The Cardinals remember 1982 while opening a new season without restrictions
The Cardinals are marking Thursday's opening day by honoring one of the franchise's landmark seasons. It's the 40th anniversary of the 1982 World Series championship.
That squad knocked off the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games to win the title, and it continues to hold a special place in the hearts of St. Louis baseball fans.
"It seemed like such a fun era of baseball," said Amy Berra, the curator and manager of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum.
“It was about the team and Whitey under his leadership," she added.
Whitey Herzog was the manager of that team, and a new exhibit at the museum remembers the '82 World Series champs from his perspective. He shares thoughts about each player and how he guided them to baseball's biggest prize.
The players also share their views on Herzog.
"Every single one of them that I talked to said he was the best manager they ever had," Berra said.
The exhibit, which runs through February, shows one artifact from every player and coach in 1982. That includes the bat outfielder Willie McGee used to hit two home runs in Game 3 of the World Series, a game-used bat from series Most Valuable Player Darrell Porter and a home jersey from pitcher Bob Forsch.
Berra spent months reaching out to players and collectors to gather the items.
"It was a labor of love. Eleven-year-old me stepped up and said I want to do this."
The collection curated by a lifelong Cardinals fan coincides with the beginning of a regular season when the team is expecting to sell more than 3 million tickets.
"This is really going to be the first normal season from a ticket standpoint since 2019," said Joe Strohm, the team's vice president of ticket sales.
It's the first time in two years without pandemic-related restrictions, but Strohm says some groups like schools are still staying away because of COVID-19, as are some corporations that might not be entertaining as they did before the pandemic.
"But we expect that will come back as the season comes on and in future years."
Strohm acknowledged the past few seasons have been tough, but planning for this year was also a challenge because of possible health guidelines headed into the 2022 season.
"We didn't know six months ago where we would be on opening day. Would we still be able to sell full capacity, or was it going to be at some reduced capacity, because you just didn't know where the virus was going at that point," Strohm said.
There is still uncertainty as the season begins. Another possible outbreak could mean the return of health-related restrictions, and Strohm said it's too early to tell what the long-term impact of the past couple of years will be on the team's business operations.
"I think we're no different than any other business. I think all businesses are saying that right now. It's still too early to tell what the effect of the pandemic is to each and every business," he added.
Despite the pandemic still looming, the Cardinals are sold out for opening day and expect roughly 40,000 fans at each game during the first weekend.
What many fans might consider the ultimate farewell tour is adding to the excitement. Longtime players Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright are retiring after this season along with slugger Albert Pujols, who recently signed a one-year contract to finish his career in St. Louis.
Strohm conceded that is helping ticket sales, along with the optimism fans have for this year's version of the Cardinals to possibly follow the beloved 1982 squad and 10 others that have won a World Series.
"Quite frankly, they want to see the team too, because this could be a very good team."
And a very good team is good for businesses throughout St. Louis. An analysis from the Downtown Engagement Public Safety Initiative, Greater St. Louis Inc. and Explore St. Louis shows the team has an estimated economic impact of more than $300 million.