posted on October 26, 2011 01:00
This---Literally---Is What It's All About
As I was driving back to my home Monday morning, crossing the bridge that connects just north of Soulard to Downtown...I looked to my right and saw Busch Stadium.
I've driven past it hundreds of times at this point.
But, for whatever reason, at that moment, I thought, "Within the next 72 to 96 hours, someone is going to win the World Championship right there."
The building, of course, stood empty. But, in a matter of days, 45,000 plus would fill it...hoping to see the Cardinals win their 11th World Championship.
And it hit me.
The St. Louis Cardinals/Perfectos/Browns/Brown Stockings have been playing baseball since 1882. They've done so better than all but one other franchise in the history of the game. And in 129 years, there have been only 10 Days like we could have in St. Louis over the next 48 hours.
That's it. All of that baseball...all of that success...all of that tradition. And, it's built upon a foundation of 10 Days.
All the talk of whether or not Albert Pujols returns...whether or not Tony La Russa returns...who signs in the offseason...who gets traded in the offseason...who looks good in the Spring...how the club plays in the Summer...will they get into the Fall... the endless cycle...it all is about this time.
Getting to this moment.
Having this chance.
Whether it be tonight...or tomorrow night...or perhaps with some rain...Friday night...a group of players who have been grinding it out since they arrived at Spring Training eight months ago are going to celebrate the third World Championship won in Downtown St. Louis since 2004.
For the fan base, they've been grinding it out for years.
And, around here, it's a little different. In St. Louis, but, really, in this region, parents pass along their love, passion, and knowledge of the franchise to their children. It just goes without saying that when the Cardinals are playing, everyone is watching the game. The mood of The City is tied to the play of the baseball team.
Strange? Yes, I suppose.
But, it's one of a kind, and for my money, it's in a good way.
When you see someone wearing a Cardinal hat around St. Louis, you know it's not just because they're making a fashion statement...or because it's the "in" thing of the moment.
It's been the "in" thing of the last 129 years.
And while the Cardinals won a World Series in 2006, fans of the team have gone through more near-misses in NLCS's and World Series over the last 26 years than anyone else.
1985...three outs from a World Championship.
1987...one win away from a World Championship.
1996...one win away from a World Series.
2000...three wins away from a World Series.
2002...three wins away from a World Series.
2004...four wins away from a World Championship.
You want heartache? Cardinal fans have plenty...some memories distant...like being an inning away from the 10th World Championship in 1985...or a blown 3-1 series lead in the NLCS in 1996...or a bottom of the ninth season-ending hit in the 2001 NLDS...or a bottom of the ninth season-ending hit in the 2002 NLCS...and some more recent...like a bottom of the ninth dropped fly ball to crush hopes in 2009.
But, each one of those teams...each one of those heartbreaking endings...had a story of at least 162 games just to get to that point.
The 1985 team had to hold off the Mets...Go Crazy...and then take a ride on Jack Clark's home run...just to get to that heartbreak in Kansas City.
The 1996 team had to hold off the Astros...sweep the Padres...win Game Four with Dmitri Young of all people getting a triple...just to get up 3-1 before falling to the Braves.
The 2001 team had to go from sellers at the deadline to National League Wild Card winners on the last day of the season...to beating Randy Johnson...just to get to the bottom of the ninth tied before Tony Womack could rip their hearts out.
The 2002 team had to watch the fan base mourn the loss of its voice only to lose the leader of the pitching staff days later...and rally to win the National League Central...sweep the defending World Champions...just to get to the bottom of the ninth tied before Kenny Lofton could rip their hearts out.
The 2009 team had to assemble two Cy Young candidates and acquire an MVP runner-up to pair with an MVP just to get to the bottom of the ninth leading the Dodgers...before The Drop.
All that offseason talk leading into each one of those seasons...all that stressing over deadline deals each season...all that monitoring of the standings day in and day out throughout the Summer...it all came down to those moments.
And, now, the moment of 2011 is upon us.
Are we in store for a team responding to a devastating loss in Game Five on the road by beating the hell out of its opposition like the 1982 Cardinals did in Game Six?
Are we in store for a pitchers' duel to a 1-0 heartstopper from Jaime Garcia...similar to what John Tudor did in 1987 in Game Six?
Or, are we in store for a moment that you'll never forget like Jim Edmonds' Busch Stadium-rattling walk-off home run in 2004 in Game Six?
It's not possible for this team...two months to the day it woke up 10.5 games out of the National League Wild Card...to go out like the 2005 Cardinals did, is it? Of all the Game Sixes played in St. Louis over the last 40 years...it was the team that came home off of what may be the most dramatic win in Cardinal playoff history that was put to death via the quiet and gentle lethal injection of Roy Oswalt.
Of all the teams...that's the one that actually had the momentum coming home.
And, it's the only one that lost.
The others were all coming off tough defeats in Game Five...and they responded by winning the next two at Busch Stadium.
This is the moment.
This is what will determine whether or not this team that took what could've been---what should've been---death blow after death blow will be remembered forever in Cardinal lore as perhaps the most unlikely World Champion of them all.
There have been 10 to come before them.
The organization has been around for 47,085 days. And, in all that time, only 10 have been Days.
The 4,700 to one ratio speaks for itself.
These chances don't come around often.
And here it is. Wainwright, Franklin, Colby, Phillips, and Nyjer are all now just obstacles in the rearview mirror.
It's now just 18 innings.
You wake up, and you know what you do, what you see, and what you hear will stick with you for the rest of your life. You wake up with a chance to do something that only a handful of men will ever get to experience.
You get to wake up...and have a Day.
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