This clip was sent to me last week, and with sincere appreciation and thanks I’ll share it with baseball fans of every age and level. And somewhere my dear friend and Cardinal fan Stan Wilker will read, or hear, and smile.
A friend from central Ohio sent this clip to me last week, of opening day at St. Louis’s Busch Stadium and the traditional opening day lap by the Budweiser Clydesdales while organist Dwayne Hilton plays the late Augie Busch’s favorite song, “Here Comes The King.”
“Hey,” he said. “You post those little stories about the stories behind the songs on Press Pros and I thought you’d like this one, as much as you like baseball. Show me what you got.”
Well, I can tell you that they’ve been doing this for Cardinal games for decades, and the Clydesdales themselves go back to 1933 and the repeal of prohibition when August Busch, Jr. bought the first eight-horse hitch as a celebratory gift for his father, Augie, Sr. The old man was so delighted that he had the horses and wagon deliver two cases of Budweiser to the mayor of St. Louis, right to the front steps of City Hall.
Later that year he sent the horses and wagon to Washington D.C. via train and had two more cases delivered to Franklin Roosevelt at the White House. FDR loved it. No mention of Eleanor.
At any rate the tradition of Budweiser and those magnificent animals caught on, and now they’re a part of nearly every national celebration, from the Rose Parade to the Super Bowl. But first and foremost…they’re the symbol of baseball and beer – and the St. Louis Cardinals.
They are magnificent animals and the Budweiser Corporation now is one of the biggest breeders of Clydesdales in the world. Presently, they have about 200 head in their herd and to be selected for one of their eight eight-horse hitches that perform nationally is quite an honor. A few years back we took the kids to St. Louis to visit the brewery and the stable and the caretaker explained how the two lead horses are truly special.
“They have a personality and confidence apart from the others,” he mentioned. “It makes them stand out from the rest and they know they’re special. Those boys are just like other performers. There’s a little bit of ham in those horses.”
Ballpark organist Dwayne Hilton plays the tune on the ballpark’s Lowry organ, having taken over a couple of years ago from the legendary Ernie Hays, who retired after playing at Busch Stadium for 40 years. And actually, Busch is one of the few ballparks that still feature a live organist. The other major league clubs are either too lazy, or too cheap, to do it.
The video is fun to watch because you see how much the tradition means to Cardinal fans, and in some cases you can see that some of those fans have had their share of Budweiser over the years. And if our friend and associate Stan Wilker were still with us I can guarantee he’d enjoy seeing this because he was the biggest Cardinal fan I knew – a Cards’ fan, AND a ‘Bud’ man, as Harry
Caray used to say.
Baseball and beer, they say in St. Louis. It don’t get no better. And they ain’t horsein’ around when they say it.