By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Mitch Ryals
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Anne Valente
Alas, the Cardinals know us too well. Two days before the festivities kicked off, we were informed that our behind-the-scenes passes had been — gasp! — revoked. The reason: RFT published the home addresses of a few past and present Cardinal greats in our spiffy Riverfront Times Guide to All-Star Week.
In protest, Unreal pointed out that the information is public record and easily accessible on St. Louis County's website. The Redbirds' media-relations honcho replied that we had made it "too easy," presumably for potential stalkers and gawkers. And besides, he added, RFT has a history of "misbehavior" when it comes to these kinds of things.
"You should have asked our permission," was his final retort. Oh yeah, simmered Unreal, maybe the club should have consulted us before signing Khalil freakin' Greene.
After the aforementioned door to baseball paradise was slammed in our face, it dawned on us: We don't need no stinkin' press credentials. Roughly a quarter million people were expected to visit downtown during All-Star Week, and come Hell or high water, Unreal would be among them, Budweiser in one hand, a digital camera in the other.
In the end, Unreal did manage to swing a pair of tickets to the midsummer classic, but most of our time was spent in, ahem, foul territory. We attempted to crash nearly every event in town. We staggered into every dive between Laclede's Landing and Busch Stadium and then sipped cocktails at the swankiest clubs in town. If anyone was an All-Star last week, it was Unreal's liver. Somehow we managed to keep a running diary, the highlights of which are transcribed below.Friday, July 10 — 8:47 a.m.
As we head toward the entrance on Washington Avenue, we spy a slight, bearded black man in a white Ozzie Smith jersey. He's flanked by a phalanx of big, burly security guards. He doesn't have to do a back flip for us to figure out that it's the Wizard himself. We snap a picture (those bodyguards are huge!) and ponder the fact that both Ozzie and paparazzi are spelled with two Z's. Coincidence? We think not.Friday, July 10 — 9:35 a.m.
There's memorabilia for sale at ridiculous prices, such as a Milwaukee Brewers league championship ring for $557. There's an autograph at every turn. There's enough merchandising, product placement and advertising that Unreal could have sworn we felt our wallet lighten without it ever leaving our pocket.
Our favorite feature, though, is the photo opportunities. There's a place where fans can climb a makeshift outfield wall and pose like they're making a home run-robbing catch. This leads to a plump, middle-aged lady struggling to make it up the rungs. She falls down. The exhibit's helpers hoist her up from behind while she reaches over the wall with her glove and says, "Cheese." A Web Gem if Unreal has ever seen one.Saturday, July 11 — 7:15 p.m.
Suddenly, the real reason Crow was picked to perform dawns on Unreal: She is the Bud Light of music. Not much flavor and a little watered down, but with enough "drinkability" to appeal to most everyone.Saturday, July 11 — 10:12 p.m.
Everywhere, it seems, a makeshift bar has been set up on the street. On one corner, a group of college-aged girls are swilling beer from large plastic pitchers. Across the street, a trio of St. Louis police officers observes the rowdy scene with complete indifference. One officer informs Unreal that the force received orders to turn a blind eye toward public drinking over the weekend. The out-of-towners love it.
Later, at the Hair of the Dog pub on Washington Avenue, a very tan man in his fifties strolls in and asks for his Bud Light in a red plastic cup. He says he's from Las Vegas, by way of New York, and gleefully declares, "In Vegas you can walk around [with a drink] on the strip, but if you go a couple blocks off it, they'll bust you. I've never seen a big city where you can just walk around with an open container. It's wild."Sunday, July 12 — 12:03 a.m.
Ever heard of Jacob Bell? He plays guard for the St. Louis Rams, and this is his official "All-Star Kickoff Party." And while we have to admit that the giant dreadlocked man does look dashing wearing his sunglasses at night, it's hard to imagine another scenario where a posse of twenty-something women would be fawning over an NFL offensive lineman.
On the other hand, nobody seems to notice that Rams linebacker David Vobora is drinking Hound Dog Sweet Tea vodka straight from the bottle. I guess that's why Vobora, the last overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, holds the title of "Mr. Irrelevant."Sunday, July 12 — 1:31 p.m.
Elbowing our way through a cluster of kids wearing giant foam tacos on their heads (the event is sponsored by Taco Bell), Unreal claims a spot close to the batting cages.
Chingy is first up. He holds his hands low and finishes his awkward swing at waist-level. Apparently, in batting practice, just like in music, Nelly's hits are significantly better. (Nelly would go on to be named co-MVP after clubbing a home run and making a dazzling diving catch.)
Actor Billy Bob Thornton is really the man we came to see. Thornton, who once tried out for the Kansas City Royals, describes himself as a "lifelong Cardinals fan." (A native of Hot Springs, Arkansas, Thornton is surely not the only Cards fan from the Ozarks named Billy Bob.) Thornton, though, is nowhere in sight, apparently reprising his role as The Man Who Wasn't There.
Meanwhile, actress Jenna Fischer (Pam from The Office) takes a few solid swings. Unreal wants to recruit the Nerinx Hall High School alum for RFT's office softball team. We ask if she'd like a new job as our receptionist, but she pretends not to hear. We'll take that as a maybe.Sunday, July 12 — 2:47 p.m.
A few characters hold up a sign that reads: "Make steroids legal so we can catch one."
When Pujols steps up to bat at the end of the first round, the atmosphere is electric. There are chants of "Let's Go Albert" and "MVP." When he's down to his final two outs and looks like he won't advance, a collective sinking feeling ensues.
Meanwhile, a drunk with two gold front teeth is standing on a cooler taking $100 bets that Pujols won't make the cut. Everyone breathes a deep sigh of relief when El Hombre evens things up.
Behind us, a guy sipping a can of Stag says (and he's deadly serious), "This will be the greatest moment of our lives."Monday, July 13 — 7:46 p.m.
In the thick of the crowd, some people are passing around a joint and sipping from what appears to be a bottle of Crown Royal. A guy in a Pujols T-shirt offers swigs to anyone in his vicinity asking, "Who wants the Jack?" Informed by Unreal that he's drinking Crown Royal, he replies, "No, trust me, it's Jack [Daniels]. I couldn't find my flask this morning, so I poured it into this bottle."
Assessing the scene around him, the dude, who introduces himself as Kenny, says bluntly, "I'm from St. Louis, and this is as good as it gets."
Nearby, a guy in a Giants hat compares the scene to his hometown ballpark in San Francisco saying, "I feel like I'm in McCovey Cove in a kayak right now."Monday, July 13 — 7:51 p.m.
Unreal's jaw drops when a gray-haired gentleman in line ahead of us is told that the cover charge for VIPs is $500 apiece. Then, without a moment's hesitation, he says he'll pay for two. Who says the economy's in the tank?
Once inside, Unreal is warmly greeted by a pair of body-painted women. Apparently, clothing is optional at this party. Before long, we see the same geezer who just dropped a $1,000 grinding with a Rihanna look-alike at least half his age. God bless America.Tuesday, July 14 — 12:33 a.m.
Tuesday, July 14 — 1:37 a.m.
Overheard at the bar: "There aren't a lot of real celebrities here, but there are a lot of people saying, 'Ooh look at me, I'm somebody.'" Unreal concurs.
Tuesday, July 14 — 2:02 a.m.
Red Sox players Tim Wakefield, Jason Bay and Jonathan Papelbon seem to be about the only All-Stars left in the building. After a round of shots, they sip Bud Lights while seated in the outdoor VIP area. The music cuts out for about five minutes, and when the DJ finally gets it going again, Papelbon shouts, "'Bout fuckin' time! Party on, Wayne! Party on, Garth!" Now that was worth the price of admission.
Tuesday, July 14 — 11:01 a.m.
A haggard Unreal stumbles upon the luncheon for the Baseball Writers Association of America. We overhear a couple sportswriters (easily identified by the newspapers tucked under their arms and little roller suitcases for their laptops) talking about the speech that "The Commissioner" is about to give.
Eager to hear Hall of Fame Post-Dispatch writer Rick Hummel (nicknamed "The Commish") give a talk in his hometown, we set up post in a prime, covert spot just outside the banquet room. When Bud Selig, the real baseball commissioner steps to the podium instead, Unreal walks away, severely disappointed.Tuesday, July 14 — 2:45 p.m.
Tuesday, July 14 — 5:05 p.m.
The lines to get into the All-Star Game are absolutely insane. One stretches almost the entire length of Walnut Street and is about ten people thick. Forget the metal detectors; soldiers are patrolling the entrances with Geiger counters, the little handheld devices used to detect radioactivity. They look like gadgets from Ghostbusters. Luckily, a breathalyzer is not one of the added security measures.
Tuesday, July 14 — 7:05 p.m.
Overheard in the seats behind us:
Husband: "What are the odds Obama rides in on one of the Clydesdales?"
Wife: "Gee, I dunno..."
Husband: "Why not? It's pretty hard to hide a bomb under a horse."
Tuesday, July 14 — 7:34 p.m.
Finally, after an opening ceremony that included everything short of a moment of silence for Michael Jackson, Stan Musial triumphantly enters the stadium riding in a golf cart, ready to receive the glowing tribute one of the greatest hitters alive deserves.
Tuesday, July 14 — 7:39 p.m.
Wearing a White Sox jacket, Obama heaves a curveball that falls a good two feet short of the plate. If this keeps up, St. Louis will be voting Republican in 2012.
Tuesday, July 14 — 8:30 p.m.
After a weeklong buildup and a never-ending opening ceremony, Unreal found it refreshing to sit back, sip a cold beer and watch baseball on a clear summer night. During the game, there's no pomp or pageantry. Other than the complimentary seat cushions, the players in different uniforms and the snipers on the roof, it feels just like a regular evening at Busch.
Also, Unreal's view from just left of the foul pole by Big Mac Land beats the hell out of the one from the press box.