Cardinals turn it up to 11

By Gus Bode

The St. Louis Cardinals won 11 games during the 2011 postseason and finished up with their 11th World Series title in the team’s history.

As a lifelong Cardinals fan, it was the ultimate experience to witness this historic victory inside St. Louis’ basilica of baseball. It was an emotional roller coaster for the improbable Redbird team that beat the Texas Rangers 6-2 in Game 7 Friday night.

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Mitch Downey, center, of St. Louis, celebrates Friday outside Busch Stadium after the Cardinals won the World Series. Thousands of people tailgated outside the stadium and surrounding parking lots during the game, and several of them were maced by police officers after a crowd pushed their way through a center field gate.

Walking up to the stadium was an experience in itself. Fans’ passion buckets overflowed onto the streets of 7th and Market as people spilled out the doors of Mike Shannon’s restaurant. All of the fans surfing the residual wave left behind by Thursday night’s sea of red.

The night was a blur. The whirlwind of emotions makes it difficult to pick out any one moment, as the three-hour and 19-minute game seemed to happen too fast for a memory that will last forever.

The game was full of contradictions. The atmosphere was tense but the crowd was at ease. The fives were high but the temperature was low.

Looking back, the game didn’t start with Chris Capenter’s first pitch in the seven o’clock hour Friday. The game started with the Cardinals’ come-from-behind win from David Freese’s walk-off homerun in the 11th inning of Game 6 Thursday night.

It was fitting that the hometown kid came through again in Friday night’s game with a two-out two-RBI double to tie the game in the first inning and finished with the World Series MVP trophy in his hands.

Freese is only the sixth player in MLB history to own the title of the Most Valuable Player of both the Championship Series and the World Series.

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The most interesting part of the Series wasn’t necessarily the performance Freese had in the seven games or the hitting clinic Albert Pujols put on in Game 3, it was the way all of the pieces fell into place in the final two months.

It was the Rafael Furcal glove, it was the Allen Craig bat and it was the Jason Motte arm.

With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Fox announcer Joe Buck may have summed up the season and Series as good as it could be said.

“Nobody, I mean nobody, could have expected the Cardinals to be in this position.”

Even as the lifelong Cardinals fan I am, I won’t act like I expected this to happen. I’m still surprised I’m now able to put my thoughts and experiences on paper.

When Craig caught the fly ball from the left-handed hitting David Murphy for the final out, pandemonium occurred.

Strangers became friends and we were all 12 years old again for the night. We shared high fives and hugs, mustard stains and memories.

A month into the regular season I wrote a column about the weariness of the team’s chances to have a successful season with starting pitcher Adam Wainwright out with a season-ending elbow injury and the addition of Lance Berkman and his ailing knees. At the time, Berkman was among the league leaders in batting average, home runs and RBIs. I finished the column with the final thought of whether the Cardinals could turn their preseason question marks into an October exclamation point.

That is exactly what they did Friday night.

 

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