on the the boys of summer

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans watch pre-game festivities before a game between the Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates on opening day in St. Louis Monday, April 6, 2009. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The game-time temperature was 41 and winds gusted up to 30 mph.

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals fans turned out in the traditional red for opening day on Monday -- red parkas, red overcoats, red ear muffs and red stocking caps.

After all, it wasn't exactly jersey weather. Monday's opener against Pittsburgh was among the coldest on record in St. Louis. Those who withstood the chill saw an exciting but ultimately disappointing ending -- the Pirates rallied with four two-out runs in the ninth to win 6-4.

It was the coldest since 1979, when the Cardinals beat Philadelphia 8-1. The first-pitch temperature that day was 40 degrees. It was 45 degrees when the Cardinals played the 1997 home opener, a 2-1 win over Montreal.

On Monday, the temperature was 41 degrees as the game began, but that was only part of the misery. A northerly wind blew at gusts of up to 30 mph. Snow earlier in the day didn't stick, thankfully. By game time, it was just plain cold.

Brianna Jaramillo, 8, holds a baseball as she watches pregame festivities with her sister Isabella, 5, before Monday's season opener in St. Louis. (LYNNE SLADKY ~ Associated Press)

Players did their best to stay warm. Many wore stocking caps and heavy jackets in the dugouts. Both teams skipped outdoor batting practice.

"I wasn't cold but the balls were," Pirates starting pitcher Paul Maholm said. "I had to rub them up just to get the feel."

Fans did everything but light campfires. Some used packaged hand-warmers sold as hunting supplies. Ballcaps mostly gave way to wool hats and stocking caps. When good things happened for the Cardinals, the applause was muffled by mittens and gloves.

Ted Carmody of De Soto helped his wife, Monica, adjust her various layers of clothing as they settled into seats in the nosebleed section of right field. Monica wore ear muffs, gloves, a scarf, a thick shirt and a sweat shirt, all topped by a yellow ski jacket.

"I had planned to wear my red Cardinals jacket, but I opted for comfort over the team colors," said Monica, 41.

A packed schedule

The Cardinals desperately wanted to get the game in. The World Baseball Classic this year knocked spring training back a week. With the season starting late, off days that are typically sprinkled generously through the first month to allow for possible weather woes have all but been eliminated.

The Cardinals have one day off in April, two in May and one in June. They have just five off days before the All-Star break -- the game is at Busch Stadium on July 14.

Weather aside, opening day here is far more than just a ballgame. Fans lined up in the pre-dawn flurries, with wind chills in the 20s.

On the field, pre-game ceremonies included the traditional parade led by the Budweiser Clydesdales followed by Hall of Famers, coaches and players. The Hall of Famers included Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Bob Gibson and Lou Brock. Also introduced were several other former All-Stars -- Joe Cunningham, Ken Reitz, Tom Henke, Todd Worrell, Tom Pagnozzi and Jack Clark.

But the biggest ovation came when 88-year-old Stan Musial was introduced, circling the field in a golf cart that drove him to the mound to join the other Hall of Famers.

Seeing the Clydesdales, the Hall of Famers and the team in its return home made the weather irrelevant, Ted Carmody said.

"In a lot of other parks you'd probably see empty seats, but not here," Carmody said. "There's nothing like opening day in St. Louis."

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