Saturday, October 29, 2011

One for the Ages

I love October. The weather cools off, Halloween is right around the corner, the leaves change, and the World Series takes place.

The word "epic" gets thrown around a lot these days, but the Series which concluded last night between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers was truly one for the ages. Thursday's game 6 may have been the most riveting baseball I've ever watched (and as regular readers know, I'm a huge fan going back to the 70's as a kid).

St. Louis was simply a team that had no business being there. Coming from 10 games back at the beginning of September (to beat our Atlanta Braves, no less) to win a wild card berth, no one expected them to go this far. They dumped the mighty Phillies, whipped the surging Brewers (who everyone predicted would win the Series back in March), and simply would not let the Rangers finish them off, going all 7 games to prove it.

The Cardinals were on their deathbed, with the priest ready to come in and administer final rights, several times. In game 6, to be within one out (one strike!) of being eliminated, only to keep coming back over and over...you know the Rangers were just shaking their heads, thinking "these guys are like cockroaches...you can't kill them off."

There have been forgettable Series' (and seasons) to be sure, but the last two months (beginning with a wide-open pennant chase in late August, to the four playoff-deciding games on the last day of the season 9/28, to the post-season) has been great for television and MLB. It shows why a game that is often dismissed, in our hyper-caffeinated information world, as being slow and plodding, offered up some of the most exciting sports moments of the year. As the Times put it, "Exquisite victory, excruciating defeat. Exhilarating season."

This fall reminded me of 20 years ago, when the "worst to first" Atlanta Braves went to the World Series for the first time (memo to Rangers fans: we Braves fans know your pain this morning, having dropped back to back Series in '91 and '92).

I can still remember the bleary-eyed mornings going to work, the incessant excitement that wouldn't die off, the packed pubs for those who couldn't get tickets, the heart break of a similar game 6 against the Twins (watching highlights on the MLB network this past week, the name Kirby Puckett still engenders epithets!). The symmetry of Jack Buck's call in game 6 in '91, and his son Joe Buck's call of game 6 in '11, is part of what makes baseball a game of the both past and present.

And future....how many future hall of famers were playing the last several nights (LaRussa, Pujols, Molina, Hamilton, Cruz, Napoli)??

I'm rambling...congratulations to the Cardinals and to St. Louis fans, who are some of the best in baseball. I think "Remember the 2011 Cardinals" will become a euphemism for never surrender, never quit.

Winter isn't even close to being here in the south, but I'm already looking forward to spring.

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