Five Years Ago Tonight: What A Team! What A Ride!

It’s been a fulfilling journey over these past several weeks to look back at what unfolded from late August 2011 through five years ago tonight, when the Cardinals won their 11th World Series championship.

The memories seem all the more sweet as time passes, because the fact they completed that journey gets more improbable all the time. One more loss at any time during the 2011 regular season or one more Braves win …

What a team, indeed.

Here’s a look at the recap from Oct. 29, 2011, capturing what happened five years ago tonight.

Cardinals Fairy Tale Is Complete

The ultimate moment!

The ultimate moment!

It’s often said that sports teach us lessons about life. And now, whenever we think something we want to achieve is too difficult or too much of a challenge, we have our motivation to keep going.

The 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Less dramatically than in game six but even more fulfilling, the Cardinals won game seven of the World Series 6-2 to win the team’s 11th championship and culminate the amazing ride that began with a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 25.

We’re all so familiar with the details — 10 1/2 games back at that point, the “September to remember” push and Braves’ collapse that got them into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, beating all the “supposed to win” teams throughout the NLDS, NLCS and now World Series …

They are details we will fondly recall and lovingly replay for years to come. Because they did it!

Against all the odds, ignoring everyone who said they couldn’t win and shouldn’t be there — none of that mattered. The Cardinals believed in themselves, even back in late August when many of the team’s fans quit believing in them. Continue reading

Five Years Ago Tonight: Game 6

Just hearing the two words “Game 6” bring back the memories of the greatest game in St. Louis Cardinals history and, arguably, the best World Series game ever. And it happened five years ago tonight, Oct. 27, 2011.

How to commemorate the milestone of this event, when so much has been said and written already throughout the five years here and elsewhere? In pictures that let you relive the experience for yourself and remember how the game unfolded, as it truly spanned the gamut of baseball emotions.

If you do feel like reading more, Jayson Stark’s piece at ESPN from the time remains the classic account — and includes this from Lance Berkman:

“Really and truly, this was an ugly game for about six or seven innings,” said the relentlessly honest Berkman. “But then it got beautiful, right at the end.”

For a more retrospective look, this piece by Anna McDonald at ESPN from earlier this month looks at both the Rangers and Cardinals recollections from Games 6 and 7.

And now, a look back to the entirety of the game, and not just the iconic moments that are still so vivid today.

game-6-1-garcia

Jaime Garcia was the starter for the Cardinals in Game 6, and his first inning was rather rough: a walk and two singles that put the Rangers up 1-0 before he even got the first out.

game-6-2-lb

In the bottom of the first, with two outs and Skip Schumaker on first after he singled, Lance Berkman homered to make it 2-1 Cardinals. He was 3 for 5 on the night, with those two first inning RBI and another rather important RBI later on …

Garcia was shaky in the second inning as well, as a walk and two hits allowed the Rangers to tie the game at 2.  Continue reading

Five Years Ago Tonight: The Perfectly Timed Rainout

Maybe, like so many of us, Mother Nature was a Chris Carpenter fan.

That’s one plausible explanation for the events of Oct. 26, 2011, when Game 6 of the World Series was postponed at 2 p.m. Central Time based on the St. Louis forecast for the evening — not the weather at the time.

The extra day off on that Wednesday, of course, meant Carpenter was then available to pitch on three days’ rest once Friday night’s Game 7 arrived — a fact that everyone was already thinking about, as Matthew Leach wrote at the time:

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa continues to avoid naming a starter for a potential Game 7, but definitely left the door open for Chris Carpenter to pitch that game on three days’ rest … “I was told by ‘Carp’ that he would be ready to go,” La Russa said. “I think most important is for us to concentrate [on Game] 6.

Oh, right … Game 6 and all its agony and ecstasy was still to come.

What we’ve forgotten in the past five years, with the giddy memories over Games 6 and 7, is what things were really like following the terrible loss in Game 5. Here, as a refresher, is what was in the Washington Post five years ago today:

Another day of waiting around means another day of digesting the Cardinals’ grotesque bungling of Game 5 — which, aside from La Russa’s much-dissected bullpen-phone escapades, also drew pointed questions about the fact Pujols has the authorization from La Russa to call hit-and-run plays on his own from the batter’s box.

Want to relive more of the Game 5 madness? It’s easier to take now, for sure. Here’s the recap.

Thankfully, the phone craziness and the “what will Albert do?” frenzy is mostly forgotten about and the final two games of the 2011 World Series are what we recall now. But none of that would have happened without the rainout-that-really-wasn’t from five years ago tonight.

 

 

Some Cardinals Alternatives To Watching This Year’s World Series

Even though the 2016 World Series gets underway tonight, you might not be in the mood to watch it. Want to look back on some better days instead? Here, and all available on YouTube, are some alternatives that will make for more pleasant viewing.

The videos are the complete games, so watching these should keep you busy … and able to avoid whatever might be happening in this year’s World Series.

Game One – 1968 World Series

Starting off with an absolute classic in a year that didn’t result in a Cardinals World Series championship, but began with an incredible performance by that year’s NL Cy Young Winner and Most Valuable Player, Bob Gibson. His 17 strikeouts in the game are a record that still stands.

Game Seven – 1982 World Series 

Ah, nothing like a Game Seven — especially when it’s a Game Seven win! Watch the Cardinals win their ninth World Series championship, and first since the days of Bob Gibson in 1967, when they beat the Brewers 6-3 behind Joaquin Andujar and Bruce Sutter.

Game Six – 2004 NLCS

The 2004 National League Championship Series between the Astros and Cardinals was an incredible one, yet mostly overlooked by the national media due to the ALCS that was going on at the same time. We remember, though, these hard-fought seven games in which the home team was victorious in each — and the MV3 was in their prime and all making big contributions. Jim Edmonds was the walk-off hero in this one, as you no doubt remember. (Also, in case you forgot, Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman were the enemy.)

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10 Years Ago Tonight: Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS

Yes, it’s fun to look back five years ago into the AMF archives and see how we captured the magic of September and October 2011 during the blog’s first year. In fact, had that run not happened, I was planning to write about the fifth anniversary of the Cardinals 2006 World Series run.

Somehow, I’m glad I didn’t have that chance …

Still, tonight is the anniversary of another milestone in recent Cardinals history: the 10th anniversary of Game Seven of the NLCS between the Cardinals and the Mets. And, to honor that milestone, the three iconic plays from a truly incredible game.

From the sixth inning, with the scored tied 1-1.

From the top of the ninth inning, Scott Rolen on first, scored still 1-1, and the reason why Yadi is still booed by Mets fans today:

And, of course, from the bottom of the ninth with the Cardinals up 3-1. There were two outs, but the bases were loaded …

Ten years later, it doesn’t get old.

Five Years Ago Tonight: A Game One World Series Victory

Certain images immediately come to mind when thinking back to October 2011 and the road to the St. Louis Cardinals 11th World Series championship. The squirrel dashing near home plate in Game Four of the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies. Chris Carpenter’s primal scream at the end of Game Five. David Freese spiking his batting helmet as he ran toward home plate in Game Six of the World Series. Lance Berkman raising the World Series trophy.

And, when recalling Game One of the World Series, there is this.

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Yes, Chris Carpenter’s dive toward first base in the first inning to retrieve the throw by Albert Pujols (oops … I mean That Guy Who Used to Play First Base) after he fielded a grounder by Elvis Andrus.

The play, and the Game One win, was five years ago tonight. Knowing now, of course, how the entire Series plays out it’s very interesting to read again about Nelson Cruz missing a catch that allowed a crucial run to score on a play involving David Freese. (Foreshadowing!) So relive the memories — especially of how cool it was for Octavio Dotel and Arthur Rhodes to each finally pitch in a World Series game. They are forgotten, bit-part heroes of that incredible October five years ago.

Team Effort In Cardinals Game One Win

Allen Craig had the game-winning hit, just for Torty

Allen Craig had the game-winning hit, just for Torty

It’s been a total team effort that’s gotten the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series. So it’s not a surprise that their 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in game one was a result of contributions by many.

Starting pitching, relief pitching, great defense, timely hitting — each played a role in the win.

Chris Carpenter did something no Cardinals starter did in the NLCS: pitched six innings. He likely could have gone an inning or two longer, but was removed for pinch-hitter Allen Craig (which worked out perfectly). Carpenter allowed the two runs on a monster homer by Mike Napoli, but otherwise was very much his typical self. (So maybe next time he says his elbow is fine people will believe him?)

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Five Years Ago Tonight: That’s An NL Pennant Winner!

You might be looking for some positive baseball news these days, so how about a trip back to the evening of Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011? That’s when the St. Louis Cardinals won their 18th National League pennant by beating the Milwaukee Brewers in those games that filled the time between the classic National League Division Series and even more classic World Series.

I honestly don’t remember much about the 2011 NLCS, other than the October Legend of David Freese had its first chapters, as he was named series MVP, and all of the relievers got a lot of use, and also deserved to be named series MVP. And maybe that’s fine. Scrolling back through the posts from the series and seeing names like Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun and Nyjer Morgan — ugh. So much better to remember the Rally Squirrel instead. And, of course, a pennant-clinching win.

Especially because we remember what happened in the days to follow.

Believe It! Cardinals Are In The World Series!

Photo: StLToday.com

Photo: StLToday.com

We’re always told to never give up, always keep trying, you never know how things will work out.

If you ever question whether that’s true or not, you now have the perfect example of what not giving up can get you.

The National League pennant.

It bears repeating again and again — the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals are National League champions! Next happy flight: home to host the Texas Rangers in game one of the World Series on Wednesday!

It’s the Cardinals’ 18th NL pennant, and their third trip to the World Series since 2004. They’ll be going for their 11th World Series title — #11in11 as those of us on Twitter have seen so often — and will take on a Rangers team that’s making their second (and second consecutive) trip to the Series.

And while it’s been quite a ride since Aug. 25, last night was perhaps the wildest of them all.

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Five Years Ago Tonight: The Game of Chris Carpenter’s Career

With the memories of the Cardinals miraculous run to the 2011 World Series championship five years behind us, the biggest moments are what stand out the most. And five years ago tonight was a defining one: Game Five of the division series against the Phillies, Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay.

The smaller moments leading up to the win-or-go-home showdown between the best buds are worth remembering, though — like the Rally Squirrel’s emergence in the Cards’ Game 4 victory at Busch Stadium (and “Happy Flights”) and the prevalence of all those entertaining Twitter accounts from the Squirrel, Torty Craig and more. (Oh, Allen Craig, we miss you …)

The Friday night battle to determine who would move on and face the Brewers (oh yeah, they were in the playoffs that year too) lived up to the hype — which, as we know, doesn’t always happen in baseball. The lone run was scored, as we remember, when Rafael Furcal lead off the top of the first with a triple followed by Skip Schumaker doubling to drive him in. From there it was just masterful pitching from both Halladay and Carpenter. Relive the highlights from Chris Carpenter via video here, and read on for thoughts — and those memorable photos — from the time.

Carpenter Carries Cards To NLCS

Cardinals' Carpenter celebrates winning their MLB baseball playoff game against the Phillies in Philadelphia

Click photo for larger version

In six weeks of magical moments and inspiring wins, we now have one to head the list.

For now, anyway, although it will be a challenge for any victory to top this.

Last night was all the cliches — must win to continue, everything on the line — and the result could sound like a cliche too: Chris Carpenter pitched the game of his life.

A complete game three-hit shutout, 110 pitches with no room for error because the Cardinals clung to a 1-0 lead — a lead that came on the second play of the game when Skip Schumaker doubled home Rafael Furcal after a lead-off triple.

Carpenter got the job done.

Not that it wasn’t intense.

I watched the game with the sound muted from the second inning on — the combination of nerves and the Philadelphia crowd and blathering from Dick Stockton, Ron Darling and especially John Smoltz was too much. And instead of spending time on Twitter sharing the experience like I usually would, I mostly just sat and watched. Or stood and watched. Or paced and watched. Continue reading

Five Years Ago Tonight: Clinching The Wild Card

Ah, Game 162! That epic final night of the 2011 regular season, when the triumphant comeback of the Cardinals and monumental collapse of the Braves was complete, yet was just one part of a fantastic evening. (Though obviously the part we as Cards fans cared about the most.)

Experience again MLB’s highs and lows from the evening here (it’s worth the 12 minutes, especially to see bits of Chris Carpenter’s performance — plus isn’t it always nice to see the Red Sox complete their collapse? And the Braves as well?). Then continue on below to read what was published here five years ago about Game 162, which made the “September to remember” complete. That final sentence is rather prescient in retrospect, if I do say so myself. (OK, only because we know the final fairy-tale ending. Still …)

That’s A Historic Comeback Winner!

The comeback climb is finished, and in the best way possible — the Cardinals are the Wild Card Champions!

Carp, Albert and an epic hug

Carp, Albert and an epic hug

The details are so familiar now: on the morning of Aug. 25, the Cards were 10 1/2 games behind the Braves. They’d just been swept by the Dodgers — Aaron Miles’ revenge — and were 67-63.

The the winning began, with that 8-4 Social Media Night victory over the Pirates. The winning continued. And now, history.

Making the playoffs after trailing by 10 1/2 after 130 games is, according to Fox Sports Midwest, the biggest comeback in history. No. 2 on the list? The 2011 Tampa Bay Rays, who are the AL Wild Cards Champs following their own stunning win in Game 162. At one point they’d been 9 games back. Third on the list? The 1964 Cardinals, who trailed by 8 1/2 games before propelling themselves to the National League pennant.

The Cardinals’ win was achieved without any of the tension or drama of Tuesday night. They took command from the very beginning, with five straight hits to open the game. Albert drove in the first run for RBI No.99, and the scoring continued until Nick Punto drove in run No. 5. Chris Carpenter came to bat before even taking the pitchers mound — always a good sign.

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Show Us a Tragedy, and We’ll Write You About Our Hero

There was a boy in the stands, tousled jet-black hair, wide-open dark eyes, mouth open, scarcely believing he’s watching his hero pitching against the Washington Nationals one week ago today.

694940094001_5140533466001_mlb-star-jose-fernandez-2-others-killed-in-boat-cOne kid, watching another kid tease back and forth with the umpires, one kid watching the other kid’s big smile visible from the farthest reaches of Marlins Park, competing with that garish contraption beyond the outfield fence for electric wattage.

The boy with his oversized jersey with his hero’s name across the back, the large 16 under it, cap that barely fits.

Oh, how we envy that boy, look at him, all energy, squirming, hopping around in his seat, slapping the little glove he brought in case a foul ball comes his way, he’s ready. The boy, he’s pointing and shouting at his dad with every strikeout from his hero. That boy, he’s going to grow up watching one of the finest pitchers to take the mound in the history of the sport. He’s going to be able to tell his grand kids about the tall, strong Cuban who played this hard game with such infectious passion.

Did you see what that boy saw? Twelve strikeouts in eight innings against a team a handful of days away from claiming a division title. That’s right, 12. His hero sliced through the Nationals lineup, and had FUN doing it. Did you see his hero in the top of the eighth, in a 1-0 game, with runners at first and third with two outs? Did you see his hero’s mom, on her feet, as the TV camera zoomed in, fanning herself in the excitement. That’s her nino, her hero who saved her in that oft-told story that’s reached the point of fable of the 15-year-old boy who saved her from hostile waters, saved her as they escaped for a better life in a country of dreams.

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