The 2011 World Series ends a historic and memorable underdog story
The 2011 World Series has concluded with the St. Louis Cardinals hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy. It wasn’t too long ago that the Cardinals were on the outside of the National League wildcard race looking in, but lo and behold, the Red Birds overcame a mountain of odds and ended up World Series Champions.
A month before the end of the regular season, the Cardinals were looking up at the Atlanta Braves in the wildcard race. The Braves towered 10.5 games over the Cardinals in a race that had little chance to be the neck-and-neck race that the NL wildcard race ended up becoming.
After the Cardinals fought into the thick of the race, the last game of the regular season came down to a win-or-go-home situation for both the Cards and Braves. As you all know, the Cards won in story-book fashion.
But still, after barely sneaking into the playoffs, who would have thought they would win the whole thing? They had to play the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies in the first round.
Cards ace Chris Carpenter had to come up big in a decisive game five and defeat the Cy Young candidate and future Hall of Famer Roy Halladay. You all know how the story goes: The underdog came out on top.
The Cardinals made quicker work of the NL Central champions, the Milwaukee Brewers. The series ended in six games, the Cards winning 4–2, pushing the boundaries of improbability.
A World Series matchup pitting the Texas Rangers against the St. Louis Cardinals could not have had two more contrasting teams and stories. The Rangers coasted to the playoffs without much pressure from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim chasing them for the division crown. They boasted arguably the most potent offense in all of baseball, finishing third in runs (855), first in batting average (.283), fifth in on-base percentage (.340), and second in slugging percentage (.460).
The Cardinals found themselves down 3–2 with the series coming back to St. Louis for game six. The stage was set for the greatest World Series game ever played in the vibrant history of Major League Baseball, rivaling the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, when Bill Mazeroski homered in the ninth for the Pittsburgh Pirates to beat the New York Yankees.
With every jab the Rangers threw, seemingly knocking out the Cards, they kept getting right back up to throw a punch of their own. They were the Rocky Balboa of the World Series. They continually lagged, especially when behind 7–5 in the ninth inning, and even more so when down to their last strike. Then David Freese threw a ferocious jab of his own.
With two outs and two strikes, Freese bombed a triple to deep right, just over the glove of Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz, to score Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman. The game was knotted at seven.
After the Rangers fought back with a two-run home run to right field by Josh Hamilton, the Cards seemed out for the count. But they came through yet again, getting up off the mat to continue the fight. A Ryan Theriot ground out to third scored one, and a Lance Berkman single scored another, tying the game yet again at nine.
An inning later, history was made with just one swing of the bat. Again, Freese was the hero. An 11th-inning home run gave the Cards the 10–9 win, also making Freese the first player ever to tie a World Series game in the ninth and get the game-winning hit in extra innings. The Cards were still alive, and it was time for one of the most treasured phrases in all of sports: “game seven.”
Besides game seven being, well, game seven, it paled in excitement to game six. Nonetheless, the Cardinals won, completing one of the greatest underdog tales in sports history.
How did the Cardinals defeat the monster offense of the Rangers and the vastly favored opponents that preceded?
Ten and a half games back, just one strike from losing, and then just one strike from losing again, the Cardinals were able to overcome monstrous adversity.
So, don’t ask me how they did it, because there is no viable explanation. I don’t even think the players know how they did it. The only thing I can say is that the Cardinals were fighters; they were naysayers, and they were determined. The odds were never in their favor, but that did not stop them.
Just revel in the fact that we all just watched one of the most historic World Series ever played and, in game six, the most exciting World Series game ever played.
The 2011 World Series Champions are the St. Louis Cardinals, a result that perfectly caps this classic sports underdog tale.