Billy Bob Thornton sat in with Mike Shannon and John Rooney for a few innings on Thursday's radio broadcast of the St. Louis Cardinals game with the other team from LA. When asked how he became such a big Cardinals fan, Thornton's answer was, "Everybody in Arkansas is a Cardinals fan because the Arkansas Travelers were the Cardinals' Double-A team."
While I would argue that everyone in Arkansas is a Cardinals fan because of KMOX and the Travs were more about capturing that fan base by becoming a Cardinals affiliate, I guess there are some people who got interested in the Cardinals from going to Ray Winder Field. Billy Bob Thornton is apparently one of them.
You are not going to hear anyone from Arkansas ever say they became a big Los Angeles Angels fan because of the Travs. This is what we are missing. Why was there no one out there who valued this affiliation as it was falling to pieces?
Add 1: While it is clear that the affiliation with the St. Louis Cardinals was ended on the Travs end first as Bill Valentine played get revenge on Walt Jocketty and shunned the idea of getting a new stadium (which by the way I will never believe was a mandate from the Cardinals), I still think the Cards would have eventually left once they were able to buy their own team in Springfield.
The Cardinals primary rationale for purchasing a team in Springfield was to lock in market share from that part of the state and lock out the Kansas City Royals from gaining any new fans in southwest Missouri. But, honestly, how in danger were the Cards of ever losing popularity to the Royals, one of the worst organizations in professional sports (and proud parent club to the NWA Naturals)?
In my view, and we will never know for sure what move the Cards would have made had they not been run out of my town by Travs management, it was a dumb move to think Springfield, where they were already selling tickets to fans driving to Busch Stadium, was more important for market share than Little Rock, where you had, emphasis on had, a whole state's worth of fans without a professional team of any sort to pull money from. Surely Bill DeWitt Jr. is not that dumb.
My first trip to Autozone Park
I have walked through Autozone Park in Memphis before, but I'd never been to a baseball game or any other event there until I attended the Dave Matthews Band concert in Memphis on Saturday. That is one beautiful ballpark with a big-city atmosphere. Don't get me wrong, I think Dickey-Stephens was done totally right (other than possibly building up so fans could see the river rather than down so that the place can flood easier), but I have to take Autozone in the debate as to which is better.
It sits perfectly in downtown Memphis, with people sitting on rooftops and looking through windows from the buildings beyond the outfield, kind of like at Wrigley. To add to that big-city feel, planes regularly fly overhead on their way to and from the airport, but unlike Shea Stadium they are high enough that they aren't terribly noisy. In short, the park is good about capturing the essence of Memphis, and the idea that you can watch the Cardinals Triple-A players there is enough to make me want to make that two-hour drive more often.
-- Travelerocity reporter