bend down and you could hand your scorecard up to them and they’d sign it.”

Terry Taryle: “From the visitor’s dugout to the clubhouse there was a metal walkway that went across the concourse. Billy McCool [career record: 32-42] was pitching for the Reds, and the Cardinals knocked him out early. We saw him on the walkway and my dad said, ‘There’s Billy McCool. Why don’t you go ask him for his autograph?’ I said, ‘Mr. McCool, can I have your autograph?’ and he replied gruffly, ‘Get away from me, kid!’ My dad busted out laughing because he knew McCool was not going to be in a good mood. I think that was a life lesson my dad taught me.” 

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About the Contributor
Bill Motchan, writer/photographer
Bill worked in corporate communications for AT&T for 28 years. He is a former columnist for St. Louis Magazine. Bill has been a contributing writer for the Jewish Light since 2015 and is a three-time winner of the Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish Journalism. He also is a staff writer for the travel magazine Show-Me Missouri. Bill grew up in University City. He now lives in Olivette with his wife and cat, Hobbes. He is an avid golfer and a fan of live music. He has attended the New Orleans Jazzfest 10 times and he has seen Jimmy Buffett in concert more t han 30 times between 1985 and 2023.