ST. LOUIS – Collin J. Grundstrom, a streaker of considerable skill in the art of persistence and drastically less in that of evasion, was going to get naked Thursday night at Busch Stadium. He was going to get naked because he told his friend he would, and it was his friend's birthday, and birthday promises are sacrosanct, particularly when they involve nudity and lots of Bud Light.
"I'm gonna streak," he announced at the beginning of the St. Louis Cardinals-Philadelphia Phillies game to those within earshot of Section 133, Row 5, Seat 4. At first, they chuckled. Then they started to believe him. Which was followed by attempts to dissuade him. And ultimate acceptance that, yes, Grundstrom was gonna streak, and it was only a matter of when.
The streaker is an institution familiar to sports, where the caste system of on-field chicanery deifies the man (or woman) dumb (or drunk) enough to strip naked and grace tens of thousands of people with a pound (or more) of flesh. It's not so much the image of the streaker that sears into onlookers' minds, though this is a Pulitzer-worthy snapshot of Grundstrom. More often it's the unforgettable laughter of seeing someone – in this case a 22-year-old landscaper from Jefferson City, Mo., the state's proud capital – so prone, showing off his wicked farmer's tan and daring anyone to pounce on his bare self.
A cavalcade of security officers finally did, and Grundstrom's night ended in a St. Louis Justice Center cell with fresh lewd-and-lascivious and spectator-running-onto-field charges attached to his name, according to in-stadium police. He could spend up to a year in jail.
More likely is a hefty fine, maybe some community service and one whopper of a tale.
Grundstrom arrived with three friends, according to a number of fans in surrounding seats, and he took great care in painting himself as a nudist martyr: He had skipped out on another friend's birthday to attend the game, and the friend, Grundstrom said, told him to streak for a birthday gift. Loyal amigo, Grundstrom agreed to it. And before the top of the seventh inning, his journey from clothed and in the stands to naked and arrested on the field commenced.
He left his flip-flops, wallet, belt and sunglasses with friends and made his way across the aisle and down 20 steps to the cusp of the field. Once a beer vendor and two women cleared the way, Grundstrom hopped, stripped and ran.
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"He was very nonchalant," said Sheila Welch, a Cardinals fan who sat behind Grundstrom. "I tried to tell him he'd go to jail. He didn't care. I hope his friend thinks that was awesome."
Slowly, the crowd of 40,715 realized what was happening. A Jumbotron interview with an old lady went on awkwardly as a din built into a roar. Players tried not to look. The last time something naked had caused that much commotion at Busch was Oct. 5, in the NL Division Series, when a squirrel's run across the field mid-game coincided with the Cardinals remaining alive in the postseason. The Rally Squirrel was born in that series against the Phillies. The Rally Streaker may be a one-and-done production.
Though quite the run it was. Grundstrom peeled off his shirt and shorts on the field and set out across the diamond. Those with great vision or a telephoto lens could make out the tattoo that ran down his left side: Hakuna Matata, it said, proving Disney's advertising standards have cratered.
The security team, which, as in every streaker chase, included a couple of uncoordinated hefties for added comedic value, bore down on Grundstrom in left-center field, by which time fans were clogging social networks with pictures and videos. When they finally caught him, some of the guards were chuckling. At least the ones not throttling a naked man.
"I don't want to be that cop," Cardinals utilityman Skip Schumaker said.
Defeated, Grundstrom mugged anyway. This was a win: He had worried he was going to get tasered, like 17-year-old Steve Consalvi, whom Philadelphia police zapped for coming onto the field last year even though he was fully clothed. Nobody in St. Louis wielded a Taser. Security was too busy asking Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer to grab a towel.
"I didn't run fast," Billmeyer admitted. "I was laughing."
Package wrapped, hands cuffed, Grundstrom headed toward the small holding cell inside of Busch when he jumped to acknowledge the crowd paying homage to his feat. One leap was enough. The second earned Grundstrom a face plant from police.
Up he went into the 4-by-3-foot cell, with a wooden bench, gray bricks and a small window. Police took down his pertinent information, booked him and sent him to a real cell while those at the scene of the crime shared pictures and laughs of a night at the stadium they couldn't forget.
One row in front of Grundstrom sat Jackson Dement, a precocious 7-year-old redhead who had come to see baseball. Instead, he saw a naked dude, something that on the street connotes horror and psychological scars and yet at a stadium is charming, an act of civil disobedience in which everybody but one can participate without penalty.
Collin Grundstrom, streaker, will pay in dollars and shame, his search-engine purity forever ruined for an act of loyalty, bravery and nudity.
Jackson Dement, fan, declared to his mom, Kellee: "This was the best game ever."
The Phillies beat the Cardinals 10-9.
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