[On Sundays, this blog explores life and work in “Sabbath.”]
Coming Back – Again and Again
After moving to Chicago in 1986, I became a Cubs fan. The team’s long time rival, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series this week. Many of my friends who are Cub fans can’t root for St. Louis. Generally speaking, I wouldn’t either. This year’s Cardinal team, however, deserves respect and admiration.
During spring training, the Cardinals lost their top starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, to injury. Chris Carpenter, the #2 starter, got off to a very slow start and only finished the year with 11 wins to 9 losses. Over the course of the year, they used several pitchers as their closer. In the middle of the year, they traded Colby Rasmus, a top prospect, and went to a platoon in center field. They ended the year with a second base platoon of cast offs Ryan Theriot and Nick Punto. For most teams, such a year would not lead to a World Series championship.
The team’s first great achievement was making the playoffs. They were almost unbeatable from the middle August through September. Even so, the Atlanta Braves seemed to have the Wild Card locked up. Then everything changed. The Braves couldn’t win while the Cardinals could not lose. The reward for making the playoffs? A first round match up with the team experts called the best in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies have the best pitching in the game, maybe one of the greatest staffs in history. Somehow, the Cardinals got over that high hurdle and went on to beat the Milwaukee Brewers, which set up their championship match up with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers were in last year’s World Series and had improved an already strong roster.
Texas went up in the Series 3-2, and had a 2 run lead going into the 9th inning of game six. Things seemed dark for the Cardinals. The Rangers’ reliable closer Naftali Feliz was on the mound. Somehow, the Cardinals tied the game and took it into the tenth inning. In the top of the inning, Rangers’ star Josh Hamilton hit a 2 run home run. Again, the Cardinals needed a miracle and got it, scoring two runs for another tie. In the bottom of the 11th, David Freese, the Series MVP, hit a home run to seal one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the game.
The seventh game couldn’t have started worse for the Cardinals. Chris Carpenter gave up two runs in the first and had a rocky second. After that, he settled down, and his team won the final game by a score of 6-2 in a final come from behind effort.
The best sports stories end with the underdog winning, David beating Goliath This year the Cardinals played that role. They never quit or lost faith in themselves. This team embodied what it really means to be a winner.
Sunday Extra Helpings
Jonah Keri in Grantland on the Cardinals’ unlikely championship
World Series Video Highlights at MLB.com