Game 6 of Series best contest ever
As it ended, an exceedingly well-trained PR man — Brad Horn, employed by the National Baseball Hall of Fame — came away with custody of the soon-to-be-sacred artifacts.
Those would be David Freese’s bat — a black Pro Adirondack — and the remnants of the Cardinals home jersey gleefully torn by his teammates after his game-winning home run in the sixth game of the 107th World Series, what may well go down as The Greatest Game Ever Played.
“Only the left half,” said Horn, proudly displaying the Cooperstown-bound jersey. “The other half didn’t make it.”
The game lasted four hours and 33 minutes. That’s an awful lot to ask of American males. The most demographically cherished among them have been raised on forms of all-but-instant visual gratification: high-def special effects, video games, YouTube bloopers and porn.
Yes, baseball gets a lot of grief, much of it doled out by people like myself. No game has such a reverential sense of its own history. Then again, after seeing what happened Thursday night at Busch Stadium, you can understand why.
The evening didn’t start so wonderfully. For the first eight or so innings, it ranked with the sloppiest games ever played. But despite its flaws — or perhaps, in part, because of them — it never lacked for thrills.
There were eight pitchers for Texas, seven for the Cardinals, over 11 innings. There were four unearned runs, two for each team. There were six homers and five errors. Freese had the longest, and perhaps the worst, respectively.
In the fifth, he dropped a pop fly that came off the bat of Josh Hamilton. Hamilton, he of the ailing groin, would score from first on Michael Young’s double. That gave Texas a 4-3 lead.
“I felt like I was part of a circus out there, bouncing balls off the top of my hat,” said Freese. “I just wanted an opportunity to . . . "
To redeem himself, of course.
Freese, who is all of 28, had imagined such a scenario many times as a kid in his backyard in the suburbs of St. Louis. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a fairy tale.
As Lance Berkman mirthfully noted: “When you’re a little kid and you’re out there, you don’t have a bunch of reporters and fans that are ready to call you a choking dog if you don’t come through. When you’re a kid, you don’t realize what a big moment it is. I’m just going to caution all the little kids out there.”
And then it was the ninth inning, the score 7-5. I was watching from the stands behind home plate. A little girl in front of me was in her father’s arms, trying valiantly not to fall asleep. Made me homesick.
Next came a blizzard of red and white, all those Cardinals fans waving their towels, in anticipation of Neftali Feliz’s pitch. Albert Pujols was on second, Berkman on first. Two outs. The count was 1-2 on Freese, meaning Texas was a strike away from winning the World Series.
As Freese would recall, “He started me off with some off-speed, so I was like, ‘Now, what’s coming?’ I just said, ‘Heater,’ that’s the way I hit.”
He got a heater. Two in fact. The first one he missed. The second came in at 98 mph. Freese turned it into a triple. The little girl in her father’s arms stirred for a moment.
Now the game was tied going into the 10th. Not for long, though. It was Hamilton’s turn to smash a home run, this on the first pitch he saw from Jason Motte.
“I would tell y’all something, but y’all wouldn’t believe me,” Hamilton told reporters after the game. “The Lord told me it was going to happen before it happened: ‘You hadn’t hit a home run in a while. You’re about to right now.’ ”
I wouldn’t dare characterize Hamilton’s homer in theological terms. But I wouldn’t argue with him, either. For me, his homer would’ve been the perfect ending, the redemptive baseball fable come to life. After all those lost years afflicted by drugs, Hamilton — who hadn’t hit a homer since Sept. 23 — comes back to hit the clinching home run in extra innings in the World Series.
Instead, the Cardinals tied it on Berkman’s single, and by the bottom of the 11th, Freese had come to the plate again, this time against Mark Lowe.
“Just worked the count,” said Freese. “I was worried about getting on base.”
It was 3-2 when Lowe shook off the catcher’s sign.
“He threw a change-up,” said Freese.
The ball dropped about 429 feet away. It fell like a golf shot, lofted onto a patch of inclined grass beyond the centerfield fence. “I saw the usher trying to keep everybody off the grass,” said Freese.
Then the St. Louis Cardinals congregated around home plate, waiting to mob Freese and tear at his clothes.
My daughter texted me: “That was a great come Back by David freese”
I told her I was going down to listen to him in the interview room.
“Omg so cool tell him I think he us best best with Albert Pujols”
I texted that I felt bad for Josh Hamilton, that he’s been through a lot.
“He had a drug problem, which takes a big person to deal with. Also, some injuries.”
I told her I missed her.
“I like freese he is my Favorite player”
I know, baby. Maybe one day we’ll go see his jersey. Half of it, anyway.