President honors World Champion Cardinals
President Barack Obama thanked the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals for keeping him up several hours past his bedtime to watch the end of a thrilling Game 6 of the World Series during their visit to the White House Tuesday.
About 20 members of the Cardinals' 2011 World Series Championship team and a larger contingent of coaches, trainers and front office personnel traveled to Washington D.C. Tuesday to be honored by President Obama.
Following a morning visit to Walter Reed Medical Center, the Cardinals met in the East Room of the White House and stood behind the President and he put their amazing late-season run in perspective.
"This is a sport that has seen it all but every once in a while something happens that we have never seen before, something unique," Obama said. "And that's why it is my pleasure to stand here with the greatest comeback team in the history of baseball."
The President detailed the Cardinals' slim chances of making the playoffs in late August, noting how they were 10.5 games out of a playoff spot with just 31 left to play and had less than a four percent mathematical chance to reach the postseason.
Obama even referenced the Cardinals' 500-to-1 Vegas odds of winning the World Series and touched on the now famous team meeting called by pitcher Chris Carpenter in which the players vowed not to embarrass themselves down the stretch.
"But through skills, guts and I think the team would agree just a little bit of luck -- just a touch -- this team made the playoffs," Obama said. "And even though they trailed in each of the series that followed, they somehow had the spirit and the determination and the resolve to survive."
The 20 players who attended Tuesday's ceremony were Chris Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, David Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Jake Westbrook, Tyler Greene, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski, Skip Schumaker, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Adron Chambers, Tony Cruz, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Kyle McClellan and free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson.
Notably absent were manager Tony La Russa --who retired following the season -- and first baseman Albert Pujols, who signed a free agent contract with the Anaheim Angels. Catcher Yadier Molina, shortstop Rafael Furcal and pitcher Adam Wainwright -- who missed the season with an elbow injury -- also were absent.
Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., president Bill DeWitt III and general manager John Mozeliak stood directly behind Obama and presented him and his wife with personalized World Series jersey's and World Series bats.
Obama called the historic Game 6 one of the best baseball games of all time.
"I will tell you guys that I had a bunch of early morning stuff the next day and you kept me up," Obama said. "It was painful waking up the next morning but what an incredible game.
"Five times the Cardinals found themselves trailing. Twice they were down to the last strike. Then Mr. Freese here hits the first walk-off homer of his entire career to send it to Game 7 and then the Cardinals put the Rangers away for good."
The President noted the three-homer game from Pujols in Game 3 and the clutch pitching performances from Carpenter as keys to the Cardinals' Championship.
"Every one on this team follows the Cardinals way," Obama said. "They play all 27 outs. They never quit. They carry on the legacy of so many great Cardinals that have come before them."
With the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up charity event and Baseball Writer's Dinner completed this past weekend, Tuesday's trip served as the unofficial page turning point from the 2011 celebration to preparations for the 2012 season.
Pitchers and catchers report to the Cardinals' spring training complex in Jupiter, Fla., on February 18th.