Saturday, July 5, 2014

#159: Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis

One of the most interesting parts of cake-hunting is standing in spots that were grand (or in a better sense of terminology, popular, alive, etc.). There I was at the Boys & Girls Club, off of Grand Avenue, just outside the busy part of the city. But then I thought, well...this was once a busy part of the city too! I was setting foot on what used to be Sportsman's Park 60 years ago.

As much as I hate to say it but it is often easy to forget that St. Louis had 2 Major League baseball teams at one time. First, you have of course...the Cardinals. Then you also have the St. Louis Browns, which played in the city for more than 50 years. Hard to believe if you think about that deeply enough! During the first half of the 20th century, St. Louis was still in the Top 10 largest cities in America, so it wasn't unusual for a large city like ours to have two teams. (Today, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City are the 3 biggest US cities and each have 2 MLB teams)

Another thing worth mentioning that is easy to forget: the Browns and the Cardinals played against each other in the 1944 World Series. Even more interesting enough, this was the only WS that was played entirely in one stadium, which was Sportsman's Park. You gotta remember though: in 1944 America was fighting in World War II, so some baseball players were not able to play. Some sports critics even called this World Series a 'fluke'. It had its moments though.

So what happened? Like why aren't the Browns with us no more? Well, technically the Browns do exist...but in a different city. They are now the Baltimore Orioles. Short version of the story: the Browns, in reality, were an underperforming team, only going as far as the 1944 American League pennant. Attendance was rapidly going down in the early 1950s, while the booming Cardinals were on fire. 1953 would be the last season the Browns would play in St. Louis, but there have been talks for the longest time to put the team in Baltimore. To this day, the Orioles have pretty much distanced themselves from their past incarnation.

The St. Louis Browns have quite an interesting history. For a detailed version of it, check out their Wikipedia page.
Sportsman's Park had been the home of both St. Louis teams for a long time. The Browns were the tenants, starting in 1902 up to their demise, while the Cardinals moved here in 1920. The Cards would play here in 1966, until their big move to Busch Memorial Stadium that year. It was on May 8, 1966 that a helicopter did a ceremonial move of the home plate from the old to the new stadium. The grandstand would be torn down later that year.

The Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club is now the home of the former ballpark. The ball field still exists; however, it is used for different purposes for all kinds of sports. You'll see a great tribute to both places in the cake pictures below:

An episode of KETC Channel 9's 'Living St. Louis' devoted to Sportsman's Park

Sportsman's Park Wikipedia page
Official website

2901 N. Grand Blvd., ST. LOUIS, MO, 63107
Cake artist: Richard Rice

UPDATE (8/24/2016): The cake is still there.

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