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St. Louis Has the Best of Home-Field Advantage

October 07, 1985| United Press International

Based on the advantage that a home park can give, the St. Louis Cardinals should win the World Series.

By contrast, notorious penny-pinching on the part of Los Angeles could negate the small edge that Dodger Stadium offers.

In the American League, Kansas City looks like an effective road club, with the perfect tools to negate Toronto's edge at home.

The Cardinals play in Busch Stadium, a huge stadium with artificial turf. It suits their style in two significant ways:

First, the vastness of the park allows very few home runs. From home plate to the foul poles measures 330 feet. The center field fence sits 414 feet away. The power alleys are the real killer, though, 386 feet, the longest in the league.

The intimidating distance to the fence means that few games will turn on a home run. A pitcher can throw strikes, knowing that the ball will stay in the park. This leads to the other significant advantage that the Cardinals derive from Busch Stadium:

When a pitcher throws strikes and allows the batter to hit the ball, Busch Stadium rewards speed and defense.

"The Cardinals have the best double-play combination in baseball," said a respected National League scout. "They have the best outfield in baseball. And their shortstop (Ozzie Smith) is the greatest defensive shortstop I've ever seen."

At the plate, the Cardinal hitters use their speed by hitting high bouncers off the artificial turf and beating them out for hits.

In Dodger Stadium, club management has decided to make a few bucks by installing two extra rows of seats on the field. The seats extend from the dugouts along the lines, and their presence could hurt the Dodgers for this reason:

Los Angeles' strength is pitching, and the roomy foul territory gives them an extra shot at an out. The distance between home plate and the grandstand measures 75 feet--tied for second longest in the league. If the extra seats wind up giving an enemy batter a bonus swing, the ballclub will look penny-wise, Dodger-foolish.

"It could make a difference in the playoffs or World Series," said right-hander Orel Hershiser of the Dodgers.

In the American League, Exhibition Stadium usually provides advantage to the Blue Jays, because it rewards both power and speed--qualities that Toronto owns in abundance.

It is also an excellent park for left-handed batters.

"Most of the time, the wind blows to right field," an American League scout said. "It's too difficult to hit the ball over the right field fence. Right center isn't that difficult to reach."

The Royals negate the Exhibition Stadium edge in several ways:

First, they have three left-handed starters in Charlie Leibrandt, Bud Black and Danny Jackson. They should prevent Lloyd Moseby and Willie Upshaw from capitalizing on the wind to right.

Second, the Royals have become a power team that can do more damage than the Blue Jays. Steve Balboni set a club record with 36 homers, and George Brett (30) and Frank White (22) both had career highs.

Third, the Royals, though not possessing the overall speed they once did, still can play on the carpet.

At home in Royals Stadium, Kansas City owns no particular edge on offense because of the 385-foot power alleys. On defense, however, the Royals employ the same style as the Cardinals. They throw strikes and dare the opposition to hit the ball out of the park.

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