In Game 7 of one of the best World Series in 50 years, the Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers, 6-2, to complete what was absolutely the best long-shot comeback from the baseball boneyard in the sport’s history.
If anyone could have stood, soaked in champagne, and glibly explained such a thing, it would actually have diminished an accomplishment that only stands taller — a bit like the huge Gateway Arch beyond the center field fence — because it is tinged with sports magic, the mystery of team chemistry and the alchemy of late-season baseball luck.
As a symbol of all that is unforeseeable in sports, and the more wonderful because of it, the MVP award went to a local boy, now grown, named David Freese, who finally blossomed a bit at 28 and, after a season in which he batted only 333 times, burned his name across October lore, adding a World Series MVP award to his National League Championship Series MVP.
“I’ve had plenty of days when I didn’t even think I would be a big leaguer,” he said after amassing 25 hits and 50 totals bases in this postseason, including the first two RBI in this Game 7.
“Incredible. Dream come true,” said Freese, who said he had slept only “about 45 minutes, I was so wired” the previous night after his season-saving triple in the ninth inning and walk-off homer in the 11th inning in the instant-classic Game 6.
The feat that these Cardinals from the Crypt completed here on Friday night in bouncing Busch Stadium was like winning the lottery, but on merit.
For decades, and perhaps even generations in this baseball-as-secular-religion city, what the Birds did in the last 65 days of this season will be retold with amazement and, perhaps someday, almost with a hint of skepticism: Great-Grandpa might be embellishing a few details because, while some of this stuff could be true, surely all of it couldn’t.
Yet it was. It is. We saw it. And we get all winter to digest what even now seems like a sequence of escapes, heroics and last-strike-of-the-season rescues from the edge of a 10,000-foot cliff that make you tingle, chuckle or want to cheer all over again just reciting them.
What moves us so much about a two-month trek like the one the Cards just finished is not that it is literally “impossible.” Of course, it’s not. What grabs us is that it borders on the unbelievable, it presses against the wall of wish fulfillment, in a way that we recognize from our own lives.
What the Cardinals have done in their athletic world is akin to the best possible outcome we could imagine for ourselves, or those we love, in some area of our lives if maximum effort and maximum good fortune conspired.
Those here, clad in red and waving white towels, as well as all of us who have joined this ride along the way, don’t cheer the Cardinals, root for them, identify with them because they are complete heroes but because, as a club that merely tied for the eighth-best regular-season record in 2011, they are slightly flawed athletes banding together to surpass themselves.