Tag: Manual Scoreboard

Changing scores at Busch Stadium’s Manual Scoreboard

Manual Scoreboard- Manual scoreboard operators Troy Siade, left, and Danny Buffa take in the Cardinals-Giants game from their favorite spot behind the manual scoreboard at Busch Stadium Wednesday night.
Manual Scoreboard-
Manual scoreboard operators Troy Siade, left, and Danny Buffa take in the Cardinals-Giants game from their favorite spot behind the manual scoreboard at Busch Stadium Wednesday night. (Phil Carlson)

“Watch out!”

“What?”

“Mark McGwire just hit the scoreboard with another batting practice home run.”

True story, folks.

Few people in life get to work their dream job. For eight years on the Manual Scoreboard at the old Busch Stadium, I had the opportunity to watch the St. Louis Cardinals 81 games a year and get paid for it. It involved a lot of sweat and stress, but there was nothing like it.

As my colleague Jim Kleinschmidt repeatedly told us on the 100 degree August days up top the metal housing in a section of terrace reserved seating, “I can’t believe they pay us to do this.” The sentiment was shared by many. If you didn’t mind sweating through a couple shirts and working around scaffolding, the Cards paid you to watch and monitor baseball.

What did this job entail? I’d get to Busch around 4pm in the afternoon. I’d pick up the Dow Industrial numbers, notes on the Cards game and a printout of the night’s games. By 5pm, I was changing team names if needed, setting up leaderboards and getting all the starting pitcher numbers ready to rock and roll. By 6pm, it was time to head down to the Press Box. One of the perks was getting to eat there, drink all the pink lemonade the body could handle and maybe toss a few notes at Bernie Miklasz or the late Joe Strauss about a story idea I was writing up. Maybe greet an announcer or two. And then we were off.

When the Cards game was firing up, the rest of the board was brought up to speed. The East coast games needed 2-3 innings filled in and yes, the fear of dropping a number out of the board was constant. Like the players we watched, the scoreboard crew became a family. We’d scream at each other about a late risky Tony La Russa pitching change and use a bag of ice to engage in cross league ice throwing battles, but we became good friends. There isn’t a day that goes by without me pausing to think about the moments behind a board during the top of the ninth when the Birds were going to win and the building was going to go nuts.

The 2016 season marks 10 years since the Manual Scoreboard shut down. I worked the Scoreboard from 1998, when Big Mac reined, until 2005, when Roy Oswalt turned off the lights on old Busch and the Scoreboard. Here are the 10 things I’ll remember the most about working the scoreboard.

Getting a call from Tony La Russa

One night, the Cards destroyed the Cubs. Scored ten runs in one inning even. In order to rub it in, the crew left the 10 in the inning slot. The next day, La Russa called the board and believe me, I’d never seen my comical supervisor sound so stern and shocked. “Yes, Mr. La Russa, sure, you know it, yes, of course, right Tony.” Lesson: Don’t show up another team on Tony’s watch.

The Birth of #5

Albert Pujols arrived on the scene and the crew thought he was just another guy. The person who made the roster because Bobby Bonilla was hurt and McGwire liked a lot. By the end of the 2005 season, when Pujols hit the moon shot off the train against Brad Lidge, #5 was a legend. I got to see him play over 75 times a season from 2001-2005. He put together 8 straight seasons of 7 WAR or more. He averaged 42 HR, 120 RBI and 45 doubles for those 5 seasons. Pujols eventually left, but I’ll never see a better ballplayer in my lifetime come along like him.

Manual Scoreboard- Peering through the ninth-inning box window, Danny Buffa, a manual scoreboard operator at Busch Stadium, takes in the Cardinals-Giants Wednesday night.
(Phil Carlson)
Peering through the ninth-inning box window, Danny Buffa, a manual scoreboard operator at Busch Stadium, takes in the Cardinals-Giants Wednesday night.

Troy Siade and the Jim Edmonds and Art Holliday fascination

My late friend Troy and I had a fascination with Edmonds. Nothing left us speechless longer than a classic Edmonds catch or spin away from an up and in pitch.  We were mesmerized by his baseball skills, but we also couldn’t help but count the seconds it took for him to rise off the ground after a great catch. He would milk that moment for as long as he could. Troy loved Edmonds more than any ballplayer, even Pujols. Why? He was lefthanded, played center field better than Flood and was cocky. That was my friend Troy. He also almost stole a framed picture of Art Holliday from a suite once. No one knows why. When Siade passed away to Non Hodgkins Lymphoma Disease before his 39th birthday in 2004, the Cards let us spread some of his ashes in center field. Finally, he got to lay where Edmonds laid out on so many breathtaking occasions. Rest in peace my friend.

Working the Scoreboard made you a Rock Star

All my friends wanted to come up on the board, and they didn’t just want pictures. They wanted to work. One time, my dentist came up on a night where the board was shorthanded. For two hours, Dr. Anderson and his friend helped take care of an entire league. That’s how you use a scoreboard allure to your advantage.

The Bittersweet Big Mac Roller Coaster

My first year on the board featured the dramatic and ultimately bittersweet epic tale of Big Mac and Sammy Sosa. Their Ali-Frazier like slugfest in the pursuit of Roger Maris’ single season home run record. On the National League side of the scoreboard, a slot was used for the individual battle. Using two pitching numbers, one of the crew would slide in a new number when McGwire or Sosa went deep. Later on, when Mac was racking up career HR highlights, supervisor Joe Gramen would post up near the exit door where the leaderboard was or the 60 year old would run down to it when Mac went deep. I’ve never seen an old man move that fast.

(Phil Carlson) With the Detroit Tigers unwittingly lending a hand, manual scoreboard operator Danny Buffa playfully heckles one of the ushers working below during the Cardinals-Giants game Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
(Phil Carlson)
With the Detroit Tigers unwittingly lending a hand, manual scoreboard operator Danny Buffa playfully heckles one of the ushers working below during the Cardinals-Giants game Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.

Years later, I don’t care what Mac said he did or didn’t do. Those were fun seasons.

Press Box Perks

Every time I’d walk into the press box and see Jack Buck sitting by himself in the red suit and calmly taking a few moments before the game, it was a pleasure I kept in my memory bank. I’d occasionally go over to him and say hello, and he would flash that 10,000 watt smile and make me feel like the most important man on the earth. When he died, it wasn’t fair to anyone. He was truly the best. Still is.

Non Press Box Perks

Having Al Hrakosky joke to one of the crew that they put a zero in upside down. True story.

Worst moment ever

Listening to a game I couldn’t work at home and hearing Joe Buck say on the air that a number on a game was put in upside down. Uncommon but forgivable mistake. When the person working that game is your best friend that you brought on, it was a problem.

Breaking the board down after a game

When the teams left the field and fans left the seats, Busch got empty and quiet. The lights would get shut off. On the nights I’d choose to clean the board and set it up for the next day, I’d come out afterwards, sit on the retired banners concourse and just take it in. One of the underrated perks of working at a stadium is seeing it when it sleeps. Looking down on the field where so much had happened and so much would happen, it was hard to not get nostalgic. I miss those midnight hangouts.

Talking to the sportswriters

Every chance I had, I’d walk over to Miklasz, Strauss or Bryan Burwell and just bounce stuff off their shields. They were the hot stuff beat writers and commentary artists, and I was the scrappy young blogger/aspiring journalist. I’d present a theory to them and see how much it weighed. Sometimes a good conversation broke out. Sometimes, I’d look like an idiot. They were always classy and gracious. I miss those days.

I don’t miss the hair I had, the buckets of sweat I shed or banging my head seventy times a season. The Manual Scoreboard will always be the best job I ever had. It combined baseball, friends, and some cash. I was disappointed the new stadium didn’t retain the board but was quietly happy to retire after 8 grueling yet special seasons.

What are your greatest memories from the old Busch Stadium?

 

The Manual Scoreboard and I: 10 Years Later

J.B. Forbes
J.B. Forbes

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. (more…)

Missing my friend Troy Siade

I don’t get sentimental here often. I try to post 50 regular articles for every semi sentimental or personal piece. However, today I am going to talk about my late friend Troy Siade.

Manual Scoreboard
Manual Scoreboard- Manual scoreboard operators Troy Siade, left, and Danny Buffa take in the Cardinals-Giants game from their favorite spot behind the manual scoreboard at Busch Stadium Wednesday night.

Troy Siade would have been 50 years old today. He was an Italian prince in a white t-shirt and short blue jean shorts that made the manual scoreboard a place to be. You could have been as cold as the North Pole, and Troy would make you laugh. He had a way of cutting though the bullshit in life and made you happy to be around him. He would bust my chops because I was like a younger brother to him. I took it in spades and with a fair measure of pride. There were days where an hour would go by on the board and we would just give each other shit or bust each other’s balls while mixing in serious things to talk about. With Troy, it all came free and easy. 

I’ll never forget him driving our supervisor Joe Graman crazy by hitting on his pretty daughter when she came to visit the board. Joe was a military veteran so Troy would go all the way down to the National League or a decent distance from Joe and say something like, “Man, I just want to settle down, marry a girl, whose dad has a boat.” Yes, Joe had a boat. Troy would cut the tension in the room like a knife would slice through a warm slab of butter. He was fearless, hilarious and treated his friends like family.

I’ll never forget him getting sensual with a picture of Art Holliday in a suite at Busch after a game. He gave cocky flamboyance a brand new name every night downtown. Troy would walk down the ramp at Busch and say out loud, “Hey ladies, I drive a JAGUAARRRRR!” and “Man it sucks being RICH!” All a friend could do was laugh. You had to dig the guy. He was a one of a kind.

I looked up to him like the older brother I was deprived of during those days. Every year since he has been gone I feel this pain some nights when the Cards win big or a Jim Edmonds highlight is shown. Every August 14th I get my ass kicked emotionally and I hide it well because no one needs to see a bearded bald dude cry. I just miss him and wish he was still here.

The saddest thing in life is regret. A little while before he passed, Troy surprised my wife Rachel and I for a dinner. It was out of the blue and caught me off guard. We had previous plans with my parents and you don’t break those off. So we turned him down. I wish I would have brought him along. My dad and the two of us may have been asked to leave the restaurant because of how loud we would have gotten, but it would have been worth the trouble. Troy talked a lot, just like me. Nobody could shut him up. They couldn’t contain him. Only hope to try. That’s why I loved him. There are certain people you meet in life that you can be your 100 percent self around. Troy was one of them.

As humans we always think we have more time. That there will be another time. It’s a flaw. With Troy, there wasn’t. He got sick soon afterwards with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma and was gone soon afterwards. He would die before his 39th birthday on April 23rd, 2004. That shiny black hair gone and that unbreakable spirit somewhat tinted.

I just wish I had more time. I just wish I had more time with my friend. My brother from another mother. Someone who never made me feel the need to change or watch what I say.

Just another reminder that Cancer really fucking sucks.

Rest in peace my good friend. Troy would have loved to watch this moment from his favorite player, Jim Edmonds.

Remembering Troy

When the Cardinals home opener rolls around, one thing instantly comes to my mind. My good friend Troy Siade. Troy and I met while working the Manual Scoreboardphoto 3 around 2002 and instantly hit it off. If hitting it off meant giving each other as much shit and trouble as we could. Two peas in a pod on a versatile group of scoreboard degenerates getting paid to watch baseball games, Troy and I were alike in many ways. We were loud, blunt, dirty and diehard Cardinal fans. When we weren’t scaring scoreboard visitors with our vicious ice cube battles or firing insults in each other’s direction, we were hanging shoulder to shoulder watching the game talking about the action. Troy was a joker on the surface, but deep down he was one of the best guys I have ever come to know on this earth. He was caring, devoted and modest behind all the loud talking exterior. The reason I think about Troy so much on opening day here in St. Louis is because 10 years ago, on April 23rd, Troy passed away at the age of 38 to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The last time I saw him was on opening day earlier that month.

Troy was a good looking guy. Full head of dark hair, huge smile, big laugh and a walk that even the proudest gangster would fail to imitate. When Troy lived, he was on top of the world. We were living inside his movie set. He called the shots, told the jokes and made us laugh all night long. When the Cards blew a game late, he would shout and pace the scoreboard like a mad professor looking for the new theory of relativity. I remember a car drive with him that involved a massive thunderstorm and Troy slamming on the steering wheel extremely hard because he wanted to get back to his house so he could show off his home to another scoreboard friend and myself. Troy was an entertainer at all times. Part of the reason I miss him to this day has everything to do with need and less to do with baseball. Troy had an energy. A will to pull a smile out of a dark corner or take the mood of a room and toss it through the ceiling. When you work 70-75 games of a 82 game home schedule, there can be some dull nights. If Troy was there, the forecast called for a good time no matter what the score turned out to be.

STINSON-R6-033-15cBeing the outgoing personality that he was, Troy was able to keep certain things private. Many of the scoreboard guys didn’t even know he had an illness or disease until a year before he passed. He didn’t want us to know. The comedian doesn’t let the curtain fall to show it all. Troy only let us know when he was getting very seriously ill. Cancer can be a deadly quick moving disease. It can come in and smash everything within months. Troy was here, alive and well, towards the winter and end of a rather forgettable 2003 season that saw no playoffs and a horrible September series in Wrigley that had Troy and I ranting for an entire homestand. Troy was okay then. By the beginning of the 2004 season, he was nearly gone.

There are two moments I will never forget with Troy. Okay, three. I will warn you they start happy and end sadder than shit.

The first was that stormy night back in the summer of 2003 he invited me and a friend back to his home to play pool, sit in his Busch Stadium terrace reserved seats he had installed in his basementphoto 2 and listened to rock n’ roll while drinking like fishes. The Cards beat the Orioles 8-5 with an Albert Pujols three run bomb. We crashed at Troy’s and went to the ballpark the next day. It was perfectly Vegas behavior. It was a night I will never forget.

The second was a random day where Troy showed up at my apartment and asked my wife and I to dinner spur of the moment. He had just left work, suit and tie on, and wanted to take us out. He cared like that. He hung out with people he liked and loved. My wife got a kick out of him and we really wanted to go. In a decision I will regret to the day I die, I turned Troy down. We had plans with my parents to go to dinner. Plans I should have broke. Plans I should have shredded. I will never forget the look in his face when I said we couldn’t. Whether they admit it or not, a light does flicker out in someone’s eyes when they are let down. He reached out and I said no. I hate that move to this day. My first back in time fix job.

The third was seeing him for the last time. It was opening day, 2004, about three weeks before he passed. He didn’t want ANYONE coming to see him. Especially the ones he knew and liked. He didn’t want us to see him in a weakened state. I didn’t follow those orders. I went down to the field box level and saw him. His flock of hair was gone. His smile was flexing yet fading. He was slowly leaving. I shook his hand and gave him a brief hug. I don’t remember how I departed or if I shed a tear. Maybe I don’t want to remember all of it. It was tough.

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