Friday, April 22, 2005

St. Louis

I'm back from St. Louis, and I've got a few thoughts. First of all, St. Louis' downtown, honestly, sucks. Let's just be honest here. I was in town for the Cardinals against the Cubs, one of the fiercest rivalries in all of baseball, and while the game was exciting and the crowd was energetic, after the game, downtown was a ghost town. We went a few blocks down the road to a T.G.I. Friday's--it was closed. Then, everyone told us, "You gotta go to the Landing!" "The Landing is great!" "It's all going down at the Landing!" OK. Cool. We decided to go to the Landing. With that kind of endorsement, how could we not?

We walked the 10-15 blocks to the Landing, a group of bars and restaurants by the river. Was it happening? No. Was it jumping? No. Were there more than 10 people on the street? No. Were more than 2 places open at 11:00 pm? Absolutely not. The Landing...embarrassing. It was embarrassing. Beale Street is phenomenal compared with the Landing--at least people go to Beale Street after games. At least you can get food or drinks on Beale at 11:00. You're telling me that after Cardinals/Cubs, no one wants to go get some food or a drink? Awful.

We went to Show-Me's. If Hooters is Sylvester Stallone, Show-Me's is Frank. The two places are related, but one is ashamed of the other. Show-Me's waitresses were uglier, their wings were truly shameful, and the atmosphere was boring. Actually, I have to spend a little more time discussing the wings--I ordered hot, which is the penultimate level of hotness they've got. The wings could not have been more flavorless if you rolled them in tofu and served them while listening to Kenny G. Not a good time. So, long story short, St. Louis' downtown--don't bother going.

Now, to get to the reason we traveled to the Loo--the baseball. We got to Busch Stadium on Wednesday night a couple of hours early to take in some batting practice. At this point, I need to clear something up from this morning's show--we were hanging out in the bleachers, when someone cranked one out to our section. 7-8 guys leap to grab the ball, and, somehow, in the middle of the scrum, the ball gets loose and starts trickling down the stairs towards me. As I lunge for the ball, a kid jumps in my way and takes the ball--I let him have it. Why would I worry about that ball? The kid would want it more than I would, anyway. So, despite what Eli and Tyler told you on the show, I did not shove, punch, trip, kick, or claw a small child to get a baseball. I'm not George Costanza.

The Cubs won on Wednesday 3-1. Great pitching performance by Carlos Zambrano, who is still vastly underrated by most casual baseball fans. He has got great stuff, great command, and he's a bulldog on the mound. The Cubs have to do what it takes to keep this guy for the next 10 years. I saw Nomar go down with what turned out to be a severe groin injury (the groin muscle pulled off the bone--PULLED OFF THE BONE! Short of losing a limb, is there a worse injury?) during his second at-bat. He's out for 2-3 months, and Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe wonders if it could be related to steroid use. Interesting. I have no idea, but it's the new reality in baseball that injuries like this are going to make you be linked to the juice. The atmosphere out in the bleachers where we were sitting was intense. A couple of fights, a lot of profanity, and a few insults made for a really fun environment. It wasn't quite the atmosphere of a playoff game, but it was much more electric than a normal regular season game.

Game 2 was won by the Cards 4-0, although we left during the 7th inning stretch to head back home, since it was obvious the Cubs weren't going to score any runs. They didn't get a single leadoff batter to first in the game. That's not good. Even though Nomar wasn't hitting, losing him is going to be tough on that lineup, as it means Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez will have less good pitches to hit and more pressure to perform. The same goes for Jeromy Burnitz. It would be hard to conceive of a way Dusty Baker could have managed the 8th inning worse. Overall, not a great game for Cub fans.

Busch Stadium was much, much nicer than it was the last time I was there (1985). The new stadium, located right next to the current Busch, is coming along very well. If the computer models are even close to accurate, it is going to be a very special place to watch a game. Beautiful.

The ride home felt much longer than it was, as I was completely worn out. It was a hectic couple of days. On the way home, we stopped at Lambert's Cafe, home of the "Throwed Rolls". Yeah, they throw your rolls--they will not hand them to you, even if you're next to them. Annoying, yes, but you have to admire the adherence to company policy. In addition to throwing the rolls, they walk around and pass out okra, black-eyed peas, and potatoes. The portions are enormous--I'm pretty sure they served my cherry coke in an empty coffee can. The hamburger steak was Herculean. I wouldn't drive out of my way to go there, but Lambert's was fine. It was like Perkins on steroids, if Perkins threw rolls. Which they really shouldn't.

I'll be back later with my NBA predictions. Be good.

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