Sunday, October 29, 2006
Cardinals Win Tenth World Series
The Town’s Painted Red This Year!
The Red Birds are finally back on top. The squad from St. Louis has come close several times, but has not tasted World Series champagne since 1982. With the win, the Cardinals now have ten Championships, second only to the New York Yankees.
This year’s World Series brought back memories of the 1968 final, when the Cards faced the Detroit Tigers. St. Louis was then led by Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Tim McCarver, Orlando Cepeda, Roger Maris, and Steve Carlton. A most impressive group in any generation.
After leading the Tigers 3-1, and poised to win the fall classic, the wheels fell off, and the Cardinals had to settle for second place. Hall of Famer Bob Gibson was the victim in Game Seven of that Series, a game in which Curt Flood misjudged a fly ball to open the gates for a Tigers’ victory.
The Tigers were led by Series MVP Mickey Lolich, who won games 2, 5, and 7 with an earned run average of 1.67. Their roster included Denny McLain, Norm Cash, Bill Freeham, Willie Horton, Al Kaline, and the legendary Eddie Matthews.
Matthews played most of his hall of Fame career with the Boston Braves and the Milwaukee Braves, and finished with the Tigers in 1968. He credits his mother for his batting prowess in the Major Leagues: “My mother used to pitch to me and my father would shag balls. If I hit one up the middle close to my mother, I’d have extra chores to do. My mother was instrumental in making me a pull hitter.”
Detroit fans were hoping they would find lightning in a barrel again in 2006. No such luck.
A tiny man named David Eckstein methodically burst all of those balloons. In Game Five, with many of the chips on the line, he whaled away at Tiger pitching, lashing three doubles just beyond the out-stretched reaches of the Tiger outfielders. The diminutive shortstop led his team, as he has throughout the playoffs. “I just needed to find some holes,” he told the Canadian Press. “It’s nice to actually have a little luck involved.” At the Series conclusion, he was rewarded as the Most Valuable Player selection.
Wily Cards Manager Tony La Russa believes it is more than that: “He’s the toughest guy I have ever seen in a uniform.”
Eckstein is generously listed at five feet seven inches in the program guides. His partner at second base, Aaron Miles, is listed at five feet eight inches. A tiny tandem, to be sure. But they played large throughout the Series.
As miniscule as their middle infielders are, the Cards have giants on the corners---Scott Rolen at third, and Albert Pujols at first base. Pujols led the team in the regular season with 49 home runs, 137 RBIs, and had a .331 batting average. Both men are 6’ 4”, and tip the scales at 23o pounds, give or take.
If there is a hint of satisfaction for the Tigers, it comes in the form of a remarkable season following years of misery. They lost 119 games a couple of years ago, and have struggled since their last Series victory in 1984.
I have been to Tiger Stadium, and more recently to Comerica Park every year for the last fifteen years. I have seen the empty stands, and heard the boo birds. Unfortunately, our annual junket was cancelled this year. Wouldn’t you know it, the first time the Tigers get to the Big Show, and our seats were empty! Next year. We will see the banners unfurled---albeit one banner short of the Grand Prize.
One cannot underestimate the importance of experience. In this case, playoff experience. The Cardinals are perennial playoff contenders. They have been in post season play many times in the past twenty years. They have learned about the distractions---requests for tickets, media interventions in their lives, rain delays---little disturbances that have to be dealt with before pitches are ever thrown.
For the Tigers this year, the World Series was a learning lesson. The bats were silent, the pitching failed, and their defence was miserable---even establishing Series’ records for errors. There is a nucleus of fine young players on the team, and they will be heard from again---next year, and for many years to come. Order your tickets now for next year’s games at Comerica. Remember to turn right when you come out of the tunnel from Windsor---if you want to go left. Only in America.
We came awfully close to having games after Hallowe’en. Perhaps we might have met “Mr. November”. That is not what baseball wanted to see. The season was far too long, beginning with the World Classic---remember when the Canadian team almost mercied the American squad? Television ratings plummeted to new depths. The minions at the top need to adjust the schedules to make it sensible.
Hats off to the Red Birds---Kings of the Baseball World until next September, or October, or November or…….
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