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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Feb 24, 2023

The history of the different professional ballparks in St. Louis over the years is fascinating and dramatic. This is the story of one of the lesser know ballparks, which involves a horse racing track and fires. Just press play to hear the whole story.----- 

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Podcast Transcript: I’m Adam Kloppe, public historian with the Missouri Historical Society, and Here’s History on eighty-eight one, KDHX. ———

For many folks in St. Louis, the stadiums that the Cardinals have called home are special places. The names Sportsman’s Park and Busch Stadium recall the feats of players like Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, and Albert Pujols. But as important as these stadiums are to baseball fans, there is one park where the Cardinals played from 1893 until 1920 that receives a lot less fanfare in Cardinals’ history. You can’t visit this park today—it is long since torn down—but it’s troubled history would change the fortune of the Cardinals. ———

Before the 1893 season, St. Louis team owner Chris von der Ahe decided that his team needed a new park to call home—the old Sportsman’s Park at Grand and Dodier was becoming quite dilapidated. So, he opened a park that he called “New” Sportsman’s Park, at the corner of Vandeventer and Natural Bridge, just south of Fairground Park. Situated to take advantage of new trolley lines, the new park opened with a lot of fanfare, including parades and promises of exciting, championship baseball. ———

But, within a few years, opinions on the new ballpark had begun to sour. Desperate for profits, and unable to field a winning team, von der Ahe installed a horse racing track and an amusement park ride in an effort to attract guests—a move decried by baseball purists. After a fire decimated the park in 1898, von der Ahe was forced to sell the team. The new owners repaired the stadium and changed its name to League Park. They eventually also changed the team name to the Cardinals. But the stadium continued to have problems—it suffered a fire again in 1901 and saw several more ownership and name changes. But the Cardinals just couldn’t seem to get a winning team on the field. Fans stayed away. ———

In 1920, the Cardinals had finally had enough of League Park. That June, they moved back to the old Sportsman’s Park, leasing the stadium from the American League St. Louis Browns, who had done extensive renovations after moving in in 1902.  The Cardinals used the money they saved on stadium upkeep to develop talent in their minor league system. The move paid off in 1926 when the Cardinals won their first World Series title, mostly behind players developed on their minor league teams. Since then, they’ve won ten more titles, and become one of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball. ———

Here’s History is a joint production of KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. I’m Adam Kloppe, and this is eighty-eight one, KDHX St. Louis. ———