ST. LOUIS -- The procession began as they always do when Busch Stadium opens its door to a new baseball season each year. In came the Hall of Famers, dressed in red suit coats, riding in convertibles from the right-field corner, around the warning track toward home plate. On Monday, Lou Brock led the way, followed by Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter and Whitey Herzog.
But, in fact, it wasn't as it always was, as there was an absence without Stan Musial, who died in January at the age of 92, in that line. He had been a constant presence on Opening Day in St. Louis for the last 70 years. But while he may not have been at Busch Stadium on Monday, he emerged as the centerpiece of the Cardinals' home opener festivities.
Following the introduction of the club's six living Hall of Famers, a tribute to Musial was played on the video board. It began with the speech that President Barack Obama gave when he presented Musial with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010. Tim McCarver and Jack Buck were then shown speaking about Musial's legacy.
The video ended with Musial's own words, the 22-year Cardinal saying, "As far as I was concerned, I was happiest when I put on a uniform and played baseball."
Minutes later, Musial's four children unveiled a No. 6 decal on the left-center field wall that will remain all season as a remembrance of the impact Musial had within the organization and the St. Louis community. The decal mirrors the uniform patch that will don the Cardinals' jerseys in 2013.
"The first thing I did when I got here was make sure that patch was on my jersey," third baseman David Freese said. "It's going to be a special day. I think everybody in the stadium will be thinking about Stan."
Even the national anthem was a nod to Musial. It was performed by the Gateway Harmonica Club of St. Louis, of which Musial was an honorary member.
"The only great thing that we know is that Stan is in a better place and he is carrying on that tradition somewhere else," Adam Wainwright said. "He's a big, big part of why St. Louis is where we are today in the world of baseball."
Activated from DL, Freese makes season debut
ST. LOUIS -- After a three-game Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis, David Freese was activated from the disabled list and inserted into the Cardinals' home opener starting lineup on Monday.
Freese, who suffered a back strain on March 4, wrapped up his time at Memphis by going 3-for-5 and playing nine innings at third base on Sunday. It marked the first time this year that Freese had played a full game. In total, Freese finished 4-for-12 with two doubles and four RBIs with Memphis. He played 16 innings in the field.
"The few days I had in Memphis went about as good as they could have gone," said Freese, who batted sixth on Monday. "I did plenty to prove that I warranted to come back here and get in that lineup today."
Freese said his back has been feeling good for about a week, something that he attributes to the period of rest he took late in Spring Training after it was decided that he would begin the year on the disabled list. The reports were encouraging enough out of Memphis, manager Mike Matheny said, that Freese should not be limited during these first few days back with the big league club.
"If he wasn't 100 percent, he wouldn't be here," Matheny said. "He's ready to go and we're excited to go out and watch him do his thing."
The timing of Freese's return allowed him to participate in the team's home opener, a day, Freese said, "I don't ever want to miss."
To clear space for Freese on the 25-man roster, the Cardinals optioned infielder Ryan Jackson to Memphis.
Motte to get update on right elbow Tuesday
ST. LOUIS -- Closer Jason Motte anticipates receiving some clarity as to how his right elbow is recovering when he visits with Dr. George Paletta on Tuesday. Motte is scheduled to undergo an MRI as part of a follow-up exam with the Cardinals' team physician.
"Tomorrow, we'll be able to compare where we were to where we are," Motte said before Monday's home opener. "From there, we'll move forward with what they'll let me do or not do. If they say everything looks fine, we'll move on from there. It just depends on what they say I need or don't need."
Motte has not picked up a baseball since feeling tightness in his right elbow after appearing in a March 21 Grapefruit League game. He traveled with the club on the last road trip and continues to follow a prescribed set of arm exercises in order to strengthen his elbow.
In Motte's absence, Mitchell Boggs will continue to be the fill-in closer. With his save on Saturday, Boggs became the first St. Louis pitcher aside from Motte to save a game since 2011.
Carpenter, Furcal in uniform for pregame ceremonies
ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal may be out for the season due to injury, but both made a point of being at Busch Stadium -- in uniform -- to participate in the Cardinals' home opener festivities.
Carpenter received the loudest ovation of the afternoon when he was introduced during the pregame ceremony. He shook the hands of the club's six living Hall of Famers and then gave manager Mike Matheny a hug. Though Carpenter made a one-week stop in Jupiter, Fla., during Spring Training, this marked the first time since the 2012 postseason that he had put on his uniform.
With retirement likely for the 37-year-old right-hander after the season, he braced for the strong possibility that this would be the last time he'd be chauffeured into the stadium by vehicle on Opening Day. He had to stop throwing in early February due to recurring symptoms related to thoracic outlet syndrome.
Because Carpenter lives in the St. Louis area, the Cardinals are hopeful that he'll be a regular clubhouse presence during home games. The club has opened that invitation to Furcal, too, though the shortstop said during Spring Training that he planned to do much of his rehab near his home in Miami. Furcal underwent season-ending elbow surgery last month.
"It's a tough situation to have these guys in here when they know that they can't really do what they want to do on the field," Matheny said. "But we make it available to them and we tell them they bring value. Any way we can have them around, we'll take them. We've made that known to Raffy and hopefully he takes us up on that because he brings an energy to this clubhouse and onto the field and into the dugout that not too many people can do."
• Right-hander Michael Wacha allowed two earned runs on five hits over four innings in his Triple-A debut on Sunday. Perhaps the most surprising part of Wacha's line, though, was that he walked four and didn't strike out a batter. Wacha walked only four in the 21 innings he pitched last year after being the Cardinals' top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
• Outfielder Oscar Taveras was due to join Triple-A Memphis on Monday after encountering some travel delays in his trip back from the Dominican Republic. Taveras returned to the Dominican Republic last week due to a death in his family.
• Before Jaime Garcia threw the first official pitch of Monday's home opener, the Cardinals sent Jason Isringhausen and Jim Edmonds out to deliver ceremonial pitches. Jason Motte caught the offering from Isringhausen, St. Louis' former closer. Chris Carpenter caught the pitch from Edmonds, a former teammate.
• Reds manager Dusty Baker made a point of coming out of the visitors' dugout to shake hands with several of the Cardinals' Hall of Famers who passed by during Monday's pregame parade.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.