An Unforgettable Ride

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2006 World Series Champs:
The St. Louis Cardinals!


Witnessing the World Series clincher firsthand is an experience I will never forget! And I hope the memories live on in Nick's heart for eternity.

We're number one!

Why does it matter? In the end, isn't baseball just a game played by grown men for obscene amounts of money?

Yes, but...

For our family, as for many families, it is so much more than that. It is tradition, a passion that is handed down through generations. It's a bond forged over the love of a game that is, in turns, exciting, maddening, exhilarating, excruciating and always, always entertaining. A game of inches, a game of momentum, a game of monster home runs and well-executed bunts, diving grabs, laser throws, clutch hitting. A game that unfolds slowly, building suspense, fraying nerves, taking unpredictable twists and turns until the final, merciful out. It's the promise of spring training, the races beginning to take shape by Memorial Day, the pomp and pageantry of the All-Star break, the scramble of activity at the trade deadline, the long slog through August, the race to the finish line in September. And, of course, ultimately, it's the magic of October.

We've got our game faces on!

It's a game I grew up with, listening with my dad to Jack Buck on the radio, reveling in the rare treat of a Cardinals game on TV (with the sound turned off, of course, and you-know-who on the radio!), keeping score at Craig's Little League games, waiting in line overnight at Busch Stadium for World Series tickets in 1982 with thousands of hopeful red-clad fans, finding the missing World Series tickets in the binoculars case in time for the game (whew!), celebrating victory (1982) and wallowing in the misery of defeat (1985, 1987 and 2004), hanging Cardinals posters all over my college dorm room, covering Craig's high school baseball team for the Macomb Journal in my first "real" job, marrying a Cubs fan, developing a fondness for Ron Santo and his incredible heart, raising a family of Cards and Cubs fans in relative peace and harmony.

It's a game of teamwork, sportsmanship, chemistry, heart. It's the contagion of a hot bat. It's the challenge of overcoming a teammate's error. It's assembling a few confident rookies, some hobbled veterans, a castoff journeyman pitcher, the grittiest guy in the league, and trusting them to get the job done. And then watching them do it.

"We were there!"

It's watching a hundred games a year and still seeing something you've never seen before. Eight home runs by one team in one game. A pop fly landing on a third baseman's head. The second career home run by a veteran pitcher in Game 3 of the NLCS. Five errors by pitchers on one staff in five consecutive World Series games. The best hitter in the game making the best defensive play of the series, lying on his back and throwing to the pitcher covering first, robbing his best friend of what would have been his only World Series hit.

It's "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!" and "I can't believe what I just saw!" and "That's a winner!"

It's fan loyalty, bordering on obsession, best personified by my cousin Ryan, the greatest Cardinals fan I know, who this year alone attended 18 Cardinals home games, 3 more on the road, 2 NLDS games and 2 NLCS games. It's Ryan not being able to resist the atmosphere surrounding the ballpark for the World Series, despite the fact that he didn't have a ticket. It's Ryan shivering and straining to see into the stadium from the parking garage across the street for Game 3, absorbing the images he can't see firsthand being painted by the radio play-by-play. And it's him being given—given!—a ticket to the eventually rained-out Game 4, enabling him to be there for the World Series finale, gaining him entry to the first Cardinals Championship of his lifetime.

Weaver stretches--the crowd goes wild!

And now, for me, it is and will always be being there for the clincher of the 2006 World Series. It’s the electrifying atmosphere inside the ballpark, the buzz of the crowd from the moment we found our seats. The roar across the stadium when starting pitcher Jeff Weaver came out to stretch along the right field line—cheers for stretching! The thunderous applause for the first strike, and the mounting crescendo with each succeeding strike.

It’s the fans leaping to their feet with every crack of a St. Louis bat, and again with every two-strike count to a Detroit hitter. The festive atmosphere between innings, with Cardinals brethren sharing stories and discussing the season, the players, the unbelievable heart of this team. It’s leaning over to Nick, calmly cracking peanuts and taking in the game, asking him over and over “Can you believe this?” It’s his sparkling eyes and enormous grin in response. It’s the barely controlled hysteria in the top of the ninth, with victory tantalizingly close.

The scoreboard says it all

And, finally, it is and will always be whooping as Wainwright delivers strike three and my beloved Cardinals capture the title and celebrate in a throbbing mass on the field. It’s celebrating in a rocking Busch Stadium with my son, beaming and laughing and cheering until my face muscles hurt and my voice fails. Hugging and high-fiving and singing "We Are the Champions" with Nick. Embracing fellow Cardinals faithful—strangers, yet kindred spirits. Capturing the Kodak moment to give our memories a boost (as if we’ll ever need it). Lining up outside the team store to be among the first to proudly wear the “2006 World Champions” t-shirt. Kissing my hand and lovingly placing that kiss on the Jack Buck statue, wondering if he and my dad and the legions of departed Redbird fans are celebrating as jubilantly in heaven as we are in this baseball heaven on Earth.

Yes, Tommy Lasorda, I live for this!

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