Major League Baseball announced the postseason game times/broadcasts through Saturday this afternoon:
Thurs. Oct. 4th *NYY @ BAL (If Necessary) 7:10 p.m. (ET) TBS
Fri. Oct. 5th N.L. Wild Card Game, STL @ ATL 5:07 p.m. (ET) TBS
Fri. Oct. 5th A.L. Wild Card Game 8:37 p.m. (ET) TBS
Sat. Oct. 6th ALDS Game 1 @ DET 6:07 p.m. (ET) TBS
Sat. Oct. 6th NLDS Game 1, CIN @ SF 9:37 p.m. (ET)/6:37 p.m. (PT) TBS
So, Cardinals fans…who’s getting out of work by 4:00 Friday?
Saturday night, members of the United Cardinal Bloggers—which includes yours truly—gathered at Patrick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar (Formerly Pujols 5…blech) at Westport for the annual UCB Dinner. Food, drinks, and good times were had by all. And the Cardinals sure know how to treat their keyboard-pounding fans, as Sunday at Busch Stadium was “Blogger Day,” which included a pre-game presentation and all-inclusive suites for the game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The UCB dinner was great. It’s always good to get to put faces with names or, in some cases, Twitter handles. Parts of the evening were sponsored by Burton History Trees and Any City Sports Fan (more on both in future posts). But as much fun as we had, I think everyone was really looking forward to Sunday’s events at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals’ social media gurus are Lindsey Weber and Ron Watermon, and they did a great job putting the day together. A pregame program featuring appearances by Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III and General Manager John Mozeliak highlighted the day. They conveyed a little bit of team news, talked Ballpark Village, told us their thoughts on what we do out here in the online ether, and took questions from the crowd. Then we hustled up to the party rooms, where we were treated to some big time food and drinks. The menu included the usual ballpark favorites, plus pulled pork mac-n-cheese with buffalo sauce, jalapeno cheese brats, and bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Needless to say, I did not have any ballpark favorites. Oh, and the beer was free. The Cardinals definitely know their audience.
To top it all off, the Cards on the field turned what was heading toward a crushing defeat into a walk-off winner in extra innings. It wasn’t a pretty victory, but it counts the same in the standings. All in all, it was a pretty good weekend. I’m not one of the bloggers that makes any money off of this little hobby, so perks like this are definitely appreciated. And it’s even better when the Cardinals toss a little official recognition our way.
Now, about those press credentials…
One year ago today, the St. Louis Cardinals made a trade that would have an enormous impact on the history of the franchise. General Manager John Mozeliak remade the bullpen and fortified the rotation and bench by acquiring relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, starter Edwin Jackson, and outfielder Corey Patterson from the Toronto Blue Jays. Shipped up to Canada were pitchers PJ Walters, Brian Tallet, and Trever Miller along with centerfielder and former organizational “untouchable” Colby Rasmus.
Personality and hustle issues aside, Rasmus was a young and talented cost-controlled player and three of the four players the Cards received from Toronto would be free agents at the end of 2011. This was a win-now move by Mozeliak, and win the Cardinals did. But both franchises involved in this deal felt immediate impact. In case you need reminding, this trade largely led directly to the following for the Cardinals:
And, not to be outdone, this trade led directly to the following for the Blue Jays:
Well played, Mo…well played.
The road trip is winding down.
Our trip started at 4 a.m. last Wednesday, July 4th, as we headed south towards Gulf Shores, Alabama. We watched the sun rise over southern Illinois, heard a different version of the “southern accent” each time we stopped for gas, food, or a stretch, and made it to the Gulf of Mexico with plenty of daylight to spare. Gulf Shores is a spectacular destination for anyone who wants to get to a legit beach vacation spot in less than a day by car (from the St. Louis area, anyway). Certainly many of the most exotic beach locales on the planet are easily reachable in just a few hours by plane. But if flying isn’t an option for whatever reason—or if the prospect of a road trip is just more appealing—you could do a lot worse with under 12 hours on the road than Gulf Shores.
Two things immediately come to mind: First, the food is outstanding…especially if you enjoy seafood. Thursday evening at a place called Oceans, I had a piece of grilled grouper that was so good I didn’t know if I wanted to eat it or make out with it. I am a seafood fiend, and this may have been the best piece of fish I’ve ever had in my life. Other highlights included the tuna dip and Mahi tacos at LuLu’s, the gumbo and etouffee at DeSoto’s, and the bacon-wrapped shrimp (as well as the steaks) at Nolan’s. Honestly, we probably could have stayed two weeks, hitting a different local place for lunch and dinner each day, and not made it to every one. The other great thing about Gulf Shores is, of course, the coast. The beach is white sand and the water is calm and warm. We could have found plenty of activities to keep us busy—golf, deep sea fishing, museums, exploring, etc. etc.—but all we really wanted to do was relax on the beach for a few days. Mission accomplished. Some may not find appeal in that type of vacation, and that’s fine. But when I’m laying on a beach chair reading a book with the breeze off the water hitting my face, or standing in the salty, waist-deep gulf while the just-right sized waves break over me, well—for my money, there’s no better therapy on Earth.
We decided to break up the trip home, so we left Gulf Shores Sunday and stopped in Tunica, MS for a couple nights’ stay at Harrah’s. We may hit the casino, or we may just stay in the room and drink beer all day. Regardless, we head home tomorrow and back to the daily grind on Wednesday.
People sometimes talk about “recharging the batteries” on a vacation. Being someone who doesn’t normally let stress overwhelm, I’m not sure I ever really knew what that meant before this week…but I definitely understand it now. Relaxing, sleeping in, not stressing over alarm clocks and deadlines and job duties and housework—all have been well overdue. That’s tough to see when you’re in the thick of it. But from the outside, the picture is much clearer.
For several years, I have written a weekly column about the Cardinals on InsideSTL.com and it has been great. But a couple of weeks ago, site owner Tim McKernan posted an article saying they were looking for a full-time columnist. Not full-time as in 40 hours per week, but a daily column writing about whatever that posts on the site every morning. I threw my hat in the ring, as stretching my journalism legs has long been a desire of mine. This week, I found out I am a finalist for that gig.
Now comes your part: your feedback can help my cause. Per McKernan’s post today (you can read the entire column here):
“Starting tomorrow and through Friday, each of the final four will have a new column that I will post in my section. I would really like your feedback…whether it be in the comments section or via email…on the columnists you like/dislike and why. As I told the applicants, they can play Girl Next Door and flood the voting box all they want. That’s not going to determine who gets the job. But, as this is a subjective process, I want to get as much feedback as possible.”
Basically, he’s looking for legitimate feedback on all of our columns; gratuitous and obvious fluffy stuff like “This is the best thing I’ve ever read!!! Hire this man immediately!” will not be taken seriously, so don’t bother. And the same goes for illegitimate negative feedback for the other finalists. Also, if you’d rather not comment because of a conflict of interest based on our personal relationship, that’s OK too. I’m not begging for votes here, because this isn’t a contest; I’m just letting everyone know what’s going on. But this does help me, too, because I’m interested in the legitimate feedback as well. It’s always great to hear, whether good or bad, because it lets me know what works and what doesn’t. I write because I love it; without readers it’s just a journal entry. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s nice to know the difference. It’s nice to hear about it when someone is actually paying attention, for good or ill.
So visit InsideSTL over the next three days and check out my columns. Leave some honest feedback, if you like. And if you want to discreetly cross your fingers for me to get this gig, that would be OK too.
So we’re heading to Busch Stadium tonight for the Cardinals’ tilt against the Philadelphia Phillies. The last time I saw the Phillies play in St. Louis, it was Game 4 of the 2011 Division Series. As you may remember, that’s when this happened:
It was an epic night in St. Louis Cardinals lore. That was actually the second time the squirrel had run across the field; the first was the night before in Game 3 but his route wasn’t nearly as disruptive to the flow of that game. At the time, knowing the Cards had to go back to Philly and win Game 5 just to advance, we wondered if this early appearance of what would soon be coined the “Rally Squirrel” was the most exciting thing we’d see during the 2011 postseason. Of course, we were proven naïve in the following weeks.
Fast-forward to last night, the first meeting at Busch between the clubs since. By now you probably know that this happened:
Again, it’s the Phillies. Again, it was the first night of the series at Busch. And again, I will be there for the second night. I fully expect to see a naked person charge toward the plate while Skip Schumaker stands in the batter’s box. It’s destiny. Especially since I have all these “You still need four balls to get a walk” jokes ready for tomorrow.
Well here we are again…sitting in a garage in the heart of Belleville, IL with a smoking grill, a counter full of sides, and cold beer everywhere. Technically, it could be damn near any day of the week once the winter weather breaks. But in late March or early April, I’m definitely talking about the St. Louis Cardinals Home Opener. And this is my third installment of the Opening Day Running Blog.
The rain delay gave us all ample opportunity to eat, play some cards, and have a beer or six. We’re at my buddy Ken’s again, and we’re joined by Joe, Shane, Zac, and Scot the Cubs Fan. He’s all decked out in Cubbie Blue. We look at him with scorn. We started off with breakfast at the Hy Ho Restaurant in Belleville, and they weren’t impressed with him either. And that’s really saying something; the Hy Ho is a greasy spoon of the highest—and lowest—order.
The game was pushed back to a 3:45-ish start, with the pregame pomp and circumstance kicking off around 3. But we have word from sources at the ballpark that the Budweiser Clydesdales will not be making their traditional laps around the Busch Stadium turf. Could this be an omen of bad things to come? Wait, there’s Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan. And Dunc has a beard. All is right with the world again.
3:45 – We’re getting ready for the Star Spangled Banner but the bald eagle brought in to make an avian patriotic display has yet to land. Normally, the majestic bird leaves its cage somewhere in the outfield, makes a few passes around the stadium, and goes right to its handler in the middle of the diamond. This thing has been circling for at least five minutes, and does not even look like it’s interested in landing. We’re beginning to wonder if it might pick up National Anthem singer Shannon Magrane in its talons and carry her away.
4:01 – Darwin Barney: one of the goofiest names in Major League Baseball.
4:04 – The Cubs have taken the lead 1-0 on two seeing-eye singles through the hole at short. Heh heh…through the hole…
4:07 – Ian Stewart parks one into the seats in right field. Cubs up 4-0. Scott the Cubs Fan looks pleased.
4:08 – Scott the Cubs Fan gets a text and guesses it must be a “F-you” from someone. He checks and says, “oh, it’s from my mother.” We’re all guessing it’s still a “F-you.”
4:10 – The top of the 1st finally ends…Cubs 4, Cards coming up.
4:12 – Taking the mound for the Cubs, Jeff Samardz…samma…Jeff. Jeff is pitching.
4:18 – The first two Cardinal hitters go quietly, but Holliday and Carpenter get on in front of David Freese. Excitement is at an all-time high around the patio table.
4:19 – A likely strike is called a ball on Freese. Scott the Cubs Fan is disgusted. I believe it’s the new strike zone Freese will see, like the Atlanta Braves pitchers of the mid-90s enjoyed. I could be wrong.
4:21 – Al Hrabosky offers some broadcast gold: “David Freese has holes.”
4:22 – Freese strikes out swinging. Cubs 4, Cards 0 after one.
At this break in the action, we decide to make things a little interesting. It’s the “Cup Game;” not to be confused with “2 Girls, 1 Cup” (DO NOT GOOGLE IT…TRUST ME). Basically, everyone puts a buck in a cup and it gets passed around; each time a new batter comes up, a new person gets the cup. While you’re holding the cup, if your hitter strikes out or hits into a double play, you must pay a dollar into the cup. If your hitter gets an extra base hit of any kind, you win what’s in the cup and everyone re-antes. If your hitter does anything else, you pass the cup on as is.
4:30 – The Cubs go quietly in the top of the second. No one wins any money, but no one loses any either.
4:35 – After a Yadier Molina strikeout, the pot grows by one. I have Matt Carpenter, who gets a base hit, but that does nothing for my monetary status. Dammit.
4:38 – Scott the Cubs Fan has drawn both pitchers early in our little game. Karma is indeed a bitch.
4:44 – Rick Hummel sighting in the Press Box, chatting with Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa.
4:48 – La Hair hits a Grand Slam, putting the Cubs up 8-0. More importantly, that was Scott the Cubs Fan’s batter. This pretty much seals the deal: he will die today, because we will be forced to kill him.
4:50 – Wainwright gives up a hit to Marlon Byrd. His curveball is hanging, and everything is hittable. This is not a good return for Waino, but he should have plenty of opportunities to bounce back. Then I remembered he’s on my fantasy team and I’m even sadder.
4:52 – Samard…z…i…j…a strikes out, and I owe a dollar. FML. After TWO AND A HALF INNINGS, the Cubs lead 8-0.
4:56 – Victor Marte is warming up in the bullpen, and by warming up I mean eating an entire turkey.
5:05 – After three innings, the Cubs still lead 8-0.
5:06 – You know what never gets old? Pronouncing David DeJesus’s name as “De-Jesus,” like THAT Jesus. We’re idiots.
5:10 – The bases are loaded AGAIN for the Cubs, and there’s nobody out. This is beyond ugly.
5:11 – Fortunately Alphonso Soriano grounds into a double play, but a run still scores. Ken pays a dollar. Cubs lead 9-0.
5:14 – in probably the play of the game for the Cardinals, Matt Carpenter makes a stumbling, bumbling play and flips to Marte covering 1st for the final out of the inning. It looked so bad, it looked great. Another friend, Jeff, has popped in momentarily. He likes the Cards’ gold jerseys. Yep…he’s the one.
(Break in the action: Scott the Cubs Fan has to leave to pick up his son, and we all have to move our cars to let him out. I think he’s used that excuse to get out of a beat-down multiple times. His time will come.)
5:28 – We’re all just buzzed and distracted enough that we forgot what the order was in our little dollar game. Scott the Cubs Fan leaving the rotation didn’t help either. Time to re-draw and re-ante.
5:29 – Jon Jay drives home the first run of the game for the Cardinals with a single. Shane Robinson scores. I do not earn any money on that one.
5:30 – Carlos Beltran knocks a single up the middle and Jay takes third. Joe says, “The comeback is on!” We all shoot him a disapproving look and keep drinking.
5:33 – David Freese with an RBI single, Cards now down 9-2. Jeff claims it’s the jerseys. Ugh.
5:35 – Yadier Molina with an RBI single, Cards now trail 9-3. We may be getting close to starting to think we might believe.
5:37 – Matt Carpenter with a triple! The Cardinals are now down 9-5. Ken takes the pot; time to re-ante. And, we have a game on our hands.
5:40 – “Disco” Descalso strikes out to squelch the rally. Cubs’ lead is cut to 9-5 after five innings.
5:43 – Joe Mather makes his triumphant return to Busch Stadium as a Cub for the first time, and no one cares.
5:47 – Ladies and Gentlemen, Darwin Barney is batting. I love you, you love me, we are blah blah blah…
5:49 – The wife’s home! Everybody hide! Damn rain delays…
5:53 – Jon Jay legs out a lucky double, and I collect the pot! But the other guys are out of dollars so we’re done for now. Oh well. I think I made $2 today.
5:56 – David De-Jesus robs Matt Holliday’s bid for an RBI with a diving catch in right. Still 9-5 Cubs after six innings.
6:10 – “Ken, quit fingering the meat!” It’s getting late, folks.
6:11 – Alphonso Soriano makes a diving catch. It’s a big deal when he does something right.
6:14 – Kyle McClellan in for his second inning of work. Why do I get the feeling this isn’t a great idea? And, of course, as I’m typing this, he hits Marlon Byrd.
6:15 – Blake DeWitt bounces into a double play. You may get away with this yet, Kyle.
6:16 – Groundout, and the Cards are out of the inning. But they’re running out of chances; it’s still 9-5 and we’re headed to the bottom of the 8th inning.
6:21 – Disco with a one-out double. Time for a rally, hopefully before the rain kills this game.
6:24 – Tyler Greene with a predictable strikeout. Why are the Cardinals still giving him a chance again? Oh yeah…he can run. That would really come in handy if he ever got on base. Kerry Wood coming into the game, so the Cards still have a shot.
6:28 – Rafael Furcal bounces out to first. Cards still down 9-5.
6:32 – “Did Jeff leave?” Yeah, Shane…about 20 minutes ago.
6:34 – Fernando Salas mows down the Cubs in the top of the 9th. The Cardinals are down to their last chance, and I’ve got a lot of beer left. Maybe I’m slipping in my old age.
6:35 – Wait! I’m not old! Give me another beer!
6:42 – And after an uneventful bottom of the 9th, Carlos Beltran strikes out to end the game. The Cardinals fall to the Cubs 9-5.
Well…that kind of sucked. But, as always it was a good time with good food and good friends. We watched a little playoff hockey as the evening wound down, chatting and joking and telling stories. Really, that’s what Opening Day is all about: getting together with friends and fellow fans to watch some baseball and have fun. Whether you go to the game, enjoy it with a group, or enjoy it from the comfort of your own couch, you know everything seems a little better once baseball is back. Now I have to get ready to go to my first game of the year, Saturday—when the Cardinals are presented with their 2011 World Championship rings. Should be a great day at Busch Stadium.
One final note…At about 8:30, I received a text from Scott the Cubs Fan: “I think I just saw that eagle fly past my house.” Perfect.
Last week, I participated in the United Cardinal Bloggers’ first roundtable discussion of the year. Here’s the drill: Each day, a member of the UCB forwards a Cardinals-related question to the rest of the group and posts the answers in his/her blog. Well, true to form, I’m a little late with my post. But I also didn’t receive as many replies as I expected. I think maybe I picked a question that preempted a post that most of the bloggers out there plan for a more in-depth look later in the preseason. But the responses I did receive were good ones. Here’s my original question:
With Spring Training games under way, it’s officially prediction season. The Cardinals are in the unique position of being defending World Champs without being defending Division Champs. The Reds and Brewers underwent significant changes in the offseason. Ryan Braun–perhaps now the best overall player in the division–won’t miss 50 games after all. And the Pirates could be a dark horse for even longer in 2012. But the NL also gets an additional playoff spot this season. What are your predictions for the NL Central’s representation in the postseason in 2012? You can go so far as to give detailed write-ups on each team’s chances or simply list your 1-6 positioning with an X next to the team you think will make the playoffs. Does only one NL Central team get in? Two? Three? Who’s in, and who’s out?
Cardinals – Division winners with around 95 wins
Brewers – NL Wild Card 2 with 91 wins
Reds – 85 wins
Pirates – 76 wins
Cubs – tied with the Astros with a record of 0-162
Astros – see Cubs
–Dennis Lawson, Pitchers Hit Eighth
I still think the Cardinals are the team to beat this season. The addition of Wainwright, a good bullpen instead of Franklin/Batista, all of that makes me think they can finish first. I’m not sure between the Reds and Brewers who comes next.
At the bottom, I’m wondering if Pittsburgh can’t make a move into fourth, with the rebuilding Cubs and the struggling Astros bringing up the rear.
Would not be surprised to see the NL Central provide the wild card again, either.
–Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat
Either the Cardinals or Reds will win the NL Central championship. Either also could qualify as a wild-card team. Reds seem to have the pitching and lineup to give the Cardinals plenty of competition. Cubs, Pirates and Astros likely are non-factors. Something seems off about the Brewers.
–Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba
Cardinals will win the division. I could see both wild cards coming out of NL East or one from NL East and one from NL West. Reds have an outside shot, but I wouldn’t give anyone else from the division much of a chance.
Three years from now though, I think the division is going to look completely different. The Pirates spent 17 million on last year’s draft before the new CBA agreement kicked into effect. The Cubs will be a team to contend with under Epstein leadership. The Reds will stay competitive if Jocketty keeps buying veterans that produce.
We could see a power shift in the NL from East to Central, it just won’t be in 2012.
–Chris Mallonee, Birds on the Bat 82
Cardinals get second place with 88 wins but get a Wild Card.
–Tom Knuppel, Cardinals GM
Predictions? Ah, nothing better than making predictions and being completely wrong at the end of the season. Hey – I guess we could always deny it right? Oh wait, you guys keep all this stuff Uh oh!
Here we go:
1st – St. Louis Cardinals
I just see the Cardinals pitching being the key. Wainwright and Carpenter stay healthy and St. Louis wins 90 games. 90-72 wins the division.
2nd – Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have a nice staff, and their offense is solid. They are coming at the Cardinals this year, but I think they will fall a bit short. Though, I think they get the wildcard, because I have no faith in Atlanta, and not sure Miami is ready quite yet. Reds finish 86-76
3rd – Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers finish above .500, but not enough to make the playoffs. Milwaukee gets another good year out of Braun, but Marcum falls apart and Gallardo gets hurt. Milwaukee comes away with 83 wins. 83-79.
4th – Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates feel like they are going to be able to compete. They come up short again, and once again finish under .500. Of course, in August we hear about how they may get to .500 for the year. The Pirates win 77 games. 77-87.
5th – Chicago Cubs
The Cubs go young and do not win the World Series in 2012. That’s nothing new. Chicago competes early in the season and gives some teams some problems. Including the Cardinals. In the end, Chicago wins 75 games. 75-89
6th – Houston Astros
The new GM has a positive attitude, but a bad team in his first season. The Astros come away with 69 wins. Houston goes 69-93.
Let’s play BALL!
–Rodney Knuppel, Saint Louis Sports
I think the Cards will win the division and the Reds will get a wild card. The Brewers are not quite as good without Fielder and I don’t think Mr. Technicality will have another MVP season. The Pirates will be a little improved from last year and the Cubs and Houston will battle for the division championship…er, I mean the cellar championship.
–JE Powell, STL Fear the Red
Always easy to be optimistic at this time of year, but I do think the Cardinals will win the NL Central. The Reds will be much improved over last year, in my opinion, and I think they’ll make it as a wild card—hopefully losing their one-game play-in.
And, maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part, but I see the Cubs finishing last in the Central and the Astros fifth. (Could just be hoping that Jeff Luhnow does well in his first year as a GM too — and that all the Cub fans and their “Yeah, but we have Theo now” talk will finally just shut up.)
–Christine Coleman, Aaron Miles’ Fastball
The NL has even more parity this year. I’ll predict a close 1-3 finish, which won’t be as exciting as it should be, of course, given not one but two wild cards. As long as Mike Matheny doesn’t bunt or try to steal too much, the Cardinals and the Brewers will flip last-year’s places:
With the Marlins and Braves, I don’t think that the Central will be able to provide two wild-card teams.
“Pretty conventional: STL-CIN-MIL-PIT-CHC-HOU…(regarding the number of playoff teams that come from the Central) 1.5? Seriously, very hard question. I think one WC comes from East. No, honestly, I’d guess two…I think the softer underbelly of the division will help, relative to teams trying to make it from the east.” –Matthew Leach
“in order Cards-Reds-Pirates-Brewers-Cubs-Astros” –Jeff White
Not surprisingly, almost everyone picks the Cards to win the division. I can’t break away from the pack on this one; top to bottom, I believe the Cardinals are the best team in the NL Central and should win the division if everyone stays healthy and plays the way they should. Of course, all of these opinions were formed before Chris Carpenter’s neck issue surfaced, so that could throw a wrench in the works. But it appears that injury isn’t as bad as it could be. Second place in the division is up for grabs between Cincinnati and Milwaukee. The 2012 Reds should be improved over last season, and the Brewers probably lost a little steam compared to their Prince Fielder-led 2011 squad. I expect both to be in the 84-88 win range, with one of them claiming a Wild Card spot. If Carpenter’s injury develops into something that lingers or other injuries plague the Cards, it would not be surprising to see this division race turn into a 3-team battle royal. The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to be headed in the right direction—meaning not backwards—for the first time in years. I said it last year and they fell about 10 games short, so I don’t have a problem going out on a limb again and predicting a .500 finish for the Bucs. The Cubs and Astros will still flounder around near the 95-loss abyss, give or take a few for either team. But the Cubs are on the right track with dumping their old, bad contracts and re-stocking with young talent. This year is not their year…but they could be a team that overachieves from time to time and proves to be a tough beat.
That will do it for my contribution to this UCB Roundtable. For all the questions and answers from the project this time around, check out all the posts here.
It’s time for another United Cardinal Bloggers project, and this may be one of the hardest yet. The St. Louis Cardinals franchise and its fans have been on the right side of so much success over the years it’s really tough to pick favorites. But I’ll give it a try.
First I want to talk about how I’m defining this list. To me, an “Iconic Moment” is a singular play on the field—therefore, major accomplishments like Albert Pujols’ 3 HR game in the 2011 World Series or Bob Gibson’s 17-strikeout performance in the 1968 World Series aren’t eligible. Not that those events are anything less than iconic, but they’re really a series of moments that together make up an historic accomplishment. That’s not what this list is about. Second, this list takes into account the stakes of the game in which they occurred as well as the situation at hand. For instance, Pujols (2005) and Yadier Molina (2006) both have iconic postseason home runs in their careers. Pujols’ home run gave the Cardinals the lead when they were down to their last strike against the Houston Astros in an NLCS the Cards eventually lost; Molina’s untied Game 7 in an NLCS the Cardinals went on to win against the New York Mets. The biggest in-game situation had to be Pujols’ bomb, but Molina’s ultimately led the Cards to the World Series. So…coin flip? Finally, in light of the moments I just mentioned, I’m reserving the right to name a moment that several Cardinals accomplished, even if it was in different games, seasons, or eras. If the Cards had another player that broke the single season stolen base record, that moment could be paired with Lou Brock’s 105th steal back in 1974 as one iconic moment accomplished by two Cardinal greats. Maybe that violates the spirit of a list of five, but I don’t really care—it’s my list, not yours.
5. Home Run #62 – The cloud of scandal will always overshadow damn near every home run hit between 1990-2003. But throw that out the window for a moment and go back to 1998. Baseball was still recovering from a labor-related stoppage and cancellation of the World Series in 1994, and the sport was revitalized by the home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Maybe it was an artificially generated feat, but at the time it defined baseball in the 90s. In some ways it still does. And when McGwire squeaked #62 over the left field wall at Busch Memorial, the entire world was watching. How many regular season moments in baseball can claim that…maybe a dozen?
4. The Mad Dash – Most people reading this weren’t around for it—hell, my parents weren’t even born yet—but Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter has to make the list for his “Mad Dash” in the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. Game 7 was tied in the bottom of the 8th inning at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis…talk about dramatic. Slaughter took off from first with the pitch and scrambled all the way home on what was essentially a long single by Harry Walker. The run Slaughter scored turned out to be the game-winner and gave the Cards their third World Series title in five seasons.
3. The Home Run Heroes: NLCS edition – Since MLB introduced a playoff system in 1969, the Cardinals have participated in the NLCS 10 times and won six of them. As with any playoff series, the stakes are high for every game. But late-inning and walk-off home runs are some of the most dramatic moments in the sport; in a playoff game where a trip to the World Series is at stake, those moments become legendary. In 1985, it was light-hitting Ozzie Smith giving the Cards a 3-2 series lead against the LA Dodgers by sending his first career left-handed home run over the wall in extra innings with the iconic Jack Buck telling the Busch Stadium crowd to “Go Crazy, Folks” (as an aside, which is more iconic: the hit itself or Buck’s call?). In 2004, Jim Edmonds sent another Busch Stadium crowd over the edge with a 12th inning blast to force Game 7 against the Astros. The next year, the Cards were down two runs and down to their final strike before David Eckstein and Edmonds both found their way on base ahead of Pujols—who momentarily broke the prematurely celebrating Astros’ hearts again by destroying a ball over the wall in Houston. And in 2006, Molina stunned a Shea Stadium crowd by breaking a 1-1 tie in the 9th inning of Game 7. Not all of these hits led to a series win, but they did all lead to goosebumps and everlasting memories.
2. The 3000th Hit – Only 28 players in MLB history have reached the 3000 hit plateau, and only a handful of teams have more than one player achieve the feat in their uniform. The Cardinals are one of those teams: Stan Musial collected his 3000th hit on May 13, 1958 and Lou Brock joined the 3000 hit club on August 13, 1979. Musial continued to play for several more years, of course, finishing his career in 1963 with 3630 hits—still to this day good for fourth all-time. Brock’s achievement came near the end of his final season in the Majors; the speedy runner finished with 3023 hits for his career. But the rarity of the feat alone deserves mention on this list, and the fact that it was accomplished by two of the most iconic figures in the franchise’s history makes it even more special. Plus, with Pujols now gone for the second half of his career, it could be the last time a Cardinal makes it to 3000 for quite some time. Interesting but not shocking tidbit: Both milestones came against the Chicago Cubs.
1. The Ultimate World Series Hero – The St. Louis Cardinals’ 2011 season had so many heroes and moments, starting with the unprecedented comeback run to clinch the Wild Card in Game 162 and ending with Allen Craig’s catch for the final out of Game 7 of the World Series. There are literally a dozen or more moments in that nine week span that will stick out in the minds of Cardinal fans for years and years to come. But the biggest game of them all only needs to be identified by two little words: Game Six. Everyone on the planet knows the story: down to their last strike in two different innings, but they wouldn’t quit. You got the feeling that if the Cards could just get to their half of an inning without a deficit, they’d win the game. And that’s exactly what happened when Freese stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 11th. Home Run. Game over. Series tied: “We will see you tomorrow night.” Down to their final strike twice; now celebrating at home plate. Factoring in the entire game—called the greatest ever played by more than a few in the know—as well as the World Series circumstances; the fact that it happened at home; the fact that it was a native St. Louisan who did it; and that it led to the Cards’ 11th World Series title…David Freese’s 2011 World Series Game 6 walk-off home run is my most iconic moment in St. Louis Cardinals history. Admittedly, Freese is no Musial, Gibson, Smith, or Brock. He may never make the Hall of Fame, and he may never hit milestones like some of the guys above. But he cemented his name into both Cardinals and Major League baseball lore as first tying and then winning one of the greatest baseball games ever played. That’s hard to beat.