Angry, grumpy, and in no mood for his trite comments, I gave him a reply that I knew would shut him up for at least a couple of weeks.
“Oh, this Tim Tebow thing is bad. Real bad,” I said. “But it’s not even remotely close to the Texas Rangers in the World Series. So, how’s that World Series thing going for you?”
So far my statement worked. I haven’t heard a peep from that guy since.
Besides taking a cheap jab at Texas Ranger fans, there is some truth in that exchange of comments. Who wants to talk football right now, after one of the greatest World Series we’ll see in our lifetimes? As in all good World Series, the 107th came down to a Game Seven. But it wasn’t the 6-2 Cardinals win in Game Seven that made this one of the best ever, it was the drama of Game Six that marks this series as one of the best ever.
Game Six started out sloppy, and looked like anything but the Fall Classic. Errors, stranded runners and just careless play were featured in the game. I actually lost interest in the Series as a whole in the first four innings. I kept the TV on, but turned the sound off, preferring the sounds of a live Waylon Jennings album.
With the Rangers up 7-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning, it looked like the Texas organization would bring home its first-ever World Series championship. Just six outs away to a World Series win. At the time, I was happy for owner and baseball great Nolan Ryan, but didn’t really want Texas to win because, well, who wants any Texas team to win anything? Right? Right.
So it looked like a Texas Rangers series at the bottom of the ninth inning. Texas had it in the bag. Players were at the top step of the dugout, ready to charge the field in victory. But then Albert Pujols got a base hit, and Lance Berkman got a walk. Two outs. Runners at second and third. David Freese walks up to the plate. (Seeing two runners on base and the Cardinals down by two, I decided it was time to turn the sound on. At least I’d get to hear Joe Buck announce the final out of the World Series.) With two strikes, Freese clocks a high fly ball deep into right field. Right fielder Nelson Cruz paused for a second, and was unable to get to the ball that bounced hard off the wall and rolled back into right field. Pujols and Berkman scrambled home. It was a must-make catch for Cruz, but it was also the most clutch base hit I’d ever seen in a World Series, that’s for sure.
Going into extra innings, the celebration in St. Louis was quickly silenced when Texas’ Josh Hamilton smashed a two-run shot. Once again, Texas seemed to be World Series champions – no matter what you throw at them, Texas seemed destined to win this year after losing it last year.
On to the bottom of that inning, and after an almost game-ending bunt that could have been a triple play, here comes Berkman to the plate. With two strikes and two outs, the Rangers were once again one pitch away from a World Series win. Instead, Berkman drills a base hit, and scores two base runners. Once again, the game was tied. I think that shot was too much for the Texas team to handle. They failed to score at the top of the eleventh inning. So it was hometown hero Freese who comes to the plate, and hits the shot heard around Texas, a solo homerun to centerfield to win the game and push the series to a Game Seven.
What was to be an evening of dinner, classic country music and a bit of reading turned out to be another night in front of the TV anxiously waiting to see real drama unfold. I honestly didn’t think you could top the night of baseball just before the playoffs began, where Tampa and St. Louis stole playoff spots. This World Series game was 10 times better than that night of baseball. When Freese rounded in his walk-off homerun, you knew, I knew, everyone down in Texas knew the Cardinals had won the World Series. Winning Game Seven for the Cardinals was going to be a nonissue, and we all knew it.
The World Series victory by St. Louis marked the end of one of baseball’s all time greatest comebacks. Remember, the Cardinals were 10-and-a-half games out of first place at the end of August. Somehow, they made the playoffs. Somehow, they won the World Series. If any team has embodied the “never say die” cliché, it’s the St. Louis Cardinals. They revived themselves to make the post season, and then revived themselves to win the World Series. This was baseball as good as it gets. So good, it made me forget about the woes of the Denver Broncos and the slapstick quarterbacking of Tim Tebow.
And while I’m sure the diehard fans in St. Louis are sad to see the retirement of skipper Tony La Russa, like John Elway, La Russa is throwing in the towel at the perfect time. He’s ending his career as a champion and one of the best managers ever. For La Russa, it’s time to hit the links and perfect that drive.