It was the final week of the last regular season at Busch Stadium.
In Deluxe Suite 401, down the right-field line, my wife Anne, my daughter Kelly and I had gathered together once again at the ballpark, joined on this very special evening, by the staff of the Birdhouse for a staff meeting and party. In the back of our minds, we knew we were there also to say our final goodbyes to the old stadium.
Just a few yards away, St. Louis based, freelance photographer, Stuart Goldstein was scouting the centerfield area in preparation of taking a series of photographs, that in just three months, would bring tears to eyes of Cardinal Fans across the nation.
It was the St. Louis Cardinals against the Houston Astros that night at Busch Stadium. We made the trek to St. Louis for a variety of reasons; to watch a baseball game between the two best franchises in the National League, to conduct a staff meeting with the editors and columnists from the Birdhouse, to meet with the executives from Scout.com and Fox Sports and begin the planning for next season, and then on a very personal level for many of us in the room, to say our final good-byes to an old friend, Busch Stadium.
Since 1966, the same year the Gateway Arch had opened on the Mississippi River Front, Busch Stadium located in the heart of downtown St. Louis, had been the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, the most storied baseball team in National League history.
The stadium had been the site of joyous victories, painful losses and fellowship with family and friends for 25 years. The memories of those events are etched in our collective memories forever.
We waited that last night inside the stadium, not wanting to leave our old friend alone, until security practically threw us out of the ballpark. I guess somehow we thought if we didn't leave, we could perhaps prevent the inevitable. In just a matter of a few days the large cranes lurking in the dark outside the park, would have their way and the place that we had come to love, a placed we called home, would be gone forever.
The razing of the seventh oldest MLB stadium this winter not only marked the end of the Cardinals' history there, but it also means a physical reminder of our memories is gone forever.
About forty minutes after the last out, one of St. Louis' premier photographers, Stewart Goldstein, had arranged for the stadium electricians to begin turning off the lights in sequence from the outfield to the infield, giving him time between the flicking of each off switch, to allow him to take the photographs for a poster.
Stationed in centerfield kneeling among the peanut shells, discarded beer and soda cups, between the seats of the fourth row, Stewart began taking photos of the lights and the ballpark, with his 10-D Canon camera.
Outside the ballpark, we said goodbye to our friends, old and new and as everyone went their separate ways, my family and I waited for the lights from the Stadium to be turned off. It was as if somehow the timeworn structure was just going to die peacefully in it's sleep and be spared the death and destruction that was looming on the horizon.
We didn't watch the wrecking balls assault the stadium a few days later. We didn't tune in to see the day to day updates on the destruction of the ballpark. We had our final moments together, that night we had said our goodbyes, as the lights went out and that's how we want to remember her.
Goldstein has caught the emotions of that night for us in his series of photographs, that make up the poster titled "Goodnight Old Friend". His pictures say in six frames what I can't say in 6,000 words.
I'm reluctant to even call what Stewart Goldstein does as taking photographs. What he does, as you will see in his posters, is art. His photographic art differs from most of the photo pieces available now in that his work focuses on the inside of the old Busch Stadium.
He currently has two special pieces available, including' "Goodnight Old Friend" the night the lights went out and a collage of unique images of the beloved landmark which is sure to bring back memories.
Both posters can be found on Goldstein's website at BuschStadiumPosters.com.We got ours and the memories of that last night, will live with us forever.