What Was The Best Moment of St. Louis Sports In 2012?
Well, we’re in a good spot on this one.
However, it’s quite similar to the spot we were in last year.
The date and game of the winner is obvious…it’s just a choice between two incredibly great---and seemingly once-in-a-lifetime---moments…except what we thought was once-in-a-lifetime last year was kind of repeated less than a year later.
Last year it was Game 6 of the World Series. This year it was Game 5 of the NLDS.
Last year the choice was between David Freese’s triple and David Freese’s home run.
We have a similar decision to make this year. The tying hit…or the game-winning hit.
That’s the only source of controversy.
Well, at least I thought it was.
As it turns out, the members of IBON In the Morning are in agreement..except they agree on something that no one else even mentioned for The Best Moment of St. Louis Sports In 2012.
Here’s a look at the votes from the cast members of The ITDRoll.com Morning After:
The Cat: Descalso’s game-tying hit in the top of the 9th in Game 5. I may be in the minority, but watching the Cardinals rally, I just didn't feel like they would come all the way back. After Descalso tied it, it was clear they were going to win it. You could feel Nationals’ fans knew it too.
Doug: Descalso’s game-tying hit.
Producer Joe: The Firing of Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney
Iggy: Monday Jan 2nd. That was the day Steve Spagnuolo was fired by the Rams. After winning 10 games over 3 years, his firing paved the wave for Jeff Fisher to take over the reins.
Zaaaaaccccckkkkk: Pete Kozma's eventual game-winning hit in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Reasoning: The Cards gave up a big early game lead that looked almost impossible to overcome. Kozma's hit gave the team a second chance at making it to the World Series, and to come from an unlikely source, in Kozma, just added to the magnitude of the moment.
JBoyd: Descalo's hit was that "holy shit" moment. Kozma was icing on the cake. Make it 1 and 1A.
Before unveiling the Top Five, here are others that received a healthy number of votes but didn’t crack the Top Five:
David Perron’s Game-Winning Goal To Beat The Sharks: It didn’t come in overtime. But, it did come 45 seconds after Jamie Langenbrunner tied Game 5. The Blues were down 1-0 about halfway through the 3rd Period, and it looked like the series was going to head back to San Jose. Considering the Blues hadn’t won a playoff series in a decade, the idea of having to go back across the country for a Game 6…and then possibly have to come back for a Game 7…made for a tense atmosphere at the Scottrade Center. The building went batshit when the Blues’ checking line got the team on the board…and the roof blew off the place 45 seconds later when Perron deflected Alex Pietrangelo’s shot past Antti Niemi. Brian Elliott made the saves the rest of the way, and Andy McDonald wrapped it up with an empty netter. That cleared the way for the Blues to have their first series win since beating the Blackhawks in 2002. I’m not sure there was a moment---a split-second moment---of hometown elation in St. Louis that would duplicate the moment Perron gave the Blues the lead.
Missouri Wins The Big 12 Tournament: The other nine schools and their fans in Kansas City wanted to see Missouri fall on its face in their final Big 12 Tournament. But, the Tigers ran through everybody with relative ease winning every game by double digits. The Championship Game against Baylor was more of the same, although the Bears did close it to 77-72 late. But, in the end, the Tigers exited the Big 12 holding the championship trophy with their fans chanting, “SEC, SEC.” Kim English tweeted out a pictured of him holding that trophy wearing an SEC shirt. It was the ultimate “in your face” moment for a school that seems to have had more of those moments go against them than for them. Of course, unfortunately just five days later…Norfolk State reminded Tiger fans of that.
Greg Zuerlein’s Game-Winning Field Goal Against The 49ers In Overtime: In the whole scheme of things, it didn’t “mean” anything, but if the Rams continue to trend upward in 2013, perhaps Zuerlein’s kick will “mean” more then. The Rams were on the verge of losing in a rather pathetic offensive display against San Francisco before the 49ers inexplicably ran a pitch option that turned into a Rams’ game-tying touchdown. To overtime the two teams went…once again. And, once again…David Akers had a chance to win it for San Francisco, and once again he missed. This time, the Rams didn’t miss their chance. The 49ers may wind up in the Super Bowl this year. But, they were lucky to dodge a loss to the Rams at home, and Zuerlein’s field goal in overtime made sure that they wouldn’t be as fortunate in St. Louis.
And now…The Top Five:
5. The Sharks Open Up The Roman Polak Door: If there was a Quote of The Year Award, it would likely go to Ken Hitchcock for the now famous, “Don’t open up the Roman Polak Door. Don’t ever open up that door. Whoa.” As time was running down in Game 2 of the Blues-Sharks’ series, and as the Blues had put it on San Jose to even the series 1-1 by winning 3-0, all hell broke loose. The Blues were pissed about T.J. Galliardi’s hit on Andy McDonald. The Sharks were pissed about what they called a slew-foot by McDonald on Logan Couture. And, with the game over, it was time for messages to be sent. Polak sent about 20 of them to Justin Braun. It was one of the more one-sided fights in Blues’ history. Not since Stu Grimson put Reid Simpson out with one punch has there been more of an embarrassment on the Scottrade Center ice. Except this time it went in the Blues’ favor. Braun opened The Roman Polak Door. The Sharks never won another game.
4. Marcus Denmon’s Three-Pointer To Give Missouri The Lead And Comeback Win Over Kansas: I said it about the loss in Lawrence yesterday for Worst Moments, and I’ll say it about the win in Columbia for Best Moments: if it were more recent, it’d be ranked higher. With 2:05 remaining in the game---the final one between Missouri and Kansas in Columbia for at least the foreseeable future---Kansas led 71-63. To repeat, with 2:05 remaining, KU led 71-63. 68 seconds later, Marcus Denmon put Missouri ahead 72-71. And, when I say Marcus Denmon, I mean Marcus Denmon. He scored all of Missouri’s nine points in those 68 seconds. Kansas wouldn’t score again. The Tigers closed out the Columbia portion of The Border War with a 74-71 win that left Thomas Robinson crying as he walked off the floor. Kim English stood in front of the Mizzou Arena crowd instructing them not to charge the floor…in other words…to say that Missouri expected to win. That may have been the case at the start of the game. But, with 2:05 left, it sure as hell was not expected. That building went batshit when Denmon’s three gave the Tigers the lead. And, in perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, Bill Self, who made it clear he wanted nothing to do with playing the Tigers after they left for the SEC, said this: “I will say this: So much has been made about the hatred and that stuff," Self said. "Hey, this is hard for me to say to Missouri people, but I thought tonight that was about as classy an atmosphere as there is.”
3. The Rams Hire Jeff Fisher As Head Coach: I’m big on the excitement of a moment putting the moment in the most memorable for a year. So, I politely disagree with this one getting as many votes as it did. However, from an importance standpoint, no moment was bigger in 2012 for St. Louis sports. The Rams had zero players selected to the Pro Bowl. And yet they’re sitting at 7-7-1. They have an offensive line made up of injuries and randoms. They have a wide receiving corps made up of rookies and castaways. And, they played in a division with two of the best teams in the NFL…and despite that…heading into Week 17, they’re undefeated in that division. That’s a credit to the Head Coach. That’s a credit to his staff. And, unlike 2010 which may have been more smoke, mirrors, and the schedule, Fisher’s first 15 games as Rams’ Head Coach gives reason to believe this is the start of something. He drastically improved the defense in one year. With a couple of first round picks again in 2013, here’s to hoping he’ll work some magic on the offense, and this time next year, the Fisher hire will have led the Rams to their first playoff berth since the 2004 season.
2. Daniel Descalso’s Game-Tying Single In Game 5 of The NLDS: Coin flip. Do you go Descalso or Kozma? Last year, Freese’s triple to tie won over Freese’s home run to win. This year, we’re going in a different order, and I’ll explain why in the Kozma hit section below. But, let’s focus on Descalso’s hit to tie the game.
Sure, Carlos Beltran led off the inning with a double. But, after Matt Holliday grounded out, and after Allen Craig struck out, not only were the Cardinals down to their last out, that ballpark was insane. That’s not something the Cardinals had to deal with in the famous Game 6 comeback. Up 9-7 and one out away from their first playoff series victory in forever, Nationals’ fans were up and out of their seats screaming like crazy. Yadier Molina was down to his last strike. 2-2 pitch. Ball. 3-2 pitch. Molina laid off. Walk. Tying run is on. Perfect. It’s happening again. David Freese coming up with a chance to somehow improve upon that reputation…or just give the easy storyline of “not this time.”
Many will focus on Descalso’s hit and Kozma’s hit, and I can’t blame anybody for that. Those were the keys. But, Washington closer Drew Storen lost his shit when Freese, who was down in the count 1-2, got a break from the first base umpire on a check swing. If that were the 5th inning of a Tuesday night game in April, Freese would’ve been called out. I sincerely believe that. But, in that situation, when the appeal went down to first, Ed Hickox didn’t want any part of it. He gave Freese a break, and in turn, he gave Storen a coronary. Freese somehow laid off another borderline pitch…and he walked. Storen was out of his mind. After a meeting on the mound in which Storen clearly was pissed, the stage was set with the bases loaded, and the tying run in scoring position.
Descalso had to know Storen was on tilt. That’s why Storen’s rage on the mound was so helpful. Descalso knew they were telling him to calm down and just get ahead of him. So, he got a first pitch strike. And he ripped it back up the middle. Just off the glove of Ian Desmond. Into the outfield. Two runs score. Game tied. Ballpark silent. Heads shaking all over the country. Fans jumping all over St. Louis.
1.Pete Kozma’s Game-Winning Single In Game 5 of The NLDS: The stars aligned. Ed Hickox had to give Freese the benefit of the doubt on the check swing. Drew Storen had to rage. And Davey Johnson had to have a mental hiccup for the ages. It all happened…and it all allowed a guy most Cardinal fans didn’t even know in July to have the Best Moment of 2012. Jason Motte was standing on deck. Descalso was at first. Freese was at third. I’ll never know why Davey Johnson didn’t walk Kozma. But, so help me, if he does, I believe the Nationals are playing in the NLCS. Matheny would’ve had to have pulled Motte to use Tony Cruz to pinch hit, and even if Cruz had delivered, the Cardinals had Fernando Salas and Shelby Miller available to pitch the rest of the game. That’s it. And, you know as well as I do that Mike Matheny wasn’t giving the ball in that situation to the rookie. So, yeah, Johnson handed the Cardinals the opportunity with his mistake, but Kozma had to seize it. Because if he didn’t, and with Motte already having pitched one inning, no matter what, Fernando Salas was going to have to be in that game at some point. So, unlike Freese’s home run in Game 6, this at-bat, in my mind, was do or die. Storen got ahead of Kozma 0-2. But, Kozma laid off the next two pitches…including one that allowed Descalso to take second. Now a base was open. But, Johnson still wanted to go after Kozma. Another mistake. Kozma made him pay. A shot to right field silenced Nationals Park once again. Freese and Descalso scored. The quietest Cardinal of them all completed the stunning comeback. I specifically recall watching the game with the sound off. It became a superstitious deal. And, after Kozma’s hit, I could hear neighbors screaming. It goes down in Cardinal history with many of the great playoff hits…a healthy number of which have taken place in the last eight years:
-Edmonds’ Game-Winning Home Run In The 2004 NLCS Game 6
-Pujols’ Game-Winning Home Run In The 2005 NLCS Game 5
-Molina’s Game-Winning Home Run In The 2006 NLCS Game 7
-Freese’s Game-Winning Home Run In The 2011 World Series Game 6
-Kozma’s Game-Winning Single In The 2012 NLDS Game 5
Seriously, look at all of that.
All for one team.
All in the last eight years.
Just one of those moments would be good enough.
But five of them?
And every single one of them coming in an elimination situation?
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