The Memphis Redbirds-- Triple A team for the St. Louis Cardinals
The Memphis Redbirds play in Auto Zone Park in downtown Memphis, Tenn. If you have not taken a trip to see the club you should do it. Many of the players who are on the team in Memphis will be playing in St. Louis so it's well worth the trip.
AutoZone Park was named the 2009 Minor League Ballpark of the Year by Baseball America. It is a relatively new stadium with old-style ambiance, combining the feel of such parks as Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and Camden Yards,
The Memphis Redbirds' ballpark is a state-of-the-art facility. The left field wall is 15 feet, 8 inches high, with a 7-foot-8-inch wall enclosing the rest of the outfield.
AutoZone Park features the largest videoboard in Minor League Baseball: a 60-by-60 foot screen. The HD videoboard weighs over 20 tons with 1,440,000 pixels and towers 127 feet (or 13 stories) above the playing field.
A Memphis baseball trip is a great idea for families because there is so much to see and do in Memphis, the trip would interest everyone in the group. There is music on Beale Street, Elvis Presley's Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum which is actually very near the Lorraine Hotel where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was killed (which still stands looking eerily the same as it did in the 1960's).
Cardinals relief pitcher Jason Motte played in Memphis and he lives there in the off-season. His suggestions for lunch or dinner: Huey's, Gus's Fried Chicken, The Rendezvous and Dyers. We checked out Huey's and were not disappointed. It was in walking distance of the ballpark and had delicious burgers and fries, yet healthy fresh chicken salad. Another place we loved was our hotel, The Peabody.
The Peabody Hotel was more of a destination than a place of lodging. If you plan to go to Memphis, it is worth it to spend your money at this fun hotel. They think of everything there. The lobby is beautiful, the rooms are bright and charming, and the entire complex is brimming with history, which we love. High poster beds, soaps in the shape of a duck, magazines in the room, and plasma televisions. Our travel/food editor Suzanne Corbett stayed here recently and filed a story about the Peabody. We appreciated the wonderful personal service we got including the welcome pastry when we got there (it was in the shape of a duck) and surprise candy and mints we had waiting for us when we arrived back from the ballpark (shown right). Most people already know about the duck theme, as the Peabody Hotel is world famous for it's daily March of the Ducks.
At just four hours from St. Louis, there's really no excuse for you not to pile the family in the car, or just go down there with some guys or your sweetie and watch some future St. Louis Cardinals star and take in all that Memphis has to offer.
The Peabody Hotel: Old Southern Hospitality Where Everything’s Ducky
By Suzanne Corbett
If I had to sum up Memphis in one word it wouldn’t be barbecue. It wouldn’t be blues or even Elvis. It would have to be ducks. Not just any ducks, the red carpet marching Peabody Ducks.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the famous Peabody quackers, a tradition that began as a practical joke back in 1933 by Peabody GM Frank Schutt and a buddy who had spent the day duck hunting in Arkansas. Back in the day hunters used real ducks for decoys. After returning to the Peabody after a day of hunting and drinking a little too much Tennessee whiskey, Schutt thought it funny to place his live decoys in the lobby’s foundation. Schutt’s joke backfired – instead being embraced by guests the next morning as a wonderful lobby amusement.
“Those first ducks were three little English Call ducks, the kind that was used then as live decoys. Today we use only mallards, one drake and 4 hens,” explained Peabody’s Duckmaster, Anthony Petrina (shown right) who was recently elevated to the coveted position this past February.
Mallards were the choice of Peabody’s first duckmaster, Edward Pembroke, a former Ringing Bros., Barnum & Bailey animal trainer, who in 1940 approached the Peabody about training the ducks to establish their signature march down the red carpet to John Phillip Sousa’s King Cotton March. Pembroke keep marching his teams of ducks for 50 years. Petrina, who has the distinction of being the Peabody’s fifth duckmaster, hopes to match Pembroke's longevity. To date Petrina has 49 years to go.
The ducks are marched to the fountain at11 am and back to their luxury $200,000 Duck Palace at 5 pm. To get a spot for the marching mallards plan to arrive early. Prime spots by the lobby bar or along the rail on the second floor balcony go fast. I was lucky and snatched a bar stool. It was a great se to watch Petrina wrangled his four feather friends down the red carpet to catch an elevator to the penthouse duck palace. Wait, the count was off - four duck instead of five.
“You’re right there was only four today,” said Petrina. “ Each duck is different and each is its own bird. In this case we had a Diva Duck - every once in a while we have one that lets it all go to her head and can’t keep with the program. She was hogging the spotlight and waddling up the red carpet at three in the afternoon (two hours early). He had to rotate her out, but no worries, we have ducks in waiting.”
Ducks are on a three-month rotation, consisting of two five-duck teams, a veteran and the “ducks in waiting” team. One team serves as Memphis ambassadors, as the group that recently visited St Louis during a promotional tour. Of course, during their visit the ducks stayed first class, at the Ritz Carlton, floating their free time away in the bathtub.
“ All the teams are wild ducks, raised at the same Arkansas farm that has provided our ducks for 30 years,” said Pertina explaining how the ducks are not handled or named to help keep them wild. “ After our ducks finish their rotation they’re return to the farm for released back into the wild.”
Peabody’s famous duck are found everywhere within the hotel, except on the menu. No duck, no foie gras, no confit are found at the Peabody’s opulent four-star French restaurant Chez Phillippe, making it the only French restaurant in the world that doesn’t serve duck. Instead, you can expect duck shaped cookies, chocolates or pats of butter.
Ducks aside, the Peabody Hotel’s southern hospitality is par excellence and has become the standard the Mid-South measures luxury. Guests are lucky ducks who enjoy plush accommodations, gourmet dining along with the best view Memphis atop from the Plantation Rooftop. After an overnight stay or a simple afternoon duck watching, you’ll understand why historians have written that the Mid-South begins at the Peabody Hotel lobby.
The Peabody Hotel is central to some of the most-see/bucket list destinations in the city. Here are my top five must-see stops to see, do or taste before leaving Memphis. All are convenient - just a few blocks or a short drive from the Peabody Ducks.
1: Auto Zone Ballpark – Home of the Memphis Red Birds
2: Beale Street – Home of the Blues
3 Memphis Barbecue: The Rendezvous, Blues City Café or Central BBQ
4: STAX Museum of American Soul Music – Home of Soulsville USA
5: Graceland and Sun Studios – Home of Elvis and the birthplace of Rock N Roll
Walking from the Peabody Hotel to Beale Street, visitors will be able to see the Fed-Ex Forum where the NBA Memphis Grizzlies play. There is also a trolley that will take you to The National Civil Right Museum.
(Peabody Photo Credits: Peabody Hotel, Suzanne Corbett)
Follow @RobRains on Twitter