October 19th. 2005. The day that the Houston Astros and Roy Oswalt shut the lights on the old Busch Stadium. Every St. Louis Cardinals remembers the Albert Pujols majestic blast off Brad Lidge to extend the series to Game 6, but few remember that the next game ended the season and gave a nod to the construction crews to start swinging the hammers. For me, it was the end of my run on the Manual Scoreboard, the wonderful spot located up in the Upper Terrace Reserved from 1997-2005. I worked for eight years on the Scoreboard, watching the true birth of Tony La Russa baseball in St. Louis, the Mark McGwire spectacle and the beginning of Pujols. Ten years later, I think back on my time there.
If I had a chance encounter with Doc from Back to the Future, I’d ask him to me back to a weekend series at old Busch so I could work the scoreboard again. It was located at the highest point of the stadium, and contained layers of scaffolding and enough metal to attract the sun on the hottest of days. You’d sweat a pint off before first pitch, setting up the board with team names and starting pitcher as well as updating the Dow Industrial Board and leaderboards on the ends of the board.
Working the board was an adrenaline rush. You show up, set the board up, and then head down to the press box. I met Jack Buck, Bernie Miklasz, Mike Shannon, Joe Buck, Bryan Burwell and many others there. I sat down with writers and chatted up baseball and St. Louis. Right around 6:05, I’d head back up and start working the East Coast games. Sliding in square sharp numbers into slots and running around avoiding collisions with piping and metal poles. You’d grab a stack of scores and slide a few zeros in and run back. Having Al Hrabosky jokingly tell us to not put a zero in upside down was a hilarious memory that really angered my co-worker.
I worked with several great people. P.J. Nolan, Jimmy Kleinschmidt, Tommy Kerns, Mark Stangl, Mike Craig, Joe Graman, and most notably my late friend Troy Siade. It was a group of diehard fans getting paid to work at their field of dreams for 81 games a season. When I attended Mizzou, I’d ride the bus back to work a weekend series. When I worked at Galleria 6 Theaters, I’d go from the theater to the scoreboard. I didn’t care. It was money making and time spent with my beloved things in life. Movies and baseball.
I’ll never forget the 2004 playoffs where Jim Edmonds became a playoff legend. I’ll never forget Pujols hitting a three run walkoff home run against the Baltimore Orioles. The Big Mac-Sammy Sosa home run chase in 1998 was something else. It was like watching Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier exchange punches for an entire summer. The sound the stadium mad when McGwire hit #62 is something else. The sadness that followed years later when Barry Bonds broke Mac’s single season record. I never wanted to burn a sports ticker slab of paper more. Years later, steroid allegations smeared that home run chase. That doesn’t lessen the sweetness of being a part of that ride.
Hearing Mark McGwire ding the scoreboard with batting practice shots, over 550 feet away was a pleasure. Especially if the doors were all closed. Having Tony La Russa famously call up to the board to tell us to pull a #10 out of an inning a day after the Cards smoked the Cubs was surreal. Having Joe Buck point out a mistake on the board was not so great. I regret to this day not being able to come back for the Jack Buck speech at the first game after 9/11. I cried as I watched from my Mizzou dorm room.
My time on the Manual Scoreboard is bittersweet and grand in different ways. Whenever I think about it, the memory of Troy comes to my mind. He was a true friend and wild character who always lit up the scoreboard with laughs and unexpected actions. Such as the ice wars we had up there. A few of us would take three bags of ice and have ice battles up there, firing them at each other from one league to the other. Other times, we would play catch behind the board during a rain delay. Those were the days. I miss them.
When I worked my first day on the scoreboard, I was a 16 year old kid who just wanted to go one day at a time. When I worked my last day, I was married to the love of my life, a woman I still call my own ten years later.
Moments in time are marked by the people you share it with and the places you spend huge chunks of time at. The Manual Scoreboard will always be a mesmerizing time in my life. A place that heightened my knowledge and love for the game.
When you walk through the new Busch, take a moment and enjoy the pieces of the scoreboard on the field box level. Yes, that Seattle team name is cracked and was for the past few seasons. Every time I look at them, I feel a rush of adrenaline and nostalgia come screaming into my system.