Busch Stadium just won't be the same next season without the
Clydesdales, artificial turf and Jose Oliva hitting cleanup for
the St. Louis Cardinals. But that's good news for baseball fans,
because the St. Louis ownership group that bought the team from
Anheuser-Busch last month was quick to approve personnel changes
that should significantly upgrade the team.

After losing 142 games over the last two years--more than any
other National League team except the San Diego Padres (144) and
the Pittsburgh Pirates (147)--the Cards will head for spring
training in four weeks with a new manager, Tony La Russa, and a
revamped roster that packs more power and is loaded with steady

General manager Walt Jocketty spent a bundle to lure the highly
coveted La Russa (two years, $3 million) and his sidekick,
pitching coach Dave Duncan, from the Oakland A's, and that was
just the start. St. Louis overpaid for free-agent leftfielder
Ron Gant (five years, $25 million). But after finishing second
in the bidding for free agents Craig Biggio and Mark Grace, they
weren't about to let another impact player--Gant had 29 homers
for the Cincinnati Reds last year--slip away. The Cards spent
wisely in signing free-agent third baseman Gary Gaetti (one
year, $2 million), who at 37 had 35 homers and 96 RBIs for the
Kansas City Royals in 1995.

Last year St. Louis scored fewer runs than any other team in the
majors and hit fewer homers than anyone but the Philadelphia
Phillies. No wonder, with players like Oliva (.142) batting
cleanup at times. With Gant and Gaetti joining Brian Jordan, the
team could have at least two 30-homer men in its lineup for the
first time.

With franchise fixture Ozzie Smith, 41, coming off right
shoulder surgery, the Cardinals traded three prospects to the
San Francisco Giants for 26-year-old shortstop Royce Clayton.
The pitching rotation got a boost with the acquisitions of
righthander Todd Stottlemyre (14-7, 205 strikeouts last year) in
a trade with the A's and righty Andy Benes (combined 11-9 with
the Padres and the Seattle Mariners), who was another free-agent
pickup (two years, $8.1 million). St. Louis also signed catcher
Pat Borders and outfielder Willie McGee to minor league
contracts, and pitcher Rick Honeycutt and infielder Mike Gallego
to one-year deals. More moves are planned, especially if closer
Tom Henke (36 saves, 1.82 ERA in '95) follows through on his
plans to retire.

"I've seen new ownership go crazy spending, but I don't
think we've done that," says Bill DeWitt Jr., a limited partner
whose group bought the club for $150 million. "Our payroll
[projected to be $38 million; up from $28 million at the end of
'95] will be a lot less than the high-payroll teams. We don't
plan on going crazy."

The Busch family was one of baseball's best owners from the time
it bought the Cardinals in 1953. But over the last couple of
years chairman of the board August A. Busch III had grown
disenchanted with a game plagued by labor disputes and
skyrocketing salaries.

This year the grass will look greener in Busch Stadium--and not
just because of the fresh sod.


COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO Gaetti, Stottlemyre (above) and Gant are three of the new faces meeting in St. Louis. [Gary Gaetti] COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON [See caption above--Todd Stottlemyre] COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT CLARKE [See caption above--Ron Gant]

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