On August 24 the St. Louis Cardinals had a .2 percent chance of making it to the playoffs – the playoffs. Absolutely no one expected them to make it past the first round and the prospect of winning the championship never crossed anyone’s mind. But, game after game the Cardinals disproved what was practically statistical fact and showed the world what can happen with faith, determination and a fair amount of luck.
In September, the Cardinals began to rally as the second-place Braves started to slump. The Cards earned their spot in the playoffs in the last regular-season game against the Astros. Everyone was so surprised by this that they barely even considered the possibility of advancing past the first-place Phillies. But they did – with the help of the Rally Squirrel.
This little guy has become the symbol for the Cardinals’ entire postseason journey and a popular Halloween costume around Saint Louis. Our furry new mascot rushed the field twice, once through the outfield and again the next day across home plate. Phillies fans began taunting Cardinals players by chucking stuffed squirrels into the bullpen. Cardinal pitcher Octavio Dotel picked one up and kept it for good luck throughout the postseason – it must have worked. The Cardinals miraculous hitting continued through the NLCS against the Brewers and before we knew it, the Cardinals were going to face the American League Championship team, the Texas Rangers.
According to a poll on ESPN asking who people thought would win the World Series title, every single state said the Rangers. Except Missouri. With almost the entire United States and all ESPN analysts against them, the Cardinals played one of the most memorable series in baseball history.
After five games, the Rangers led the series 3-2, meaning that one more win would make them the champions. The first five games were by no means boring or ordinary. But I’m going to skip those details to get to one of the most unbelievable, nerve-wracking, extraordinary, intense games the sport has ever seen: game six.
For four hours and thirty-three minutes I did not leave my dorm room— not even to go to the bathroom, let alone Pike Halloween. The first three hours were rather excruciating due to the horrible pitching and numerous errors, so I did my Spanish homework. At one point in the seventh inning, the Cardinals were down 7-4 and I was prepared for some friendly teasing by Rhodes’ large Texas population. By the bottom of the ninth, we were still down by two. With the tying run on second, two outs and two strikes, the Rangers were one pitch away from winning the World Series title and I was twenty seconds away from turning off my television. Cardinals third baseman, David Freese, however, was not ready to give up. He launched Feliz’s fastball into right field for a triple, scoring the tying run.
The game continued to a tenth inning. Ranger Josh Hamilton knocked out the first pitch he saw from Jason Motte for a two-run homerun, giving the Rangers a 9-7 lead. Once again, I mentally prepared myself for a night of sulking in my bed. That first comeback must have been some sort of fluke. We weren’t even supposed to be here, how could I expect another miracle comeback? We came one run closer when the Rangers let up a run to make an out. The score was 9-8 with Jon Jay and Albert Pujols on base. With two outs, surely they would be stranded and the Rangers would celebrate their victory on our field. Lance Berkman stood at the plate with two strikes against him. Once again, the Rangers were just one strike away from claiming their first World Series Championship. Lance Berkman was not too fond of this idea, and doubled to bring Jon Jay home and tie the game. Cardinals fans in the stadium and in front of their TVs were shocked speechless, while Texans surely screamed and cursed in frustration.
The eleventh inning. 9-9. The Rangers failed to score in the top, so all the Cardinals need is one run to force a game seven. David Freese, NLCS and World Series MVP, made it happen. Everyone in Busch Stadium jumped out of their seats as he launched a homerun past centerfield. He rounded the bases into his jumping, screaming team.
I am standing on my bed, tears welling in my eyes, squealing, “This is not real life!” My facebook and twitter blow up with “#redoctober”, “#bigfreese”, “#11in11”, “#ibelieveinmiracles” and “#rallysquirrel”. Baseball had never seen such a comeback twice in one game. And now my team, who I had hoped, but never thought would ever make it this far, was going to game seven! Regardless of whether we would win or lose the next day, I couldn’t have asked for a better season.
I won’t go into such detail with game seven because it would be dull in comparison to the insanity of game six. This time, instead of screaming and jumping around as Cardinal pitcher Jason Motte made those final outs, I watched contently because I knew it was meant to be. This was no longer some gigantic stroke of luck: it was more like fate.
The players’ determination conspired with the universe to disprove every ounce of statistical data against the team. The Cardinals powered through each game one inning at a time and never let the mathematical odds and analysts determine their fate.