Sometimes, a brand’s origin story is straightforward and simple. Other times, it’s full of mystery and fun facts to be discovered. That is seemingly the case with the mythos surrounding St. Louis’s Busch Stadium and the launch of the Busch Beer brand.
According to legend, Busch Beer was created because of a feud that August “Gussie” Busch Jr. had with Major League Baseball (MLB) at the time. Apparently, after purchasing the Cardinals in 1953, he wished to name the team’s stadium Budweiser Stadium (which makes sense, as his grandfather is Adolphus Busch of Anheuser-Busch fame), but it was refused by Ford Frick, the commissioner of the MLB from 1951 to 1965. So, he did the next best thing — named it after his family and then commissioned the development of Busch Beer in spite.
“This story is highly possible. It makes logical sense, and it’s a fantastic story,” says Neil Reid, the man behind TheBeerProfessor and professor of geography and planning at the University of Toledo. However, Reid notes, there is a lack of factual evidence to support this claim, although Busch Lager was introduced in 1955, followed by Busch Bavarian Beer the following year — several years after the park was purchased and named.
“It seems as if this was a word-of-mouth story that has been passed down through the years and, at some point, it became true,” surmises Reid. “But the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence.”
While there may be some accuracy to this legend, chances are, the story may not be as grand as it seems. Amy Barra, curator of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, says the stadium was actually renamed Budweiser Stadium upon purchase but changed shortly thereafter.
“[The stadium] was known as Sportsman’s for 75 years, then Budweiser Stadium for 24 hours, to be renamed Busch Stadium the next day,” she says. “Fans are still known to refer to it as Sportsman’s Park.”
As it turns out, Barra adds, then-commissioner Frick wasn’t too keen on commercial branding, so Gussie agreed to name it after his family instead. “We’re not sure if it was on purpose that Busch Lager [and] Busch Bavarian Beer were introduced a few years later,” she says.
There is still some shroud of mystery surrounding the true origin of the beer/stadium naming rumor — according to the Society of American Baseball Research, the beer was named after the ballpark.
Adding to this lack of clarity, Kaitlin Craig, director of corporate communications for Anheuser-Busch, told VinePair that the brand does “not have any documentation to confirm the accuracy of this story.”
So, here’s to keeping mysteries alive — and to Gussie Busch Jr. for figuring out how to keep people talking for decades.