The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers to claim their 11th World Championship on this date in 2011. Game 6 is the one burned into everyone’s memory, but that game wouldn’t have met anything had they not won game 7.
Games 1 and 2 were tight pitchers’ duels which the two teams split. Albert Pujols hit 3 home runs in game 3 to lead the Cardinals to a blowout win. After scoring 16 runs in game 3, Cardinals were shutout in game 4 behind 8 1/3 shutout innings from Derek “Dutch Stache” Holland. The Rangers again held the Cardinals’ offense in check to win game 5 by a score of 4-2, which set up game 6.
Game 6 is probably the most mind-numbing game in a season full of mind-numbing games. I watched it at my Dad’s house. I will never forget David Freese’s triple to tie the game in the 9th inning, which is probably the most electric Cardinals moment in my lifetime. I also remember Jon Jay’s key hit in extra innings, and scoring the tying run because he was one of my favorite players. Lance Berkman of course drove him in with two strikes. Freese’s home run in the 11th inning is still somewhat surreal when I see it.
A critical and probably underrated hit in that game was when Allen Craig homered off of Derek Holland in the bottom of the 8th inning. If Holland had shut out the Cardinals that inning, he may have pitched the 9th inning. He was the one pitcher who had shut down the Cardinals all series, except for this one inning. Instead of a 3 inning save for a championship, Neftali Feliz pitched the 9th inning and the rest is history.
All of that was game 6 though. This post is about game 7. My Dad had put his name into the lottery to buty tickets from the Cardinals before the World Series started. He was selected to buy tickets for game 7. The strangest thing was not knowing if there was even going to be a game 7 until nearly midnight the night before. After celebrating Freese’s home run, I remember telling my dad, “Well, I guess I better go pack!”
I took Friday afternoon off from work, and we drove down Friday afternoon. We stopped in Hannibal on the way down, and there were other Cardinals fans stopped at the same gas station, heading for the same destination. We got to the game about an hour before it was supposed to start. Sitting around us were families from all over the Midwest. There were a couple Rangers fans sitting in front of us. They were very cool, and everyone was great to them as well. People just talked baseball with them.
I was nervous that Chris Carpenter pitching on 3-days rest was not a good idea. The fears seem justified early on, when the Rangers scored 2 runs on back-to-back doubles by Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. The Cardinals immediately got the two runs back in the bottom of the first on a double by David Freese, that guy again. I remember the girl sitting behind us saying that the Cardinals were wearing the Rangers down with these constant comebacks. If that was true, I can’t blame them. It would take enormous mental strength not to get worn down by it.
The Cardinals added to the lead in the third inning on another solo home run by Allen Craig. In the bottom of the fifth inning, perhaps the mental fatigue started to set in for the Rangers. Scott Feldman came into the game in relief and walked Criag an hit Pujols with a pitch. The runners advanced on a groundout. Freese was then intentionally walked to load the bases. Yadier Molina then drew a walk to score a run, and then Rafael Furcal was hit by a pitch to score another run. The Cardinals had a 3-run lead and the mood in the stadium was giddy.
Maybe the most surreal moment I’ve ever seen at a game was in the top of the 6th inning. Nelson Cruz came up with one out and hit a towering fly ball to left field. The crowd went silent for a few moments as the ball sailed toward the left field wall. We were sitting in the upper deck in left field, and the left field wall was the one blind spot for us of the field. The ball disappeared from our view, and I had assumed it was a home run. I remember thinking “Here we go again”, with the way all of the games had been so back and forth. Then suddenly all the other sections in the stadium roared. No one in our section cheered, we were all just kind of dumbfounded. Then they replayed the catch on the video board and then our section cheered.
In the seventh inning, the two Rangers fans sitting in front of us left. People congratulated them on a great season, but I would not be confident until the final out was recorded. Things got a little less tense as Molina drove in another run to make it a 6-2 in the bottom of the seventh. Lance Lynn redeemed himself with a scoreless eighth inning, and Jason Motte threw a scoreless ninth to win the game.
We stayed in our seats to watch the trphy presentation and interviews. Once that was all done we headed out of the ballpark. I was high-fived by 100 random strangers. It was the wildest thing I’ve ever seen, hundreds of people all high-fiving each other and all seemed so releived and excited. It took us forever to get out of downtown. Everyone was honking and yelling. I think we got back to the hotel at like 2AM.
Of course, I will always be a Cardinals fan, but the 2011 season and getting to see them win the World Series in person will probably never be topped. Anything they win after this will be gravy.
One weird, random observation. The tickets for the World Series each featured a picture of a generic player. Games 1 and 3 were of a pitcher. Games 2 and 4 were of a hitter. Games 5 and 6 were of a fielder starting to track a fly ball. Game 7 was of a fielder reaching up to catch a ball. The picture for game 7 is in the same exact pose as Allen Craig when he robbed that home run. Concidence? Skip Schumaker said of the championship, “It was destiny, there is no other way to explain it.”
Here are the rest of the pictures I took from before, during and after the game: