Tens of thousands of fans recently lined the streets of downtown St. Louis this weekend to see the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals in a parade route that ended with a celebration inside a packed Busch Stadium.
The parade was an exclamation point on an incredible season that included a historic World Series, including an epic Game 6.
Left for dead when 10.5 games out of the wild card on Aug. 25, the Cardinals kept playing like each game was their last. After knocking off favored foes the Phillies and Brewers, the Cardinals would find themselves with several more comeback opportunities in the World Series.
Game 6, called by some the best World Series game ever, was an elimination game for the Cardinals.
The Rangers led the Cardinals, 7-5 going into the ninth inning. With two outs and runners on first and third, David Freese — the hometown hero from Lafayette High School — stepped up to the plate.
Facing the Rangers hard-throwing closer, Neftali Feliz, Freese found himself down to his, and the Cardinals', final strike. With the season on the line, Freese smashed a triple off the right field wall to score the game-tying runs. The game was headed to extra innings.
Cardinals fans, elated after Freese's hit and hoping for a Game 7, were quieted when Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton hit a two-run home run in the top of the 10th inning.
But the Cardinals weren't finished. The Redbirds tied the game on a Lance Berkman single in the bottom half of the 10th inning and sent the game to the 11th inning.
After Jake Westbrook shut down the Rangers in the top half of the inning, Freese led off the Cardinals half of the inning and hit a game-winning home run over the center field wall.
TV announcer Joe Buck, in a call made by his late father Jack Buck 20 years and one day earlier, said, "We will see you tomorrow night!"
What a game. What a finish. The team that wasn't supposed to be in the playoffs had just forced a Game 7 in the World Series. But the Redbirds still weren't finished.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first inning of Game 7, eventual World Series MVP Freese tied the game in the bottom half of the inning with a double. Behind ace pitcher Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals won the game by a score of 6-2 and earned the team's 11th World Series title.
The World Series was an exhilarating experience for Cardinals Nation and an economic boon for the city. The postseason economic impact was projected to exceed $56 million for St. Louis.
Some may argue that baseball is just a game. To some extent, that is true. However, baseball can teach us a great deal.
The Cardinals never gave up. Even when the hope of making postseason play in August was minimal at best, the Redbirds put forth their best effort. This year, that effort led to a World Series title.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa recently announced his retirement. After 16 seasons with the Cardinals and leading the organization to three World Series appearances and two titles, the future Hall of Fame manager holds a special place in Cardinals history.
In addition to finding a new manager, the organization will have other key decisions to make about the 2012 season. But for now, it's time to enjoy a World Series championship.
Congratulations to the Cardinals, and thanks for an incredible season.
Copyright Southeast Missourian. From the Associated Press