Monday, October 30, 2006


On Wednesday, John Jr. and I flew up to St. Louis where it was rainy and cold. Our tickets were for Game 4, and so we headed down to the new Busch Stadium late that afternoon with the Cardinals up 2-1 in the Series. At game time, the tarp was still on the field and they told us that no time had been set to get the game underway. Finally, at about 9:15pm Central (about 1:45 after the game was supposed to have started) they announced that the game would be cancelled for the night.

We assumed that we'd be coming back to try again the next night, but oddly that turned out not to be the case. For reasons I still don't entirely understand, it was announced that Game 5 tickets would be honored the next night (in what would chronologically be Game 4), and that our Game 4 tickets would be honored on Friday night (in what would chronologically be Game 5).

After about thirty seconds of math, my son and I realized something. IF the Cardinals would win Game 4 the next night, they would go up 3-1 and we would be in a position to see the possible clincher. It seemed like a long shot, since in reality they were only halfway to a championship at that point and they'd have to win two more consecutive games. But the possibility was there.

And then it happened. We watched Game 4 on television with friends and family, and I don't know if I've ever been more invested in a game. We wanted that win so that it would be 3-1 heading into our game. When they won, we were ecstatic. One more win to go.

After raining all day Friday, things cleared up a couple of hours before game time on Friday night. Busch was absolutely crackling with electricity. Certainly we couldn't take anything for granted--after all, the Cardinals have blown two 3-1 World Series leads in the past--but something seemed different this time.

I've been a Cardinals baseball fan since I was old enough to talk. My parents have pictures of me wearing an StL hat as a toddler. I got to go to playoff and World Series games (even got pulled out of school!) in 1982 and 1985. My dad and I were sitting in the stands on the third base side when Ozzie Smith hit his first-ever left-handed home run against Tom Niedenfuer to beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS. But at 10:22pm CDT on Friday night, with my son and I sitting in the upper deck in right field, Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge swung through an Adam Wainwright curveball and the Cardinals provided me with the sports highlight of my lifetime. After 24 years--after Don Denkinger stole the 1985 Series from us, after the crazy air conditioner in the Metrodome blew our '87 title away, after the disastrous Joe Torre/Mark Whiten/Ray Lankford/Todd Zeile years, after Darryl Kile died, after losing the great Jack Buck, after a 100-win team was humiliated by the Red Sox in the '04 Series, after a 105-win team was bounced from the playoffs by the Houston Astros last year, after they tore down the stadium that held so many memories--the St. Louis Cardinals were the World Series champions.

A lot of people are whining about how bad this World Series was, about how the Cardinals didn't belong there. All I can say to that is: We were owed. This is a great franchise that does it the right way in the best baseball city on earth. We were on the other side of this deal in 2004 and 2005, falling short after winning in the triple digits. I don't recall anyone complaining in 2004 about the unfairness of it all when the Cardinals were swept out of the Series by the Red Sox, who were a wild card team. Nobody said the Cardinals "handed over the series" to the Sox despite the fact that the heart of the lineup had one hit that year. You gotta play the games, and the Cardinals did--better than any other team this postseason. They beat teams that were heavily favored in three straight series, all while never having the home field advantage. The Cardinals have the winningest record in baseball since 2000 while teams like the Diamondbacks and the Marlins and the White Sox have come and gone. Don't tell me they don't deserve a world championship.

At the end of the game with Inge batting, I started shooting some home video from our right field perch. The camera shakes as the stadium explodes and Yadier Molina runs out and jumps on Wainwright. I then pan to my son sitting next to me, and he has a look of unbridled joy on his face like I've never seen before. "It's incredible!" he keeps saying. He's a 14-year-old kid who, like his dad, was wearing a Redbirds cap before he could walk. He went to his first game when he was four months old. He devours sports pages his grandma sends him from St. Louis with Cardinals articles. He watches every out of games they play against Pittsburgh in May. And his team has just won its first World Series in his lifetime.

You don't ever top that. Anything the Cardinals ever do from here out is just icing on the cake for me.

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