When the St. Louis Cardinals loaned their 2011 World Series trophy to their Double-A affiliate in Springfield, Mo., for the weekend, they had no idea they were putting it in harms way.
But for a brief second Saturday afternoon, flashbacks of Alabama’s BCS Championship crystal shattering on the floor and a series of other famous trophy mishaps couldn’t help but creep into the minds of those at Hammons Field.
The trophy was on display for fans to see and take pictures with during the Springfield Cardinals’ game against the Tulsa Drillers.
During the fourth inning, Springfield general manager Matt Gifford held the trophy while standing in the Cardinals bullpen for an interview with local affiliate KY3, which was broadcasting the game live.
Though several hundred feet from home plate, the TV crew joked with Gifford about diving out of the way should a line drive come his way. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Cardinals top hitting prospect Oscar Taveras smoked a one-hopper down the right-field line, forcing Gifford to quickly duck to the ground to narrowly keep the prized trophy from getting drilled by the screaming liner.
“We all started joking about what if he hits a line drive towards us and the next thing you know, he just absolutely turned on one like no other,” Gifford told FOXSportsMidwest.com. “I had to practice my five D’s from dodge ball. It was just a screamer and I ducked and luckily I had a good grip on the trophy.
“Then I came back up and said, ‘Wow, that was close,’ and held it up and got a great ovation from the fans and then quickly scampered back inside.”
Gifford held the trophy high to show fans it was safe as members of the bullpen sitting nearby and fans down the right-field line cheered loudly.
“I can’t believe how many calls I’ve gotten on this from people out of town,” Gifford said. “The power of social media I guess, but I think it would have been worse had it hit the flags or hit the trophy or me, but I’m glad the trophy is safe.
“Honestly I’m kind of glad we did talk about it ahead of time because when you’re in the bullpen that far off, you’re not really worried about a foul ball that far away but he hit a rocket right at us. The bullpen guys got a kick out of it, that’s for sure.”
The trophy was taken all over town, from hospitals to schools and even churches, so folks could share in the Cardinals’ 11th World Series title. It’s expected to return to St. Louis sometime Tuesday, at which point Gifford will likely let out a big sigh of relief.
“I’m going to go ahead and say the payroll deduct on that might have been for the next 30 years,” Gifford joked about potential repercussions had he not ducked fast enough. “I probably would have quickly called Bill DeWitt and said I’m really, really sorry. I’m just glad I reacted the way I did and everything worked out OK.”