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Sportsman Park

 

Serving as home to both the St. Louis Browns (1902-1953) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1920-1966), Sportsman's Park hosted more Major League baseball games than any other stadium in history.  Originally built in the 1870s for the Brown Stockings of the National Association, Sportsman's Park became the permanent home of the American League's St. Louis Browns in 1902.  A new double-deck grandstand was installed in the ballpark prior to the 1909 season, thereby converting the original single-deck grandstand into the left field pavilion.  A similar single-deck section was built in right field in 1912, before both pavilions were later expanded into double decks in 1925.

 

Sportsman's  Park's original seating capacity was only 8,000 fans.  Its dimensions were 368 feet to the left field foul pole, 430 feet to center field and 335 feet down the right field foul line.  In the stadium's final season (1966), its dimensions were 351 feet to the left field foul pole, 422 feet to center field and 309.5 feet to the right field foul pole.

 

The Cardinals joined the Browns as tenants at Sportsman's Park in 1920.  Although the Browns consistently drew more fans than the Cardinals at first, the strong teams the Cardinals fielded in subsequent seasons enabled them to draw more fans each year between 1926 and 1953, except for the 1944 campaign, during which the Browns captured their only A.L. pennant.  The Cardinals appeared in nine World Series during their Sportsman's Park days, defeating the Browns in six games in the 1944 World Series (the only all-St. Louis Fall Classic)..

 

After the innovative Bill Veeck purchased the Browns in 1951, he regularly conducted publicity stunts at his team's home games.  On August 19, 1951, Veeck had three-foot seven-inch Eddie Gaedel (number 1/8) pinch-hit against the Tigers.  Gaedel walked on four pitches.  Several days later, Veeck allowed fans behind the St. Louis dugout to manage a Browns' game against the Athletics.  During the game, fans held up signs that read either "Yes" or "No" in response to various strategy suggestions offered by the scoreboard to "steal," " bunt," "hit-and-run," etc.  The Browns won the game, 5-3.

 

Sportsman's Park served as home to several historical events.  Browns' pitchers hurled consecutive no-hitters on May 5 and 6, 1917 against the White Sox.  Several weeks earlier, Chicago's Eddie Cicotte no-hit the Browns.  Sportsman's Park is the only stadium to host three no-hitters in a single season.

 

Babe Ruth established a World Series record by hitting three home runs in one game against the Cardinals on October, 6, 1926.  He  duplicated the feat almost exactly two years later on October 9, 1928.  The Cardinals won the 1926 Fall Classic behind the pitching heroics of an aging Grover Cleveland Alexander, who posted two victories against New York before saving Game Seven by striking out slugging second baseman Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded.  The Yankees, though, gained a measure of revenge by sweeping the Cardinals in four straight games in the 1928 Fall Classic.  On July 12, 1931, the Cardinals set a record by hitting 13 doubles in one game; the Chicago Cubs also hit ten doubles, combining with the Cardinals to establish the single-game major-league record for most doubles compiled by two teams.  Babe Ruth made history yet again at Sportsman's Park on August 21, 1931, hitting his 600th career home run against the Browns.

 

Sportsman's Park hosted the first playoff game in Major League history (Cardinals vs. Dodgers) on October 1, 1946.  The Cardinals captured the National League pennant by winning the contest, 4-2.  During the subsequent World Series played against Boston, Enos Slaughter scored all the way from first base on a single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game Seven.  The Cardinal outfielder's "mad dash" clinched the Series for his team.  The opening game of the 1950 season was the first opener ever held at night.  On April 23, 1954, future Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron recorded his first career home run at the ballpark, while less than two weeks later, on May 2, 1954, Stan Musial set the record for most home runs hit in a doubleheader (five) against the Giants.  In the seventh game of the 1964 World Series (won by St. Louis), the Cardinals' Ken Boyer and the Yankees' Clete Boyer became the only brothers to hit home runs in the same World Series game. 

 

Sportsman's Park also served as home to some of the greatest players in baseball history.  Hall-of-Famers such as Rogers Hornsby, Frankie Frisch, Joe Medwick, and Dizzy Dean spent much of their careers playing in this historic ballpark, while perhaps the greatest Cardinal of them all, Stan Musial never called another stadium home.  Sportsman's Park's rich history truly makes it one of baseball's most memorable and venerable old ballparks.  

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Tagged:
1926 World Series, 1928 World Series, 1930 World Series, 1931 World Series, 1934 World Series, 1942 World Series, 1943 World Series, 1944 World Series, National Association Grounds, St. Louis Browns, St. Louis Cardinals

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