As we mentioned on Saturday morning, we were invited to participate in United Cardinal Blogger weekend, a glorious meeting of rabid Cardinal writers that takes place annually. For 2012, the festivities included dinner/drinks/conversation/awards/presentations on Saturday night and a trip to Busch III to watch the Cardinals from a suite and even talk with general manager John Mozeliak and Czar of Dollars Bill DeWitt III. While we were certainly in attendance for Saturday night’s debauchery, apparently it was necessary for the actual Cardinal organization to invite us for Sunday. It didn’t happen this year, but we have our sights set on 2013. After all, we’re rookies, and 16 years of Tony La Russa were enough to instill a certain level of patience in me when it comes to playing time being given to up-and-comers.
In adhering to the tradition of the StanGraphs travel journal format, I’ll be discussing our entire trip at length. All the gory details will be presented right here, although we assure you everyone made it out alive. Spencer and I began our trip northeast from our general hometown region of Springfield shortly after 11:00 AM, though a necessary stop in town for gas and other trip supplies was made prior to hitting I-44 for a very long time. The trip up to St. Louis was an extremely breezy one, as we had plenty of fun discussing how we expected the night to go, general life topics (ladies, work, our lack of mechanical skills), and how we really need to visit a bunch of different ballparks in the near future.
We arrived in St. Louis with plenty of time to spare, which turned out to be a good thing since we were mired in the downtown area we have some level of familiarity with and have very little sense of direction between us. Thanks to MapQuest and an accommodating Aldi’s parking lot, we were able to figure out what we needed to do even if we weren’t entirely sure what sort of street formation constituted a “roundabout.” Before I go any further, I’d like to compliment the Aldi’s location on Grand in St. Louis for having a surprisingly clean bathroom despite the entire store being a particularly piercing shade of dull yellow. From my experience, dull yellow floors and walls do not typically correlate with a bathroom you can use without needing a tetanus shot immediately afterward.
Using Spencer’s phone, we made our way to the general area we needed to be in for Saturday night’s dinner. Our only real misstep was slightly overshooting our destination and ending up in an apartment complex parking lot. I wonder what a reasonably nice apartment would cost to rent in St. Louis? Spencer and I speculated the price would be quite a bit higher than in the Springfield area, as everyone in southwest Missouri makes like $12 a year and the cost of living is basically free. St. Louis, being an actually populated city, surely has higher incomes and higher cost of living as a result. Oh, economics!
Anyway, the dinner was at Patrick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, which now (and apparently previously) inhabits the space once allocated to Albert Pujols‘ restaurant. Whoever this Patrick fellow is, I’m certain he didn’t ever leave for Los Angeles and his OBP this season is surely higher than .345. Patrick’s is housed in the middle of Westport Plaza (which MapQuest swears is at the corner of Westport Plaza and Westport Plaza), an area ripe with charm and all sorts of places to eat, drink, and walk around. Since Spencer and I are both big fans of eating, drinking, and walking around, we were totally okay with being in the Westport Plaza area a couple of hours early.
First thing’s first, though; it was time to get a little bit of alcohol in the system. Armed with gas station cups (of the 44 ounce variety, no less) and plastic bottles of vodka (Spencer) and rum (me), we concocted some mixed drinks and stood around by the car soaking in the always-awesome feeling of simply being somewhere different. It was also comforting to know that I was within mere miles of the actual Allen Craig, not just the bobblehead that sits on my desk. Excited and infused with just enough alcohol, we walked around the Westport Plaza area comfortably thanks to awesome weather that certainly portends the emergence of fall, or autumn if that’s your sort of thing.
After successfully identifying Patrick’s as the restaurant we needed to wander back toward within the foreseeable future, we made our way back to Bradford’s Pub with the intent of furthering our buzz and thus ensuring our status as top-notch socializers/potential scene-makers for the big event. On the way, we passed a man who Spencer (correctly as it turns out) identified as C70, Cardinal blogging luminary and head of the UCB. I wasn’t entirely sure, but we backtracked after passing him so we could say hello only to find that we didn’t know where he’d gone! After scouring the Wesport Plaza area unsuccessfully and surmising that perhaps C70 had ducked into an outdoor stairwell we happened upon, we decided we might as well continue along our intended path and have some drinks. After all, perhaps being head of the UCB comes with secret vanishing powers and we were simply not destined to meet C70 in person until the event itself.
Our stop at Bradford’s Pub turned into another somewhat surreal experience, as we entered the establishment as its only patrons. The whole thing felt like a scene in some sort of movie; we drank whiskey on the rocks in the daylight in an empty bar and were served by a lone bartender with a thick accent. I’ve never felt more like maybe I was an extra in Goodfellas. After drinking a generously-sized glass of Wild Turkey American Honey each, Spencer and I meandered back over to Patrick’s to find a circle of Cardinal bloggers talking to one another outside. It was time for StanGraphs to drunkenly enter the public eye!
We immediately introduced ourselves to C70 and mentioned our near-acquaintance earlier, and plenty of fellow bloggers were kind enough to welcome us with open arms. Well, open hands at least. There were considerably more handshakes than hugs. Baseball fans only hug in scenarios such as the one that played out in Game 6 of last season’s World Series. Among those we immediately met was Nick from Pitchers Hit Eighth, a fellow we’ve conversed with frequently on Twitter. We would also later meet his cohort Dennis, a guy we know better as ManFridge, one of the funniest tweeting presences to be found in the vast expanses of cyberspace. There were plenty of others I remember by their faces, but meeting so many in such a short time frame proved to be overload for my aging memory.
Once inside (we got lost in Patrick’s once as well), we were lead to our special back room conference area where there was plenty more hobnobbing with fellow Cardinal enthusiasts. This is the only time in my life I can remember in which you could seriously make the nerdiest, most specific baseball joke ever and have it universally land. It was seriously great getting to be such a part of something and meet so many welcoming and jovial people at the same time. We were treated to some awesome free food, downed some Long Island iced teas, and watched the Cards-Brewers game all the while. Saturday night was so much fun it was even bearable to watch Jake Westbrook scuffle endlessly as the Cardinals dropped another embarrassing game in which the offense never really did anything.
We spent plenty of time talking with ManFridge and his wife, LadyFridge, who were lots of fun to hang out with. We learned a great deal about Dennis including that he is a physicist (Seriously, who is ever really a physicist? I had become convinced the profession was almost mythical in stature) and that if you anger him at a baseball game you might be prompted to put down your baby so he can rearrange your face. We also got to talk more with Nick, who I am determined looks like a young and handsome version of Dan McLaughlin. Needless to say, PH8 should be expecting the nicknames “Young McLaughlin” and “Handsome Nick” (which sounds so much like a mobster handle) to be thrown around here and there. Additionally, Spencer should be expecting Nick to continue his subtle work in converting him to Illini football fandom.
Another valuable conversation came with C70, who I suppose we might as well start calling Daniel since that’s the name his parents gave him. After plenty of baseball discussion and Spencer’s urging of Daniel to name a hero and goat for the night’s activities*, Daniel invited us to become part of the UCB. What does this mean for you, the reader? It means even more content from us and our integration into a really cool community with lots of ambition. We’re extremely excited about the opportunity, and we can’t thank Daniel enough for allowing us to attend and treating us with such kindness. In fact, thanks to everyone at the dinner that night for being so awesome to us, though we have to be expecting a fair amount of rookie hazing to occur at any time and without warning.
We departed St. Louis a while later after saying our goodbyes and standing around Spencer’s car talking, perhaps not realizing exactly how exhausted we were. Our 2:00 AM plans to play Boggle with my sister and drink some more were looking very unlikely by the time we actually found our way back to the comforts of I-44. We were able to make it back in one piece despite a Lebanon, Missouri gas station stop that threatened to endanger that possibility. Seriously, there were like nine people standing/sitting/living (?) outside that had clearly ravaged their bodies with something Walter White might manufacture. They were all in one collective argument, though it was pretty much impossible to figure out what the subject of derision really was. I think one of them may have hit another with his belt, but I wasn’t exactly eager to make eye contact so I can’t be sure. Spencer quickly gassed up the Mercury while I frantically drank grape soda out of a glass bottle and then we made our escape. Okay, so maybe the soda drinking wasn’t all that time-sensitive, but soda in a glass bottle is just so good.
Once again, thank you so much to everyone who made this trip possible for us. We had an amazing time, and we are very grateful to now officially be a part of the Cardinal blogging community. Our union with the UCB is going to be a fruitful one, and we’re very appreciative of Daniel and all of the others who work so hard to further us all and make Cardinal blogging more than just a closeted hobby. Everyone was truly great to hang out with, and we can’t wait to do it again.
*For the record, Spencer was named goat of the night by Daniel after a simply unforgivable fork overturning that was first threatened and then executed. Everyone knows you don’t overturn forks on a whim like that without expecting some repercussions.
UCB trip photo gallery, activate!