Fans began arriving early Saturday morning to get in line for the few standing-room-only tickets that would be available to watch the Springfield Double-A Cardinals vs. the defending National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
The very first games to be played in Hammons Field offered fans plenty of memories sure to go down in history. Stan Musial, who played for the Springfield Cardinals in 1941 and went on to become one of the most loved players in all of baseball, threw out the first pitch and wrangled Springfield Cardinal general manager Matt Gifford to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" while he accompanied Gifford on harmonica. Holding his harmonica high for the fans to see Musial shouted to the crowd, "I never leave home without it."
Other firsts: Andy Williams and the Lennon Sisters sang the first National Anthem; Jim Edmonds hit the first home-run; Matt DeMarco hit the first Springfield Cardinal home-run; Jeremy Cook (Springfield) vs Matt Morris was the first starting pitcher duel; and the Cardinals won both games.
Fans all over Springfield, even those who couldn't be at the game, talked about the new team. "Who are you rooting for," one fan working the drive-up window at a local Burger King asked a customer? "The Cardinals or the Cardinals?" "The Cardinals," came the reply.
Fans at the game shared stories about their beloved team and players. Like the gentleman who attended church with Stan Musial and had driven down from St. Louis to witness the historic game. He related to Springfield fans how he had the pleasure of seeing Stan Musial standing in the rain outside the church signing autographs for young paper boys who had taken refuge inside the church to get out of the downpour. Musial had apparently held an umbrella in one hand and a pen in the other proving once again not only what a great player he had been but what a great human being he still is.
Baseball is back in Springfield. Nothing since the opening of Katz Drugs in the mid-60's has ever generated so much excitement in this southwest Missouri town. St. Louis has given Springfield a gift of unimaginable proportions. Just as the opening of Katz Drugs on south Glenstone heralded in an era of new commerce and retail shopping in Springfield, the gift of Baseball will ignite a flame that will most-likely spread across the city like a wildfire chasing the coat-tails of the newest members of the Red-Bird nest.
Win or lose, (the St. Louis team won 4-3 on Saturday and 18-6 on Sunday) Cardinal fans love their team--a no-fail recipe for success in any city.
The Springfield Cardinals open the season on Thursday, April 7, at Arkansas Travelers. They open at home on April 12, at 7:30 p.m., against the Tulsa Drillers. According to Gifford, there are a handful of tickets remaining for the home opener. To purchase these tickets or any tickets to the Springfield Cardinals, call (417) 863-2143 or visit their Website at www.springfieldcardinals.com or stop by the ticket office at 955 E. Trafficway in Springfield.
Editor's Note - John Brayfield is our Springfield Cardinals Correspondent and you can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.