before they've stripped the stadium completely and started to pulverize concrete, i'd better empty out my album of snapshots from camera day at busch stadium on july 16, 1972. if you missed the previous episodes in this saga, they feature 1) joe torre 2) bob gibson and 3) the big red machine. this final installment beings with a shot of the Arch, artistically framed in my 9-year-old eye . . . . .
here's my favorite player from childhood, lou brock. he did not have a stellar year in 1972 -- runs scored (81), hrs (3), and slugging avg (.393) were all his lowest to date in a cardinal uniform. he did rank 2d in the league in hits (193) and 7th in batting avg (.311), made his 3d all-star team and claimed his 6th nl stolen-base crown. lou woke up on july 16, 1972. hitting .322, and he opened the cardinal 1st with a single -- but johnny bench gunned him out stealing. brock later doubled, ending the day 2 for 4.
this blur is cardinal catcher ted simmons. just 22 years old at the time and in his 2d season as stl's fulltime catcher, simba made his first all-star team in 1972 and finished 10th in the mvp voting. he tagged 16 hr and 36 doubles, knocked in 96 runs (6th in the league) and batted .303; his 180 hits ranked 4th in the nl. he came into camera day batting .291, hit 5th in the order and went 0 for 4.
here's another, sharper image of simmons. there are some who think he's hall of fame material; i see the argument but respectfully disagree. he was an outstanding player but not a dominant one; never led the league in a single category and never was the best player at his position in his league. ted's development as a hitter followed a classic trajectory: he came up with an undifferentiated skill set, able to hit for average but with no power or plate discipline. he added the former to the kit in 1972 (58 xbase hits, 9th in the league) and the latter in 1973 (61 walks and a .370 on-base pct). by his peak years -- 1977-1980 -- simmons was a sure-fire .500 slugger and .380 obp guy, with ops+ figures in the 140s. he aged quickly, as a lot of catchers do; by age 34 he was a god-awful hitter, and he played out the string at the end of the bench on a last-place team. but his superior batting eye never deserted him; he finished his career with a de luxe walk-to-strikeout ratio of 5:4.
poor jose cruz. he'd put up very encouraging numbers as a 23-year-old rookie in 1971 -- 9 dingers and 46 runs scored in half a season with an ops of .802, which was really good in those days (ops+ of 124). he opened 1972 batting .260 in a strike-abbreviated april; during the first week of may, apparently injured, he only picked up a few odd at-bats off the bench. jose rejoined the starting lineup on may 9 and stayed there for the next 2 weeks . . . . during which time he went 4 for 47 with no extra base hits, 1 rbi and 3 runs scored. by may 24 his average had dropped all the way to .186, and he didn't pull it back above the mendoza line for good until july 2. as of camera day, his avg stood at .205; he got a single and walk in that game and ended the year hitting .235 with 2 hr and an ops of .628. the cardinals gave him two more years to find himself; unfortunately, jose needed four . . . . .
i'm 90 pct sure this is a picture of reggie cleveland. if not, what the hell -- i'm talking about him anyway. (if i'm mistaken and you can identify this player, please do.) (Update [2005-10-24 13:36:31 by lboros]:: salvomania has identified this guy as brant alyea --- the only player named "brant" in major league history. many thanks salvo; see the comments.) cleveland was on an incredible tear as of mid-july 1972 -- 7 wins in his last 8 starts, with six complete games (including 3 shutouts) and two 8-inning efforts in the span. in those 70 innings cleveland allowed just 48 hits and 12 earned runs; ace material. the streak brought his season record to 11-4 and his era at 2.99. when this picture was taken he was fresh off a complete-game 2-hit shutout of the braves. after a promising rookie year in 1971, the 24-year-old cleveland now appeared to be a long-term fixture in the rotation. but the innings may have taken their toll, or maybe the league simply caught up to cleveland; for whatever reason he stunk the rest of the year, going 3-11 with an era pushing 5. cleveland is a textbook example of how not to handle a young pitcher; he threw 220+ innings every year from age 23 through 26, never topped 190 innings thereafter, and was out of the league by age 33. his 1972 totals for innings (231), strikeouts (153), wins (14), complete games (11), and shutouts (3) were all career highs.
finally, here's ted sizemore. he got the majors relatively late (24), won a rookie-of-year award he probably didn't deserve, hit .306 the following year, and rode those thin laurels to an 11-year major-league career. more power to ya, teddy. per ops+ he was a below-average offensive performer every year of his career; 1972 was one of his better seasons in that regard (89). his best slugging avg was .355 (1977), his best obp .365 (1973). an extremely popular player during his five seasons in st louis (1971-75), he replaced the even more popular julian javier, who spent 11 years as stl's regular second baseman. javier in turn replaced don blasingame (1956-59), who in turn took over at 2b for red schoendienst (1946-1955). 30 years, four second basemen; that's a pretty good run.
finally, here's a picture of a cardinal pitcher facing a cincinnati hitter on that 1972 day, taken from our family's regular seats in section 158. matty alou (the first baseman) seems way out of position, no? this image conveys a sense of busch's aboriginal ugliness -- the salmon-pink seats, the coffee-with-cream outfield wall, the generally barren concreteness of the place. look closely in foul ground, way down the rightfield line; that's the bullpen, with the cards' relievers sitting there lined up on a bench. there's more foul ground in this long-ago configuration, and slightly diff'nt contours to the box seats and the mezzanine; the upper-deck seats in fair territory are still in use. at left, up on the scoreboard, you see the old redbird-on-baseball digital clock; and if you blow this picture up some you can see the all-dirt basepaths, a real anomaly for an astroturf field. i'm pretty sure all the others had the turf basepaths, with dirt sliding boxes around the bases.
it became a much cozier and more comfortable place over time, a better place to watch baseball -- and more to the point a place to watch better baseball. that was our ballpark, our stadium; our old home. adieu.