Game 6 Story: How I Almost Missed History

Editor’s Note: Game Six of the 2011 World Series may end up being one of the moments that people talk about for generations. “Where were you when….?” So, here at i70baseball, I ask you: Where were you when Game Six happened? Do you have a unique story about how you witnessed history? Share with us and we will draw one random entry. That winner will receive this World Series DVD. Just send your submission to: bill@i70baseball.com

Like virtually every other Cardinals fan old enough to watch and appreciate Game 6 of the World Series, October 27th, 2011 is a night I’ll never forget. It’s a game that thousands of Cardinals fans turned off before it was over and a game hundreds of fans left the stands early. I was almost one of those fans who gave up on the Cardinals that night… and was this close to missing the most exciting finish in World Series history. Then, a little bit of fate kicked in…

To refresh your memory a little bit, Game 6 was not exactly the most cleanly-played baseball game. As the 6th inning ended, I remember looking up towards the high ceilings of Buffalo Wild Wings and thinking to myself that this had to be the ugliest World Series game ever played. Cardinals left fielder, Matt Holliday, dropped a fly ball that directly led to a Rangers run, third baseman, David Freese, dropped a pop up the led to another unearned run, and now Matt Holliday had just gotten picked off 3rd base with the bases loaded, one out, and the score tied. You have GOT to be kidding me! Although the Cardinals had just “dramatically” rallied to tie the game on a bases loaded walk, it sure felt like the game was going to go the Rangers way. You just cannot make mistake after little-league mistake and expect to win the World Series. The score was tied, but it felt like the Rangers were in cruise-control.

And in the top of the 7th, Texas had appeared to seize control of the game for good. Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs to put the Rangers on top 6-4. The whole stadium was deflated. You just knew it was over. The Cardinals had their chance and gave it away, and now Texas would make team president Nolan Ryan’s prediction of “Rangers in 6” come true. At that moment, I was thinking that the Cardinals had played so poorly they didn’t deserve to win… and my frustration level was so high that I wouldn’t even be happy if they did come back and win.

Now as the Cardinals came to bat in the bottom of the 7th, I get a text message from my wife: “Out of diapers. Is the game almost over?” At the time, it was already 30 minutes past my son’s bedtime, and there was no way any respectable father, World Series on the line or not, would make his wife and toddler get in the car and make a late-night run to the store to get diapers. So while part of me was thinking “just let him wet the bed tonight, it’s the freakin’ World Series” I decided to go run to the store myself. When the Cardinals went down with a whimper in the bottom of the 7th, I told my buddy who was with me that I wouldn’t be back if the game got any uglier. Just as I arrived at my house to drop of a new package of diapers, the Rangers tacked on another run to make it 7-4 in the 8th, the proverbial nail in the coffin. Staying with the theme of the game, the Cardinals once again gift-wrapped the run for the Rangers thanks to a wild pitch that Yadier Molina should have handled, allowing a runner to move into scoring position who would eventually score.

Translation: it had gotten uglier, and I had just arrived at my house. My wife asked how the Cardinals were doing and I told her they were playing horribly and were basically giving away the World Series. She said she was sorry and thanks for dropping of the diapers and that I could go back to the bar if I wanted to, but I was pretty sure it was going to be a waste of my time and only add to the frustration. I had to work the next morning, and was about to call it a night when I realized Albert Pujols might have one final at bat. With his contract uncertainty, how could I not watch his final at-bat in a Cardinals uniform?

So with that and only that in mind, I headed back to the bar. While I was driving, I heard Allen Craig’s home run on the radio. 7-5. At that point, I still thought the Cardinals had no chance. In fact, it only infuriated me more because I felt like Matt Holliday should’ve been benched and Allen Craig should’ve been in the lineup to begin with. Craig wouldn’t have botched that fly ball and gotten picked off 3rd, would he? And now here’s Craig, filling in for the now injured Holliday (he jammed his hand/wrist sliding back into 3rd base on the pickoff play) and hitting a home run. Just great.

When I walked back into Buffalo Wild Wings, the table I had been sitting at and several others around it were empty. My friend had left… as had several other people. Many people had come to the same grim conclusion that I did, but I went ahead and decided to sit by myself and watch the end of the game anyway. The Cardinals ended up loading the bases but failed to score in the 8th.

Certainly it was over now. Certainly.

In the 9th, Albert Pujols came to the plate with the bases empty and 1 out. Any hopes of him hitting a dramatic, game-tying home run were lost. This was not officially a final farewell send-off. The crowd rose to its feet, flashbulbs were popping, and wouldn’t you know it – Albert laced one into the gap in left center. It was a nice way to end his hall of fame career in St. Louis if this was indeed the last time he was going to take a swing as a Cardinal. Lance Berkman followed Pujols to the plate and drew a walk, making Allen Craig the winning run at the plate. But his heroics were done (at least for Game 6) and he struck out.

Up walked David Freese. Since I only text my mom when the Cardinals win games, I decided to do a desperate, pre-emptive strike on fate and sent a “good luck/here’s hoping” text. The Red Birds were going to need it. Texas closer, Neftali Feliz, was pumping heat all night… and was pounding fastballs in the upper 90s on the Cardinals 3rd baseman. Freese fell behind 1-2 in the count, the Cardinals were down to their final strike… and the rest… is history.

Triple. Tie-game. Rangers take the lead back in the 10th. The Cardinals again come down to their final strike. RBI Single by Lance Berkman. Tie-game. And Freese hits a walk-off bomb in the 11th. Unbelievable.

In the 3 ½ weeks since Allen Craig squeezed the final out of Game 7, the clock and calendar have slowed to a crawl. It feels like an eternity since the Cardinals won their 11th championship, but with the managerial change out of the way and the Pujols talks likely on hold during Thanksgiving week, fans have another chance to relive the magic. Tonight, Cardinal Nation is invited to sit back, relax, and relive all those wonderful memories at Major League Baseball and the Cardinals release the official 2011 World Series Movie. There’s a Red Carpet Event at the Peabody Opera House in downtown St. Louis. Cardinals VIPs including World Series MVP David Freese will be on hand as actor and St. Louis native, Jon Hamm, narrates us through 90 minutes of magic.

I will not be in attendance and will have to settle for watching the movie on a TV just as I watched the live drama play out on, but that’s OK by me. I just want to soak it all in again. The other day I caught myself daydreaming about Game 6 at work. I have the Springfield News-Leader’s sports page from October 28th at my desk, and the headline “Cards Win Instant Classic” caught my eye as I was going through my daily routine.

How did the Cardinals win that game?

Fortunately, I went back to the sports bar that night… and was able to see it for myself.

Author: Greg Leuthen

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1 Comment

  1. I was at a bar, too…sitting next to a Cubs fan. What a way to watch a game of that magnitude. His disbelief at how things unfolded was so awesome I can’t even begin to describe it. The best part was, I and a couple other friends in attendance were sitting on tickets for Game 7. When Freese hit the ball out, we hugged and celebrated like we were on the field. People were dancing on the bar and swinging from the ceiling fans. It was epic.

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