The St. Louis Cardinals football team was the region’s gridiron team of choice from 1960-1987. Football’s greatest tight end, Hall-of-Famer Jackie Smith, who spent much of his illustrious career with the Cardinals, still makes his home in St. Louis. Another resident “Big Red” Cardinal, Dan Dierdorf, is also member of the Football Hall of Fame, as well as a local restaurateur and the chairman of the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission. Dierdorf currently works as a sportscaster for CBS-TV.
Today, the St. Louis Rams (www.stlouisrams.com) are the home team, taking to the turf at the Edward Jones Dome throughout the NFL season. Since moving to St. Louis in 1995, the Rams have been to two Super Bowls and brought home the Vince Lombardi Trophy for their victory over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000.
The St. Louis Blues (www.stlouisblues.com) are the only NHL team to appear in the playoffs every year during the 1980s and 1990s. Since joining the National Hockey League in 1967, the Blues have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs only five times. Today’s team takes to the ice at the 20,000-seat Scottrade Center (www.scottradecenter.com) in downtown St. Louis.
The St. Louis-based Missouri Valley Conference has hosted its annual conference men’s collegiate basketball championship in downtown St. Louis since 1991. Known uniquely as “Arch Madness,” the tournament is the second-oldest neutral site tenured collegiate tourney in the nation. St. Louis is also home to the Gateway Football Conference, which was originally founded as a women’s athletics organization. In 1985, the Gateway Conference football division was created and the league assumed the name Gateway Football Conference. The schools’ women’s programs realigned with the men’s teams in their respective conferences, with most of the schools aligning with the Missouri Valley Conference. The football conference remains a separate league, and league members are Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois, Youngstown State, North Dakota State and South Dakota State.
Each September, two historically black college football teams square-off at the Edward Jones Dome for the annual Gateway Classic Football Game (www.gatewayclassic.org). In addition to the game, the event is known for its stellar halftime activities, which includes a lively “battle of the bands” competition between the two schools. The weekend-long event is produced by the St. Louis Gateway Classic Sports Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on the well-being and education of area youth by providing scholarships to African American students at historic black colleges and universities.
Notable sports history highlights in the 21st century
In 2007, Major League Baseball announced that St. Louis’ Busch Stadium would serve as the site of the 2009 MLB All-Star Game. In 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals christened their new roost with a World Series win over the Detroit Tigers in five games. The newest Busch Stadium opened in April, replacing the former Busch Stadium, which opened in 1966.
St. Louis continued to be a hot spot for amateur sporting events in 2006, as the region hosted the NCAA Men’s Soccer College Cup, State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and the National Sportsmanship Awards. In 2005, the NCAA Men’s Final Four was held at the Edward Jones Dome in April, and the Scottrade Center welcomed the NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championships in March. That same year, the St. Louis Sports Commission (www.stlsports.org) was chosen “Sports Commission of the Year” by the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC).
In 2004, St. Louis hosted its first World Series since 1987, as the Cardinals won the National League pennant by posting 105 regular season victories wins – the most in the major leagues. Unfortunately, the team was swept by the Boston Red Sox in four games. To celebrate the centennial of the 1904 Olympic Games held in St. Louis, the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Diving and the Women’s Marathon qualifying events were held in the region, and the U.S. Men’s Senior Open Championship celebrated its 25th anniversary by bringing the popular golf event to St. Louis in 2004. More than 170,000 golf enthusiasts attended the tournament.
The NFC Champion St. Louis Rams (www.stlouisrams.com) made it to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans in 2002, but were denied a second championship by a last second field goal by the New England Patriots. St. Louis hosted its first NCAA Women’s Final Four at the Scottrade Center that year as well, and the sold-out event featured a classic championship game with Notre Dame beating Purdue 68-66. The St. Louis Sports Commission was chosen by the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) as the “Sports Commission of the Year.”
Speaking of the Rams, the team won its first Super Bowl on January 30, 2000, with a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. Football fans voted the game as the “best Super Bowl ever” according to a CNNSI.com poll. The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships held at St. Louis’ Scottrade Center in March 2000, sold the most all-session tickets in the history of the event. The record-breaking attendance of 96,994 surpassed the previous record set in 1997 when 90,064 people watched the championship matches.
On November 15, 1999, the St. Louis Sports Commission named Stan Musial and Jackie Joyner-Kersee “St. Louis Athletes of the Century.” Held at the Edward Jones Dome, the NCAA Men’s Regionals Basketball Tournament set an attendance record for an NCAA event. More than 42,400 fans jammed the Dome for each of the tournament’s three games that took place March 19 and 20, 1999.
The 1998 NCAA Men’s Basketball Regionals were held at the Scottrade Center in March, and baseball history was made in Busch Stadium when St. Louis Cardinals’ slugger Mark McGwire became the first player to hit 70 home runs during a single season. Phenomenal Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith, affectionately known as “The Wizard” retired in 1996, after a career that included winning 13 consecutive Gold Gloves. The 15-time All-Star steadily improved his offense after joining the Cardinals in 1982 and ended his 19-year career with 2,460 hits, 1,257 runs and 580 stolen bases.
In January 1995, the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams announced they were relocating to St. Louis. The St. Louis Rams played their first four home games at the old Busch Stadium, and played their first game in the Edward Jones Dome in November 18, 1995. In 1994, St. Louis hosted the United States Olympic Festival (USOF), which broke 20 USOF records, including total attendance (more than 515,000) and total event ticket sales (more than $2.84 million).
The first ever U.S. National Senior Olympics were held on the campus of St. Louis’ Washington University in 1987. At the conclusion of the 1987 football season, Owner Bill Bidwell moved the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals football team to Phoenix, Arizona after failing to convince city leaders to build a new stadium for the team.
In 1986, the Blues pulled off what’s become known as the “Monday Night Miracle,” during a playoff game against Calgary. After being stretched to the limit to eliminate Minnesota and Toronto, the Blues had their backs against the wall once again in their semifinal series against the Calgary Flames. Needing a home-ice victory to force a seventh game, the Blues trailed 5-2 with less than 12 minutes remaining in the game. Brian Sutter lit the comeback torch with a goal at 8:08, and unlikely hero Greg Paslawski notched a pair of late third-period goals to send the game into overtime. Twenty minutes later, Doug Wickenheiser slipped a rebound past goalie Mike Vernon to give the Blues a comeback win for the ages.
During the 1980s, the Cardinals were the only team in baseball to win three pennants, but emerged with only one World Series championship. The Redbirds defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982, and returned to the championship in 1985 and 1987 against the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins, respectively.
The St. Louis Arena, also known as the Checkerdome, hosted the 1973 NCAA Men’s Final Four. Bill Walton and the UCLA Bruins defeated the Memphis State University Tigers 87-66 to win the national title. The Arena, which was home to the NHL’s St. Louis Blues hockey team, hosted the Final Four again in 1978. In the 1976 Amateur Draft, the Blues selected future Hall of Famer Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter and Mike Liut, who would go on to become the cornerstones of the team during the 1980s.
The NHL’s St. Louis Blues debuted in 1967, coached by the legendary Scotty Bowman. The team reached the Stanley Cup finals in its inaugural year, ultimately losing to the Montreal Canadiens. The Blues, led by players such as Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante, Barclay and Bob Plager, Al Arbour, and Red Berenson, made it back to the finals in 1969 and 1970, but were unable to bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup.
St. Louis won its first National League pennant in 18 years in 1964, and the Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees to win the World Series. The team featured future Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, along with Ken Boyer, Mike Shannon, Tim McCarver and Roger Craig. In 1967, the Cardinals won 101 games and were crowned World Champions by defeating the Boston Red Sox, four games to three. The ’67 team featured Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Orlando Cepeda, and manager Red Schoendienst. In 1968, the Cardinals returned to the World Series but lost to the Detroit Tigers. Bob Gibson became the first Cardinal to ever win the Cy Young Award, and was named National League MVP in 1968.
After the 1967-68 season, the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks were sold and relocated to Atlanta.
St. Louis’ Dick Weber won the Pro Bowlers Association (PBA) bowler of the year award in 1961, 1963, and 1965. Weber’s career included four All-Star titles, 11 All-American Team honors, 26 PBA tournaments, six senior titles, and induction into both major bowling halls of fame.
1940s and ‘50s
On April 12, 1958, two-time NBA MVP Bob Pettit scored 50 points for the St. Louis Hawks against the Boston Celtics as the city captured its first and only NBA Championship. The Hawks played their first game in St. Louis on November 5, 1955, after relocating to the Gateway City from Milwaukee. In late 1952, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., led by its president, August A. Busch Jr., purchased the St. Louis Cardinals from team owner Fred Saigh. As soon as the sale was announced, Bill Veeck, owner of the American League’s St. Louis Browns, put his team up for sale. The Browns were sold to a group of Baltimore investors, and the team became the Baltimore Orioles. Boxer Archie Moore finally got a title shot in 1952 at the age of 39, winning the light heavyweight crown before a hometown crowd in St. Louis. He held the title for nine years and notched a record 131 knockouts over his 27-year career. In 1950, five “local boys” Charlie Colombo, Frank Borghi, Gino Pariani, Harry Keough and “Pee Wee” Wallace – were part of the U.S. soccer team that upset England in the 1950 World Cup semi-finals.
The Saint Louis University Billikens won the NIT men’s basketball championship in 1948, led by St. Louis native and future NBA star “Easy” Ed Maculey. The Cardinals went to the World Series four times during the ‘40s, winning three out of four championships. St. Louis was victorious over the New York Yankees in 1942, then lost to the Bronx Bombers in 1943. They were back to their winning ways in 1944 during the St. Louis “Streetcar Series,” which pitted the hometown Cardinals against cross-town rivals, the St. Louis Browns. In 1946, the Cardinals were world champs again, defeating the Boston Red Sox.
The 1920s and ‘30s
The Saint Louis Stars of the Negro League baseball league won the world championship title in 1928, 1930 and 1931, and the Cardinals won their first World Series title in 1926 against the Yankees. Led by player-manager Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis beat the Yanks in seven games. One of golf’s most treasured prizes came into play in 1920, as St. Louis-born George H. Walker put up a trophy for competition between United States and British golfers.
The Women’s International Bowling Congress was started in St. Louis in 1916, and in 1906, Saint Louis University quarterback Bradbury Robinson threw the first forward pass in the history of football. It was caught by tight end Jack Schneider. In addition to being the site of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (also known as the World’s Fair), St. Louis was the site of the third Olympic games held in modern times. The 1904 Olympics, the first ever held in the United States, began the tradition of awarding the winners gold, silver and bronze medals and also was the only Olympiad that featured golf as a competitive event.
In 1899, St. Louisan Dwight Davis commissioned the Davis Cup trophy, with the first competition featuring the U.S. team defeating the British Isles 3-0. The beloved tradition that is
St. Louis baseball was born in 1892, as the St. Louis Browns rejoined the National League as part of the newly reformed 12-team circuit. The St. Louis franchise has had continuous membership in the National League ever since, as the Browns soon became the Perfectos (1899) after the team was purchased by the Robison Brothers, Frank and Stanley.
The Perfectos’ uniforms featured red-striped stockings and red-trimmed uniforms, so when St. Louis Republic sportswriter Willie McHale, heard a lady fan remark, “What a lovely shade of cardinal,” he used the new nickname in his column. The name struck a chord with fans, and the team officially changed its name to the Cardinals in 1900.
St. Louis hosted the first major horse show in the country, the St. Louis Horse Show, as the main event of a fair in 1856. The St. Louis National Charity Horse Show is held annually each fall and is rated among the top three shows in the nation.