ST. LOUIS -- They stood on their feet for what seemed like an hour Thursday for the seven-run bottom of the third inning, clad in red and waving white towels, first erupting to life when Carlos Beltran blasted the ball over the right-field wall of Busch Stadium.
That blast, off veteran Pirates starter A.J. Burnett, scored the first runs for St. Louis in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
As the shadows climbed across the field -- from home plate to center field -- the sell-out crowd of 45,693 settled in to watch the start of the Cardinals' 10th postseason appearance in 14 years.
They sighed collectively for the first time when Andrew McCutchen broke up Adam Wainwright's no-hitter with a fourth-inning single.
Very, very few Pirates fans were visible. None could be heard.
Still, some wouldn't have missed it for the world.
When the Pirates broke the streak of losing seasons and won No. 82 under the Texas sky last month, one longtime fan, arms splayed above him in a V, held up a sign with a massive "82" in black magic marker with the words underneath reading: "We believe."
The image made the rounds on several major sports websites, onto ESPN's SportsCenter and into the chronicles of a franchise ready to move on.
No way that man -- who grew up in Monroeville -- would miss Game 1 of NLDS.
So at 3 a.m. Thursday, Billy Anger, his daughter and grandson loaded into the family car and headed north on the interstate from Fort Worth, Texas.
Eleven hours, 700-something miles and two tickets priced at $67 apiece later, the trio sat in section 164 at Busch Stadium to take it all in.
"I was 23 when Sid Bream slid across home plate," said Anger, flanked by his daughter Ashley, 23, and grandson Judah, just 5 months. "After 20 years, there was no way I was staying home with this within driving distance. I'm glad I can bring my daughter here and bring her to the first playoff game in 20 years."
They were among the very few Pirates fans visible in a sea of Cardinals red.
But there were others.
Like David Musin, who grew up in Beaver County but now resides in Cardinals country.
"I live in St. Louis but I wear black and gold," he said, undoing the buttons of his Pirates jersey to reveal a black Steelers T-shirt.
He bought the tickets Wednesday night online, and was close enough to see the stitches on the ball.
The voice of the Cardinals
With a simple wave of his hand, Mike Shannon, the voice of the Cardinals, saluted the St. Louis crowd as he slowly walked toward the mound to deliver the ceremonial opening pitch.
Less than two months ago, Shannon was in an operating room, having heart surgery to replace his aortic valve.
About a month after his Aug. 21 surgery, Shannon returned to the broadcast booth, where he has called Cardinals games since 1972. Before that, he played for the Cardinals during a nine-year major league career, all in St. Louis.
Shannon, 74, stood a couple feet in front of the mound and threw to St. Louis outfielder Shane Robinson. The pitch was low and outside, but it drew one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon from the St. Louis crowd.
The pregame scene at Busch Stadium had a decidedly St. Louis flavor, albeit a bit sudsy.
About 30 minutes before the first pitch, early arrivers stood and cheered as the Budweiser Clydesdale horses took a lap around Busch Stadium, pulling a vintage beer cart.
St. Louis and the Cardinals have a long history with Anheuser-Busch. The company once owned the Cardinals, and three of the city's most recent baseball venues have been named "Busch Stadium."
The company was headquartered in St. Louis until 2008, when it was sold to Belgium brewer InBev.
Still, the company brews Budweiser a couple miles from Busch Stadium. They can be bought at the concession stands for $9 each.
First Published October 4, 2013 4:00 AM