This remains one of my favorite October moments: Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series at Shea Stadium in New York, with a rookie pitcher named Adam Wainwright staring down Mets slugger Carlos Beltran. It’s the bottom of the ninth, and catcher Yadier Molina had just hit a 2-run homer in the top half of the inning to break a 1-1 tie. The Cardinals were now one out away from a trip to the World Series.
But the bases were loaded and it was Beltran, known as a killer of Cardinals postseason dreams, looking menacing at the plate with two outs and two strikes.
You might remember that moment. It was a Thursday, well after 10 p.m. on a school night, but who was going to send the kids to bed? It was baseball, October baseball, and despite a pretty successful postseason run in the new century, the Cardinals hadn’t won it all since 1982. And then Wainwright threw that wicked curveball that froze Beltran, and the Cardinals were on their way to Detroit and a 5-game World Series win over the Tigers.
Wainwright and Molina. Molina and Wainwright. That night was a glimpse of what was to come in October postseasons for the next nine years, but who knew that back in 2006? Not me, and not a 9-year-old fourth grader.
“I remember it well,” said Jack, who’s now 22, out of college and living with mom and dad for just a few more months.
“Yadi leaped into Wainwright’s arms. And we didn’t have to ask to stay up for any of those games. It was just understood,” he said.
My apologies to his fourth-grade teachers, but it was October baseball.
And now here we are again, back in another postseason after what seems like a drought (although it’s only been four years). And the most famous battery in Cardinals history is still wearing the Birds on the Bat. Baseball has an uncanny way of making time stand still.
Meanwhile, I still have a YouTube clip of that 2006 moment bookmarked on my computer. It became my workplace happy place, a video that could put a smile on my face every single time. A few years later, it was replaced by a 2011 clip of David Freese hitting the most famous homer in Busch Stadium history. Most recently, I watch a bunch of NHL players in blue jumping onto the ice as an announcer counts down the seconds.
Some days, I want to watch all three.
Maybe there’ll be another moment this October. Either way, it’s fun to share another St. Louis sports experience with my 22-year-old son. Now, he not only gets up off the couch to get himself a beer; he brings me one, too.