st. louis cardinals.

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first of all, i must apologize to all of my twitter followers for the barrage of #postseason and #worldseries tweets that occurred over the last month. it was not my intention to overwhelm and dominate your feeds by tweeting my emotions with every swing of the bat, or to retweet any and every cardinals-related bit i could find. i hope you will forgive me, and if any of you have actually unfollowed me, i hope you reconsider now that the month of october is over.

and what a month it was. who would have ever thought the cardinals could ever do what they did? on august 25th the cardinals had a 1.1% chance of making the playoffs…the PLAYOFFS, let alone the world series. but somehow this cardinals team fought back, caught some breaks, and won their eleventh world series title.

i’ve been a cardinals fan my entire life. i have never lived in st. louis, but i was raised as an avid fan. my grandpa grew up in the bootheel of missouri and experienced stan musial and the potent cardinals teams of the 40s. then he moved to iowa where he raised my dad as a cardinals fan (in des moines, you’re either a cards fan or a cubs fan). as a very young kid, my dad heard the 64 and 67 world series on the radio, and then experienced the cardinals of the 80s under whitey herzog: ozzie smith, willie mcgee, vince coleman, keith hernandez, bruce sutter, jack clark, bob forsch, terry pendleton, tommy herr and others.

i was born in 1986, so i have no first hand memory of those teams. however, i was raised as a cardinals fan first. my parents moved to kansas city in the fall of 1986 (which, after the ’85 world series was likely not easy for my dad), so the royals weren’t anything our young family was particularly thrilled about yet. i’ve grown to love them though – they’re my hometown team and my hopes rise with every spring training and fall again by the all-star break just like every other true blue fan. the royals are my hometown loyalty, but being a cardinals fan is in my blood.

beyond being dressed in a ozzie smith jersey as a newborn, i learned to love the cardinals through baseball cards, recorded vhs videos of the 85, 87, 88 postseason series against the twins and dodgers, and probably most of all – RBI Baseball on my Nintendo. released in 1987, there were only 8 teams to choose from – the four playoff teams from the 86 and 87 seasons – California, NY Mets, Houston, Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, Minnesota and, of course, St. Louis. it was an easy choice for me (with the exception of the occasional 102 MPH fastball from Nolan Ryan on the Angels. i love Nolan Ryan – more on that later.)

i can recite the cards line-up from memory:
V. Coleman (CF)
O. Smith (SS)
T. Herr (2B)
J. Clark (1B)
W. McGee (RF)
T. Pendleton (3B)
C. Ford (LF)
T. Pena (C).

pitchers:
J. Tudor
D. Cox
K. Dayley
T. Worrel

pinch hitters:
J. Oquendo
J. Morris
J. Lindeman
S. Lake

i mean, c’mon. i even remember the pinch hitters. clearly my allegiance goes way back. between RBI Baseball and collecting Ozzie Smith baseball cards (i have hundreds today) i was hooked for life. so to see the redbirds perform so well down the stretch makes me giddy. along with the rest of the world, i thought they were done in late august.

i have no idea how we stole game 2 against cliff lee in philadelphia. i am baffled that we managed to stymie the brewers line-up with our bullpen – which had been our biggest issue all year long until that point. we shut up nyjer morgan. we beat roy halladay. the rally squirrel was invented. albert pujols hit 3 HRs in the same game a la reggie jackson, and it wasn’t even the best game of the world series!

and don’t even get me going on game six (read: the greatest baseball game of all time). if anyone wants to try and argue differently, i’d love to hear your case…luis gonzo in 2001? lance berkman matched that walk off in the 10th and it was about the 4th craziest moment of the night…joe carter in 93? david freese matched that HR drama twice…carlton fisk in 75? exciting and iconic, sure, but everyone not named joe posnanski seems to forget that The Machine beat them in game 7 to take the series anyway…kirby puckett in 91? again, david freese – and i know puckett robbed a homer the inning before too. but down two runs and down to their last strike (twice!) and the cardinals win in walk off fashion in the 11th!?!? it cannot be beat. it just can’t. (although, how amazing was joe buck’s nod to his dad’s call of that HR in 91? brings tears to my eyes.)

i do feel bad for the rangers though. i really like that team – ron washington is great and not a single player is remotely nyjer morgan-like. and nolan ryan, sandwiched between george and laura bush, i really like you. you are probably my favorite non-cardinal to ever play the game, and every time Fox cut to you with a grim look on your face i was always a little bummed for you. i hope you were able to release some post-postseason anger…maybe robin ventura was around or something.

at the end of it all – this past two months i got to be apart of perhaps the most epic comeback in sports history. this series had me sprinting through my house like it was 2006 all over again. only this was 2006 on steroids. the 2011 cardinals were a team of destiny – it was like watching a disney movie from start to finish (except that pujols doesn’t get intentionally walked in the disney version). so if i annoyed you with my continually obnoxious cardinals banter, i’m really not THAT sorry.

and mad props to Tony La Russa. this run doesn’t happen without him – this is an average team that ends 15 games out without TLR. we will miss you in Busch next year, but i have a feeling there will be a statue or jersey or something to honor you around there come April.

-apc.

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