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 For the Cardinals, a Classic Finish

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Join date : 2011-10-23

PostSubject: For the Cardinals, a Classic Finish   Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:02 pm

This game was not a classic. It was merely one of those normal World Series seventh games — quite enough to give this grand old baseball town its 11th championship, the most of any National League team, and to touch off the usual celebration in a sea of red.

This time there was a steady march toward a 6-2 final score, nothing like the insanity of the night before, when the Cardinals were a strike away from elimination. That 10-9 victory touched off visceral instincts in the Cardinals’ clubhouse that they had just participated in a classic game. Ballplayers are generally not historians, but they have seen flickering images of the Fisks and Wilsons, the Pucketts and Slaughters, in old World Series highlights.

“Being in that game, I can’t look at it from the outside,” said Jason Motte, the Cardinals’ closer, long after he was hammered for a two-run homer by Josh Hamilton on Thursday night, when life still seemed hopeful for the Rangers.

Players are usually too busy hitting and throwing to know much more than the fact that amazing things have happened in Octobers past, particularly in sixth games and seventh games, when the World Series, when history, could go either way.

“I just don’t watch things like that,” Motte admitted.

This was the 37th seventh game in 107 World Series. The home team has now won 20, including the last nine, going back to 1982, just across the street on what is now an urban grassy patch, where a 6-3 Cardinal victory over Milwaukee ended the Series.

Game 7 also had a margin. David Freese, the hometown boy, was the star again, hitting a two-run double in the first inning after Chris Carpenter had fallen two runs behind.

Both managers had insisted the Rangers would not be affected by the multiple collapses of Thursday, but as the Cardinals pecked away, this game had a certain inevitability to it.

These sixth and seventh games were a flashback to a Series 25 years earlier, when the Mets won that strange Saturday night special, with a late rally that included a wild pitch for the tying run and Mookie Wilson’s grounder squiggling past Bill Buckner’s ankles for the game-ending run. The Red Sox were standing on the top step with two outs in the 10th, ready to celebrate, but with each hit or mishap they inched back down into the dugout.

After a rain delay Sunday, Boston took a 3-0 lead in the second inning Monday, but the Mets, playing at home, scored eight runs late for an 8-5 victory that somehow seemed preordained.

But redemption is not promised. Carlton Fisk, the patrician-looking New Englander, became immortal for hopping down the baseline, waving his arms to make his shot stay fair, which it did, to win Game 6 of the 1975 Series. (How lean players were then.) But the Red Sox lost to Cincinnati one night later.

Sometimes, seventh games can be classics. Want to talk about a 10-9 game with something for everybody? That was the exact score of Game 7 of the 1960 Series. Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek was hit in the throat by a bad-hop grounder, and Mickey Mantle had to dive back to first base to evade Rocky Nelson’s tag — perhaps the most athletic move of Mantle’s marvelous career. But the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski cleared the wall in Forbes Field, circling the bases, just as Freese romped late Thursday night. Mazeroski had an escort of fans; security is better these days.

There have been a lot of classics, including 1946, with Enos Slaughter’s mad dash for the Cardinals. An impressive number of fans have been nominating the 1991 Series between the Twins and the Braves, with Kirby Puckett’s homer in Game 6 and Jack Morris’ pitching in Game 7. And how could anybody overlook forget 1955, or as we Brooklyn fans called it, Next Year?

The lordly Yankees have won 27 World Series but are exactly 5-6 in seventh games, from 1926 through 2001. In 1956, Don Newcombe was whacked for two-run homers by Yogi Berra in the first and third innings of Game 7, and the Yanks won, 9-0. Was it a classic? Yogi thinks so.

The most recent seventh game was in 2002, when the Angels held on to beat the Giants, 4-1, for the first World Series title for that underachieving franchise — exactly what Texas was hoping to accomplish here, but could not.

The Cardinals, slow to develop as a baseball power, have now won 8 of 11 seventh games in the Series. The first championship took place in 1926 when 39-year-old (and, some say, hung over) Grover Cleveland Alexander trudged out of the bullpen in Yankee Stadium, with two outs in the seventh, with a 3-2 lead.

In the ninth, Old Pete walked Babe Ruth with two outs, and the Babe promptly was thrown out trying to steal second base, not one of his better moments. But it ended with a classic confrontation — Old Pete and the Babe.

There was a century-plus of World Series history out there in the ozone Friday night. Now these Cardinals, 10 ½ games out of first place Aug. 25, have raced right through the months of September and October. Maybe not a classic seventh game, but a classic two-month romp by baseball’s current champions.

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