A friend and I travelled this past weekend to watch the Twins play the Cardinals in St. Louis. Back at home, I'm reading the Wikipedia article on the city to see whether it tends to confirm my general impression of decline. And it does. For example, the population of St. Louis has fallen from a high of 856,796, in 1950, to just under 320,000 in the 2010 census, and an estimated 308,626 in 2018. Of cities with at least 100,000 residents in 1950, only two others have lost as high a percentage of their population as St. Louis: Detroit, Michigan, and Youngstown, Ohio. Wikipedia:
After years of immigration, migration, and expansion, the city reached its peak population in 1950. That year, the Census Bureau reported St. Louis's population as 82% White and 17.9% African-American. After World War II, St. Louis began losing population to the suburbs, first because of increased demand for new housing, unhappiness with city services, ease of commuting by subsidized highways, and later, white flight. St. Louis's population decline has resulted in a significant increase in abandoned residential housing units and vacant lots throughout the city proper; this blight has attracted much wild life (such as deer and coyotes) to the many abandoned and overgrown lots.
We stayed downtown, within five blocks of both the Gateway Arch and the ballpark, at the Hotel Majestic, which probably was majestic in 1950. Today, "Omni" has been crudely excised from the inscription above the entrance, the four letters made legible by the lighter shade of grime behind where they formerly were attached to the facade. So it seems Omni Hotels & Resorts gave up on the hotel and St. Louis. The complimentary breakfast is served in what one can see was formerly a grand barroom, with a long, wooden bar and empty shelves where the bottles once stood. There is on one wall a very nice mural of famous African-American jazz musicians who, one can easily imagine, might have played there in the 40s and 50s. The breakfast was of the kind you get at the exurban franchises along the interstate, the quality of the choices declining in relation to the care required for preparation: cereal just what you'd expect; eggs okay; the potato, sausage, and vegetable sidedish for the eggs not recommended. The room was fine and reasonably priced.
We walked around a fair amount and took two short rides on the subway. One thing you can't miss in Minneapolis, all the young white hipsters hanging out at cool places, was nowhere in evidence. Maybe we missed them but maybe there aren't any. I'm guessing that newly minted graduates of Ivy League law schools and techie sharpsters are not flocking to St. Louis. You can get a Budweiser wherever you go, and someone told us there was "a happening craft beer scene," but, if there is, we missed that, too.
People seem to have money to go to the ball yard. There were around 40,000 in attendance for the two games we saw--Monday night and Tuesday afternoon against the Twins, not big draws. The Cubs had been in over the weekend and there had been three sell outs, which means about 46,000 per game. The Cardinals swept that series, winning twice on walk-off hits, one of those in the fourteenth inning, thereby gaining a chunk of turf over their main divisional rival. The home team looked to be suffering from a hangover in the games with the Twins, whose recent descent in the standings has been caused by weak pitching that nevertheless held the Cardinals to one run in two games. On Tuesday, the Cardinals' line went 1-2-3: one run, two hits, three errors. The scores of the games were 6-0 and 7-1.
If you have the kind of car that needs gas, and the kind of bladder that fills, it takes close to ten hours to drive from St. Louis to Minneapolis. For a Minnesotan, it's a little startling to see liquor for sale in gas stations. A good way to get to the game is to leave your car in the parking lot of the Casino Queen, in East St. Louis, which is across the Mississippi in Illinois, then take the subway over the river into St. Louis to the ballpark station. We did that, and gassing up in East St. Louis after the game, my travelling companion was waiting to pay for a coke behind a fellow who was also buying a coke--and two shot-sized bottles of Jack Daniels.
"You having a bad day, hon?" asked the kindly woman at the checkout.
"No," he said. "I'm having a great day."