I’m not quite sure what to say about the St. Louis Cardinals winning the 2011 World Series. I could give a series breakdown, but that wouldn’t do it complete justice. I could also do a fan rant, but that also wouldn’t give one of the most amazing series in recent sports memory it’s just due either. So, maybe I’ll do a hybrid here and the outright run down of the series over at StLouisSports360.
How about here, I’ll just talk the last 48 hours of the series. From a fan standpoint, you can never ask for more than your club going all the way. It’s my experience in life overall that often when you get exactly what you want, it’s never what you thought it would be. Well, for the second time in my life with the Cardinals, that’s proven true. All I ever want is the World Series. It’s on my mind in December when free agency is running full speed, it’s there on that glorious day when pitchers and catchers report for spring training and it’s definitely there starting from April until the last day of September. So getting there, then watching my team hit death’s doorstep three times in one game and then rallying the next night to pull it off and see my dreams step into my real life? That’s incredible.
However, the big thing is the feeling of getting it all done, and in the three times in my grown life that the Cards have reached the Series, I have had three very, very different reactions to the endgame of it playing out.
In 2004, there was major dejection. One of the emptiest feelings in my life to date still was watching the Red Sox (who hadn’t won anything in the last three generations before me) not only knock out the best Cardinals team I’d ever seen in four games, but watching them celebrate in Busch Stadium. That hurt.
Fast forward to 2006 and the realization of a dream come true. We (yes, we don’t ever say to me that the fan base isn’t a part of the team. If the players say we are, then we are. End of story) were in constant command of that series against the Tigers, so I knew it was going to happen. That year it was a countdown of sorts, to both us just wrapping up the series and seeing my first championship in my lifetime. But I never had any doubt that it would come to be. Yet it still was the greatest moment of my sporting life…until Friday.
This was different. I didn’t make it to St. Louis for either ’04 or ’06 as I was in college and I was doing my best imitation of being a student during most of the games. This time I was here, and I was there. Well, not quite there, because I didn’t go to the game, although I could have, but I’ll explain why that opportunity was passed on later. At any rate, the last game was perhaps the antithesis of the mania that preceded it in game six. The Rangers didn’t score after the first inning, Chris Carpenter took firm control of both the game and cementing himself as the second most important pitcher in Cardinals history (all hail Gibby, still). The Cardinals took control and it was a gradual march to the inevitable, and everybody knew it.
The excitement built with each frame of the game, just like the crowd did around the stadium. Me and a few of my friends went down to the center field gate for the last inning and celebrated each time the crowd inside roared after one of the ninth inning outs. Then…the big boom.
We did it.
I didn’t see the last out until Sunday afternoon, but I felt it immediately. And just like everybody else, I went completely nuts at first. Jumping up and down, hugging random people, and nearly breaking my hand high fiving people and everything in-between. But then something strange happened: I realized what had just happened.
I remembered the Wainwright injury in April. I remembered the sweeps in Milwaukee. I remembered Albert Pujols seemingly breaking his arm in half. I remembered Carpenter seeming like he’d never get a win. I remember Ryan Franklin’s demise. I remember my “What the Hell?” moment when we traded Colby Rasmus for a bunch of relievers and a pitcher that seemed like he’d played for every team in both leagues. I remembered the string of injuries to David Freese, Skip Schumaker, Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, Eduardo Sanchez, Lance Lynn and Allen Craig.
I remembered the “Hey, were almost back in this thing” feeling in mid-September. I remembered the “Hey, were REALLY back in this thing” feeling at the end of it, then the “Holy S**t, we’re in the Playoffs” feeling that followed that. Then I reflected on the happiness just to get there, and then the big sigh of facing the best team in baseball as a reward.
Then I remembered the feeling of beating the best pitcher in baseball on the road with our same Ace that couldn’t win until June this same year. I remembered the feeling of getting another shot at the team that plagued and taunted us all year…and beating them where they were supposed to be invincible to get to the Series. I remembered the feeling of seeing the Series come to my city again, and the mania that sweep every inch of the city afterwards. I remembered Albert proving why there’s no player in the same Solar System as him three times in one night, only to have a young guy who looked like he was on his first mustache make him and the rest of the squad look like we’d never played a game of baseball in our lives the next night.
I remembered Game Six.
And then…I looked around myself at what was happening. When 47,000 people were waving towels, hugging and cheering in the stadium, and even more were popping champagne and smoking cigars on all around me in the street.
And I had no more yelling and jumping left in me. And I didn’t have words for it for about 20 minutes either.
Because all I had was silent tears standing in the middle of the mania, because all I ever wanted had come true. And once again it was both everything and nothing I expected it to be. Life and sports get that way sometimes.
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