Long ago, I learned anything in sports is possible. How else can you explain Appalachian State beating Michigan or George Mason making it to the Final Four?
But the St. Louis Cardinals improbable run to the Fall Classic is something not even a lifelong fan, like myself, could have imagined.
The Cardinals weren’t supposed to be in the World Series. Not after losing ace pitcher Adam Wainwright for the season. Not after putting 17 players on the disabled list during the regular season.
On Aug. 24th, the Cardinals had just been swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Busch Stadium to fall to a record of 67-63, 10.5 games behind the Wild Card-leading Atlanta Braves. At that point, the Cardinals had gone 29-37 since June 10th.
July acquisitions to bolster the bullpen, rotation and shortstop position had all but failed.
The Redbirds had proven to be consistently inconsistent and a season that had begun with so much promise was all but over.
After the home debacle against the Dodgers, veteran starting pitcher Chris Carpenter called a players-only meeting.
“We weren’t going to lay down,” Carpenter said. “We had too much pride for that. We weren’t going to embarrass ourselves, this franchise, or our fans.”
Then, when nearly all hope was lost, something amazing happened. The Cardinals started to win. And win. And win. And win.
The team gelled. The midseason acquisitions began to fill important roles and the powerful Cardinals lineup began to hit.
The improbable was quickly becoming reality.
In the first week of September, St. Louis took two of three from the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers. After the series, Milwaukee center fielder Nyjer Morgan tweeted asking how the “crying” birds would enjoy watching the Brewers in the playoffs.
But the Cardinals kept answering the critics with win after win. By the last series of the season, the team trailed the Braves by just one game in the Wild Card.
And on the final day of the season, the Cardinals won and the Braves lost to send the Redbirds back to the playoffs.
Through all the winning, St. Louis developed a mantra. The team’s goal was to win the last game of every series and have a “happy flight” to the next city.
The chemistry was undeniable. The players were having fun and winning while doing it.
But standing in the way in the NL Division Series was baseball’s best team, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies had won 102 games and boasted the best rotation in baseball. They would blow by the underdog Cardinals with relative ease.
After splitting the first four games of the series, the teams returned to Philadelphia for a decisive Game 5. On the mound for the Phillies was the best pitcher in baseball, Roy Halladay. For St. Louis it was Carpenter.
Nine innings and no runs later, the Redbirds had won 1-0 and were destined for the NL Championship Series against the Brewers.
The Cardinals took a season of frustrations out on Milwaukee scoring 43 runs in six games to advance to the World Series to face the Texas Rangers.
No matter what happens against the Rangers, the Redbirds have given fans a season to remember and a run that will not be soon forgotten.
Texas’ potent lineup and strong pitching could give the Cardinals trouble. But if we’ve learned anything the last two months it’s unwise to bet against the Redbirds.
Hey Nyjer Morgan, how’s watching the Cardinals in the World Series?