My Favorite Memory of the Decade: Hometown Hero

David Freese cemented his legacy as a St. Louis Cardinal with his MVP performance in the 2011 World Series. (via Dave Herloz)

First of a series

October 27, 2011.  Busch Stadium, St. Louis. World Series Game Six.  Cardinals 10, Rangers 9.

The lead-up to this game really started in late August. St. Louis had returned home from a 2-4 road trip to face Los Angeles, and the resulting three-game sweep by the Dodgers left the Cardinals with a 67-63 record, in third place in the National League Central, 10 games behind the Brewers and 10.5 games behind the Braves for the Wild Card. However, much can change in five weeks.

St. Louis went 19-7 after the sweep at the hands of LA, and while the Redbirds could not catch Milwaukee atop the division, they did slip past Atlanta with an 8-0 win in Game 162 while the Braves lost a 13-inning thriller to the Phillies. This was the same day the Boston Red Sox lost their final regular-season game after they were one strike away from defeating the Baltimore Orioles, and the Tampa Bay Rays rallied from a 7-0 deficit against the New York Yankees to take the American League Wild Card. Has there ever been a better regular-season day of baseball? There’s a strong chance the answer to that question is an emphatic, “No!”

Once in the postseason, St. Louis emerged victorious in a winner-takes-all Game Five of the NL Division Series showdown with Philadelphia. In the NL Championship Series, the Cardinals eliminated the Brewers in six games. After Game Five of the World Series, the Cards found themselves down three games to two to the Texas Rangers. That’s when things got really crazy.

It was evident early on offense would rule the day in Game Six in St. Louis’ Busch Stadium III. After the Rangers plated a run in the top of the first, the Cardinals answered with two in the bottom of the frame. But Texas responded in the next half inning to tie the score, 2-2. Each team scored once in the fourth, and a Texas tally in the top of the fifth was matched by a St. Louis score in the bottom of the sixth. But then…

Lance Lynn began his second inning of relief work in the seventh by surrendering back-to-back home runs to Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz. Following a punch-out, single, and groundout, Lynn was replaced by Octavio Dotel. Dotel threw a wild pitch and allowed a run-scoring single to Ian Kinsler before whiffing Elvis Andrus to end the inning. By then, the damage had been done, as Texas had a 7-4 lead, meaning the Rangers needed to protect that three-run lead over the next three innings to win their first World Series.

The first four of those needed nine outs were recorded quietly, as Derek Holland pitched a 1-2-3 frame following the seventh-inning stretch and got Lance Berkman to fly out to start the bottom of the eighth. Holland, however, couldn’t hold back Allen Craig, who had entered the game in the top of the seventh to replace Matt Holliday. Craig went deep to cut the deficit to two, but Holland and Mike Adams finished off the inning without allowing another run.

After a scoreless top of the ninth by the Cardinals’ Jason Motte, it was up to Rangers closer Neftali Feliz to shut the door and end the series. He struck out Ryan Theriot for the first out but then he had to face Albert Pujols, then at the peak of his powers. Pujols doubled on the first pitch he saw, and Feliz worked carefully around Berkman, issuing a four-pitch walk. When Craig took strike three looking for the second out, things looked bleak in the Gateway City. But a local kid was about to make good…

***

David Freese played high school baseball 40 minutes west of Busch Stadium in Wildwood, Missouri. However, he was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the ninth round of the 2006 draft. He was brought into the Cardinals organization 18 months later in a straight-up trade for Jim Edmonds and had a strong 17-game showing in the majors in 2009. After injuries cut short his 2010 season and interrupted his 2011 campaign, he took over the starting job at third base in late June. It’s what he did fourth months later than has earned Freese numerous subsequent standing ovations from the St. Louis faithful, even when he has appeared as a visiting player.

***

Facing Feliz with two outs and a 1-2 count in the bottom of the ninth inning, Freese stroked an opposite-field shot that Cruz drifted back to catch. However, the ball kept carrying against the Rangers’ defensively challenged right fielder, over his head and off the wall for a game-tying triple. Yadier Molina followed with another ball to right field, but Cruz corralled this one to keep the game knotted at seven.

Heading to extra innings, Motte was back on the mound for the Redbirds, and he got one out before Andrus singled. Up stepped Josh Hamilton, who already had recorded two hits on the night. He launched the first pitch he saw over the wall to put Texas back up by two runs.

After the Rangers did not score again in the top of the 10th, Darren Oliver took the bump in an attempt to finish things off, but he had virtually no success. Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay greeted Oliver with consecutive singles to open the inning, and a Kyle Lohse sacrifice bunt advanced the runners.

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Again, a scandal puts fans on the defensive about their game.

On came Scott Feldman, who got a groundout by Theriot, which scored a run but put Texas within an out of the championship. Making the wise decision to give Pujols a free pass, Feldman found himself confronted by Berkman. The count eventually went to 2-2, again putting the Cardinals within a strike of elimination. However, Berkman sent a line drive to center field to score Jay and knot the score, 9-9.

A Craig groundout extended the game to the 11th inning, where the Rangers could muster nothing but a lone single off Jake Westbrook. The bottom of the frame started with a newly famous face in the batter’s box.

Freese worked the count full against new reliever Mark Lowe. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Freese crushed a thigh-high, 90-mph pitch over the wall in straightaway center field, leading to announcer Joe Buck’s call of, “We will see you tomorrow night!”

That tomorrow-night Game Seven was a rather mundane 6-2 Cardinals victory, giving the franchise its 11th World Series title. But it was Game Six everyone remembers.

***

As a Cardinals fan, this is easily the most memorable game of my lifetime. I was living in Boise, Idaho, at the time, so I actually was able to watch the game and get to sleep at a reasonable time. (Sorry, East Coast baseball fans.) That is, had I been able to get to sleep after that thrilling ending. My wife is not a sports fan, but she thoroughly enjoyed watching me watch the game, jumping up and down, hollering with excitement, moaning with dread, and whooping it up at the victorious ending.

Twice the Cardinals faced two-run deficits in what could be the final inning, they were down to their final strike two different times, and two times the Redbirds were bailed out by the fresh-faced hometown kid (with grateful nods to Berkman and Theriot). It was a dream come true not just for David Freese, but for me and the millions of Cardinals fans watching in person and on TV.

The Cardinals have not won another World Series since then, and Freese was dealt to the Angels just two years later. But the memories of that oh-so-special Game Six live on, and they will continue to do so for countless seasons to come.


Greg has been a writer and editor for The Hardball Times since 2010. In his dreams, he's the second coming of Ozzie Smith. Please don't wake him up.
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ea11
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ea11

That was a great article! Very well written. I was living in Atlanta at the time and saw the slow inexorable crumbling of the Braves season like a slow motion car crash. Not my favorite memory!

gostros
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gostros

I like the rangers:’(

jdtTX
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jdtTX

As a Rangers fan who got married at the ballpark, it’s unfortunately the most memorable game of my lifetime, too.

jakelee
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Member
jakelee

Nice article Greg. As a fan of neither team I remember how exciting that game was and all the twists and turns the game took. I became a fan of Freese that night and as a Pirate fan, he didn’t disappoint me while he was in Pittsburgh.

ILoveRainbowDash
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ILoveRainbowDash

I’m guessing this is John Paschal’s least favorite moment of the decade