Judge Ryan Keefer wonders why so many baseball teams are named after birds (and Orioles), and so many football teams are named after nomadic stereotypes.
"For the first time since 1982, St. Louis has a World Series winner!"
The story of the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals does somewhat mirror the story of the 2005 Chicago White Sox championship team, in terms of them almost blowing a chance to get into the playoffs with a prolonged losing streak, before regaining their footing and winning the World Series.
But that's where the parallels end. Manager Tony LaRussa is hardly a newcomer to the position, having managed for almost a quarter century at the highest of levels. His brain and managerial decisions were the focus of a couple of different books, George Will's "Men at Work" and Buzz Bissinger's "Three Nights in August." He is third on the all-time list of victories as a manager, the second to win World Series in both the American and National Leagues and is the first to have won multiple division titles in both leagues. Yet a large swath of World Series successes always seemed elusive. While manager of the Oakland A's and the famous "Bash Brothers" of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, the team went to the World Series three times, yet won only once, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kirk Gibson one time, and the Cincinnati Reds another.
When LaRussa came to the Cardinals in 1996, he remained unable to win the Series in the National League, frequently losing to teams like the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros. And when he did get to the World Series in 2004, he was up against the Boston Red Sox, who were fresh from a miraculous come-from-behind win over the New York Yankees and looking at trying to snap an eight decade long curse of postseason failure, so momentum and fate overtook the Cardinals in four straight games.
2006 started off as one of change for the Cardinals. They were opening the season in a new stadium, but (refreshingly) retaining the Busch Stadium name. The flagship radio station had changed—the first in over 50 years. And they started September with a seven game lead over their closest opponent. Then the pitching slump started and the Cards lost seven straight, reducing their lead to a half game. However, the Cards hung on and won the Division, and breezed through the San Diego Padres before facing the New York Mets. The League Championship series against the Mets proved to be one full of anxiety, as the Cardinals led by three games to two in the best of seven series, before losing Game Six and playing in New York for the dreaded Game Seven. Game Seven lived up to the hype, as a 1-1 game stayed that way for six innings, including a dramatic catch by Mets outfielder Endy Chavez that saved a run. However the Cardinals' Yadier Molina hit a two-run homer in the ninth, and the Cardinals held on to win the series, even as the Mets loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth. Then it was on to play the Detroit Tigers, who were managed by another well-respected name in Jim Leyland (who won a Series with the Florida Marlins), and had helped construct a rapid turnaround from the franchise, who were two years removed from losing over 100 of 162 games played.
Game One resulted in an easy romp by the Cardinals, buoyed by separate three-run rallies in the third and sixth innings (and eight strong innings of four-hit pitching by Anthony Reyes) to win 7-2. Game Two provided what became the only real drama in the series, as Detroit pitcher Kenny Rogers limited the Cardinals to two hits over eight innings, but the talk of the game was the substance on Rogers' pitching hand that was spotted by television cameras in the first inning and miraculously disappeared in subsequent innings (a baseball no-no), not the Tigers' 3-1 win that evened up the Series at one game apiece. The Cardinals rebounded after that, winning Game Three 5-0 behind eight shutout innings by Cardinals' pitcher Chris Carpenter, and Game Four 5-4, receiving clutch hitting by Cards' shortstop David Eckstein. The eventual decisive Game Five was a little bit of a yawner, as the game-winning run was the result of a groundball that was an out. The Cards' Jeff Weaver provided eight innings of strong pitching that kept the Tigers shut out yet again, and the Cards had another title, defeating the Tigers 4-2 and winning the Series in four of five games.
As is the case with the other World Series sets, A&E has included each of the games in this deluxe boxed set, along with copies of the Game Five and Seven wins against the Mets in the NLCS. All are inclusive of their original broadcast format, video and audio, which is great because they're in their high def format. And like the other sets, there's a bonus disc that serves as a recap of the Cards' season, and includes interviews with the key players of the team, the trophy presentations and in a nod to history, a quick peek at the Cards' World Series win from 1982.
The bottom line is that for those who are fans of the Cardinals, you're going to enjoy reliving this, over and over and over again. It's a series that, when I'm reminded of others that have been put out by A&E, might not be the best in the world, but who cares about completeness when all you mainly want to watch is the victories, right? So buy it if you or someone you know likes the St. Louis baseball franchise.
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