One Pack. No Turning Back.

Number of miles driven today: 312

Total miles driven on road trip: 8,807

Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? For all you Dunkin' enthusiasts out there, I'm afraid that the game has become a mere formality by now. We're firmly back in Starbucks country, and I think we can consider it clinched.

Starbucks' record (# of days Starbucks was more common): 22-16-2.

Dunkin' Donuts' record: 16-22-2

Cheapest gas I saw today: $2.49

Number of states visited overall: 26

Number of red states visited overall (as of 2012 presidential election): 12 (Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri)

Number of blue states visited overall: 14 (California, New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois)

Number of e-mails I received challenging my recent blog post calling James Garfield a mediocre president: 1

Number of Vince Coleman jerseys spotted at  Busch Stadium tonight: 0

​I am officially in the Midwest, although looking at my abused Rand McNally road atlas today, this is really more like the Central U.S.

Why do Chicago and St. Louis get to call themselves the Midwest when in fact Colorado and Utah should really have that title?

St. Louis does know baseball. Until the Kansas City Athletics formed in 1955, St. Louis was as far west as Major League baseball got, which is why you can still find a decent number of Cardinals hats in Wyoming. The third incarnation of Busch Stadium greets travelers from Interstate 64, nestled downtown by the Mississippi River and enveloped by a swarm of Cardinals boosterism.

After checking into my hotel, I walked the half-mile to Stan Musial Way and found, even two hours before game time, the sidewalks jammed worse than Disney World as fans waited for the gates to open. I was early to meet a friend from grad school, Alex, and her fiance, and so killed some time by walking to the new Cardinals Museum and Hall of Fame. 

The area directly surrounding the ballpark is a monument to the franchise; a lawn called "Baseball Village" offers a giant video screen showing baseball highlights and a bar; around the perimeter stand several statues of Cardinals greats--Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean, Ozzie Smith. The team spirit on display made me think back to my hometown Oakland A's and the walk to the Coliseum from the BART train--a narrow overpass with barbed wire draped over the top, the stadium rising out of an industrial lot like a giant concrete crater. Yet for those of you who know what I'm talking about, I actually prefer the Coliseum in my contrarian, always-go-for-the-underdog way. There is something so charming about the A's decrepitude, their blue collar, no-frills venue and starless team. But I will hand it to the Cardinals, along with Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, Busch Stadium has to be one of the country's best baseball experiences. 

St. Louis also happens to be the place where our favorite Wax Pack conscientious objector, Vincent Van Go (Vince Coleman), had his best years. The Coleman formula for success was simple: slap the ball off the artificial turf to the left side of the infield, run like hell, and beat the throw. He made a living off of infield singles. 

I approached an oversized, older couple who were visiting from Arkansas and asked them about Coleman. They were both decorated from head to toe in bright red Cardinals wear, like the ornaments minus the tree. 

"He's probably fighting a tarp somewhere," the man said, referencing the second-most infamous incident of Mr. Van Go's career. Prior the start of Game 1 of the 1985 World Series, during a rain delay, the mechanical tarp used to protect the field accidentally rolled up on Coleman, trapping his leg underneath and costing him the entire Series due to injury. After swiping 110 bases that season, the fastest man in baseball couldn't outrun a tarp. (The most infamous incident, in case you're curious, occurred in 1993 when he dropped a lit firecracker out of a car in the parking lot of Dodgers Stadium, injuring a young girl nearby. Sometimes Vince's judgement was a bit suspect.)

I asked one of the concessions salespeople if they had any Vince Coleman stuff.

He laughed, and said, "Maybe we should get a tarp with his name on it."

The first thing I saw walking into the Cardinals Hall of Fame was a display commemorating this year's class of inductees, which included his contemporary and fellow speedster, Willie McGee. I thought back to Coleman's quote to the New York press in which he griped, "The grass at Shea Stadium is keeping me out of Cooperstown!" Now he can't even get into the Cardinals Hall of Fame.

I had been rejected by Coleman during Spring Training in Phoenix back in March (strike one), rebuffed again on the phone in May (strike two), and then left with radio silence after completing my stalking with a visit to his childhood home in Jacksonville, of which I sent him a picture text (I'm out). The least I could do to atone for my strikeout would be to find some vestige of his Cardinals career here in the museum dedicated to its history.

I was in luck--under a display celebrating Whiteyball (the 1980s teams managed by Whitey Herzog), I found a bat used by Vincent Van Go during the 1985 season. And nearby, a bobblehead left over from last summer's Vince Coleman night (see photo above).

The Cardinals ended up losing to the Reds 1-0. No tarps were needed. The ghost of Vince Coleman floats on.

For older blog entries, click here.


This may be as close as I get to Vincent Van Go

Searching for Vincent Van Go, Part XXVII

Day 41: Chicago, IL to St. Louis, MO, 7.29.15