Busch Jr. helped save, shape Cardinals

Busch Jr. helped save, shape Cardinals

A man of many hats, August Anheuser "Gussie" Busch, Jr.'s legacy extends beyond a single industry.

Busch, a St. Louis native, not only built Anheuser-Busch into the world's largest brewing company as the company's chairman for nearly 30 years, he also served as the chairman, president or CEO of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1953 until his death in 1989.

Busch is one of 15 former Major League executives, umpires and managers on the 2007 Veteran's Committee composite ballot. Candidates that receive 75 percent of the ballots cast will earn election and be honored in Cooperstown on June 9 during the Hall of Fame weekend. The results will be announced Feb. 27. In the last Veteran's Committee composite ballot in 2003, Busch received 11 votes and 13.9 percent of the vote.

In late 1952, it appeared that the Cardinals might be sold to out-of-town interests who would seek to move the team out of St. Louis. However, at Busch's urging, the brewing company's board of directors agreed to purchase the baseball franchise from Fred Saigh on Feb. 20, 1953.

Following that season, Sportsman's Park was renovated and renamed Busch Stadium. Under Busch's leadership, the Cardinals won the National League pennant six times in addition to three World Series Championships in 1964, 1967 and 1982.

After the 1964 championship over the New York Yankees, he was instrumental in the building of the "new" $26 million Busch Stadium that opened May 12, 1966, with a 12-inning victory over the Atlanta Braves.

The stadium was integral in the rejuvenation of downtown St. Louis. In 1967, the Cardinals surpassed the 2,000,000 mark in home attendance for the first time in franchise history.

Busch was a regular at Cardinals home games, and on special occasions he rode around the stadium in a Budweiser wagon pulled by a team of the trademark Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales.

2007 Hall of Fame Inductions
  2007 Candidates  
The 2007 Veterans Committee ballot features 27 candidates on the player ballot, 15 on the composite ballot.
Players ballot
Dick Allen
Bobby Bonds
Ken Boyer
Rocky Colavito
Wes Ferrell
Curt Flood
Joe Gordon
Gil Hodges
Jim Kaat
Mickey Lolich
Sparky Lyle
Marty Marion
Roger Maris
Carl Mays
Minnie Minoso
Thurman Munson
Don Newcombe
Lefty O'Doul
Tony Oliva
Al Oliver
Vada Pinson
Ron Santo
Luis Tiant
Joe Torre
Cecil Travis
Mickey Vernon
Maury Wills
 
Composite ballot
Buzzie Bavasi
August Busch Jr.
Harry Dalton
Charlie Finley
Doug Harvey
Whitey Herzog
Bowie Kuhn
Billy Martin
Marvin Miller
Walter O'Malley
Gabe Paul
Paul Richards
Bill White
Dick Williams
Phil Wrigley

In 1975, Busch handed the reigns of the brewing company over to his son, August Busch III.

The 1970s was a difficult decade for the Cardinals, as they were unable to reach the postseason, which left Busch anxious for the club's return to baseball prominence.

On June 9, 1980, he made arguably his best baseball decision when he hired Whitey Herzog as the team's manager. Busch and Herzog enjoyed a unique relationship that played a major role in the Cardinals' renewed success.

As a result, home attendance soared, with the club drawing 3,000,000-plus fans in both 1987 and 1989.

In 1984, the organization retired the number 85 to honor Busch in conjunction with his 85th birthday.

The Cardinals scion died on Sept. 29, 1989, in St. Louis at 90 years old.

Major League Baseball has named an award after Busch, the "August A. Busch Jr. Award," which is given for "long and meritorious service to baseball," and is the equivalent for off-field personnel to the players' Most Valuable Player Award.

Lindsey Frazier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.