Memories of El Sarape and Laclede Park Softball
Pollack, Joe, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
THE RECENT closing of El Sarape brought a feeling of sadness, tinged perhaps with a bit of heartburn but overlaid with considerable warmth.
The little, grimy Mexican spot at 3514 Olive Street, hard by the site of the original Crystal Palace, held a lot of memories for me. For most of the 1960s, I lived in Laclede Park, and El Sarape was often a stop after Saturday softball games at the corner of Laclede and Compton avenues and postgame beer in the Laclede Park courtyard, where Jerry Berger held forth.
The alternate to El Sarape in those days was Roscoe McCrary's rib joint at Vandeventer and Delmar, but that's gone, too, and so is McCrary, the bon vivant who for many years had a listing, "Press Box Busch Stadium" and a working number, in the St. Louis telephone book.
Laclede Park was a great, loose collection in those days. Cocktail hour was a daily occurrence in the landlord's office, and tenants included a long list of present and former Post-Dispatch reporters, plus academics, flight attendants, novelists, film makers, politicians' secretaries, athletes, models, restaurateurs, medical students, nurses and others.
It was a superb place for a young person to live, and we all lived it to the utmost.
The Saturday softball games, usually doubleheaders, were a focus of the week. Martin Quigley ran one team, consisting mostly of visitors from other parts of town, although I played on Quig's team, there and at various other parks in the community, for many years. Nelson Algren played with us one day. Percy Green occasionally joined in, too. The Hawks' Zelmo Beaty singled in the seventh inning to break up a no-hitter I was pitching. Medical residents, still in ties, arrived from their hospital rounds, doffing white jackets and donning baseball gloves.
We played hard, though injuries (except for thigh-long, summer-long strawberries) were rare, and we argued hard, and when the games were over, we adjourned to the courtyard for beer, explanations and more arguments.
By the time dusk fell, we were well-insulated to face the culinary fire of Joe and Janey Leos, and about a dozen of us straggled the few blocks, raising eyebrows and incredulous stares as we crossed Lindell Boulevard.
El Sarape looked the same in the '60s as it did in the '90s, and while quality varied, dinner always was an enjoyable experience. …