04/06/09 6:12 PM ET
Opener always an event in St. Louis
Clydesdales, Hall of Famers highlight pregame ceremonies
By B.J. Rains / MLB.com
The annual holiday in St. Louis brings the team's living Hall of Famers, the parade of players around the field in shiny red, white and blue pickup trucks, and of course, La Russa's favorite part.
"The Clydesdales," La Russa said prior to Monday's first pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates. "They were missing there for a few years, and I wasn't a happy camper. I love the Clydesdales. Nobody else has them."
Indeed, the trip around the warning track for the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales has become a staple of baseball in St. Louis. When the wagon gate swung open and the glorious 2,000-pound horses entered the field to a standing ovation to open the pregame festivities on Monday, the baseball season had officially begun.
A sellout crowd braved sub-40-degree temperatures and a brisk wind to celebrate the start of another season.
"It's an incredible atmosphere," starter Adam Wainwright said. "It's just something else. I was so excited just getting to the park. The excitement level is off the charts."
Stan Musial, 88, the greatest player in the history of the storied Cardinals franchise, made a rare public appearance when he rode in on a golf cart to join the team's other living Hall of Famers -- Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson -- at the mound prior to the first pitch.
St. Louis, host of this summer's 80th annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game, kicked off the All-Star festivities by welcoming back several former Cardinals All-Stars, including 1959 All-Star Joe Cunningham and four-time All-Star Jack Clark.
"They do a great job of tying in the different generations together and letting them know that they are still important to what's going on, which they are," said La Russa.
B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.