Life after Albert: Cardinals fans move on after painful loss of Pujols

Albert Pujols' life as a Cardinal ended on Dec. 8 when he signed a 10-year deal with the Angels....

Albert Pujols' life as a Cardinal ended on Dec. 8 when he signed a 10-year deal with the Angels. (JEFF HAYNES/Reuters file photo)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:30 AM ET

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO. - “The salad, with haricot verts and strawberries, was tasty. The lettuce was nice and fresh. My server, Rachel, and the folks working were very friendly and helpful. I would return.”

Patrick’s Restaurant & Sports Bar

• Atmosphere: St. Louis sports. Cardinals, Rams, Blues, Missouri Tigers with artifacts from the • St. Louis Hall of Fame.
• Service: Quite friendly.
• Drinks and Wine: Bud Lite, Miller, White Zinfandel.
• Food: Stuffed chicken breast, wings, grilled mahi-mahi, pesto shrimp pasta.
• Prices: Reasonable, very reasonable compared to Toronto.
• Stars: 4 out of 5.

There you have it.

My first restaurant review ever.

Why is this loon writing a restaurant review from suburban St. Louis the day before the San Francisco Giants meet the Cardinals in Game 3 of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series?

Patrick’s was the epicenter of the backlash when Albert Pujols left town as a free agent, signing a 10-year, $254-million deal with the Los Angeles Angels on Dec. 8. Back then, the restaurant was known as Pujols 5 Grill.

The news hit Missouri like a punch to the solar plexus.

Albert didn’t like us any more.

While Pujols uniforms were burned, the 10-foot, 1,100-pound statue outside Pujols 5, erected in 2011, stood tall.

A guard was hired for two weeks to make sure it was not damaged.

“People with reservations cancelled, groups phoned to say they were taking private parties elsewhere,” said Patick Hanon, Jr., owner of Patrick’s. “We were down 40% some weeks or months, down 75% some weeks.”

Hanon said he received hate email.

“I didn’t open it,” he said at his bar Tuesday before business picked up in the late afternoon on the restaurant and bar side of the 12,000 square-foot, 500-seat operation.

The first thing you see when you enter is a picture from opening day April 13 this year at Busch Stadium of the most famous alumni from the most successful MLB franchise behind the New York Yankees.

Seven Hall of Famers: Bruce Sutter, Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, Stan Musial, Whitey Herzog, Curt Flood and Ozzie Smith.

“Albert would have been a hero if he’d stayed, a hero for life,” said patron Art Buck, who quickly points out he’s of no relation to Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck. “Albert was a big fish in a small pond here. Out in California he’s a big fish in an ocean.

“I wasn’t irate when he left. He would have been like Musial had he stayed.”

A 13th-round draft pick in 1999, Pujols played 11 seasons with the Cards, winning three MVP awards. He batted .328 as a Cardinal with 445 homers, 1,329 runs batted in and an 1.037 on-base plus slugging figure in 1,705 games.

“At the time we were upset, sorry he left,” said Val Slater, drinking a draft, “we’re in the post season again. The rest of the team stepped up. The Angels aren’t playing.”

Hanon owned Guacamole’s, a mexican restaurant that catered Pujols’ golf tournament when the two first met in 2005. Hanon’s sports bar, Patrick’s of Westport, had been operating since 1983. He asked Pujols to attend a function at Patrick’s.

“He commanded so much money we changed the name shortly after that to Pujols 5 and gave him a percentage,” Hanon said as a bus boy walked past wearing a Pujols 5 T-shirt.

Pujols used to come into the restaurant once or twice a month.

“Mr. Pujols is a good man, he still has his Pujols Family Foundation here,” said the cabbie on the drive over. The Foundation provides help to those living with Down Syndrome and to improve the lives of the poor in the Dominican Republic.

Pujols called Hanon on the afternoon of Dec. 8.

“He was in shock, he was planning on being a Cardinal,” said Hanon.

St. Louis is a town that likes to eat in bars owned by its sports heroes. Former Cardinals outfielder Mike Shannon has a great spot near Busch Stadium. So does former outfielder Jim Edmunds. And former NFL tackle Dan Dierdorf.

Hanon is asked about Game 3 of the 2011 Series when Pujols homered three times in a 16-7 win over the Texas Rangers.

He says the place was really hopping that night, with a trace of sadness.

“Most people have moved past it, they relate to us as a sports bar,” Hanon said. “Now, it’s like, ‘Albert who?’ ”

The statue didn’t topple like Saddam Hussien’s.

The Pujols figure remains, pointing both fingers to the sky.

“He’s pointing to Jesus,” Hanon said, “or maybe to the Angels.”


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