In Major League Baseball (MLB), the All-Star game determines who will have home field advantage during the World Series.
During this year’s All-Star Game, CJ Wilson of the Texas Rangers was pitching to Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers, when Fielder hit what became the game-winning homerun, thus resulting in the National League being awarded the home field advantage.
The Saint Louis Cardinals were 10.5 games back from a playoff appearance in August, and remained three games back with five days left in the regular season. In order to make the playoffs, the Cardinals had to sweep their archrivals, the Chicago Cubs, and they were dependent on the Philadelphia Phillies to sweep the Atlanta Braves. Had either the Cardinals or Phillies lost a single game of their final series, the Braves would have automatically advanced and the Cardinals’ season would have been over.
With both sweeps recorded in the history books, the Cardinals were therefore awarded the FINAL wildcard spot in the National League, and faced the Phillies first in the National League Division Series. Everyone predicted a Phillies sweep, but the Cardinals managed to force a major upset by defeating them 3-2 in the best of five series. In the next round, and still playing as the away team, the Cardinals faced the Milwaukee Brewers in a best of seven series that they won 4-2. If by some miracle, the St. Louis Cardinals survived two series that they were never projected to win. In fact, back in August, Nyjer Morgan (of the Milwaukee Brewers) made a crude comment via Twitter that the Cardinals could expect to enjoy the play-by-play action of the MLB playoffs from their living rooms. He had no idea that the Cardinals would come back to wrench away his own World Series hopes.
Advancing to the World Series with home field advantage, the Cardinals faced their greatest challenge yet- The Texas Rangers. Having appeared in the World Series last year, and having come up short, the talented Rangers were determined to clinch their first-ever World Series win. Both teams struggled with pitching issues and fielding errors, but the Cardinals simply wouldn’t say die. After opening the series with a win at home, the Cardinals lost their second home game to tie the series 1-1. They headed to Texas and had a decisive win in Game Three with Albert Pujols hitting three historic homeruns to contribute to the eventual 16-7 win. Then the Cardinals lost the next two games in Texas to trail in the series 3-2.
Back in St. Louis, the sixth game of the series was delayed due to rain, giving the Cardinals’ best pitcher another day to rest, opening the door of opportunity for Chris Carpenter to be capable of pitching Game Seven, should they manage to win Game Six.
Game Six was one of the most exciting games in MLB history. With the Rangers playing dominantly during the first eight innings, and the Cardinals committing several unforced errors, many thought that the series was only three outs from ending in a Rangers win. Yet, the Cardinals would not go quietly. With an impressive swing of the bat, David Freese (a native of St. Louis) hit a two run triple to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Rangers responded in extra innings scoring two more runs in the top of the 10th. The Cardinals again battled back to tie. And after holding the Rangers in the top of the 11th, David Freese sat with a full count looking at pitch that ended up making history. With a swing for the record books, Freese launched that ball over the outfield wall to score a walk-off homerun and clinch the win for the Cardinals. They tied the series and forced Game Seven.
Just this past Friday night, the St. Louis Cardinals took the field in their home stadium against a team that had battled for a well-deserved first World Series win, and they defied all odds by clinching the 11th World Series Championship in franchise history.
Monday Morning Perspective
“In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts.” –Peter McWilliams
“Continuous, unflagging effort, persistence and determination will win. Let not the man be discouraged who has these.” –James Whitcomb Riley
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” –Colin Powell
You can say that the Cardinals got lucky- and you’d be right. Things completely outside their control- like the Fielder home run in the All-Star Game and the Phillies sweep of the Braves- all contributed to their ability to appear and have home field advantage in the World Series. But in order to be accurate, you can’t say that our newest World Series Champs must credit their win to luck. These players fought for their win- struggled to pick themselves up after a rough season- and battled back time and time again to fight another day. In Game Six alone, even Rangers fans had to tip their hats to the sheer amount of heart displayed by the Cardinals to keep their World Series dreams alive.
This year, the Cardinals were tested and tried, and still, the Red Birds and their fans never quit believing that they could win it all. When the door of opportunity opened to them, they stood ready to accept the challenge. And with no small amount of sweat and determination and a healthy dose of respect for the Texas Rangers, the 2011 Cardinals are World Champs.
Many times in life people want to attribute greatness to luck. We should never forget that hard work and determination create a kind of luck you can’t even wish for. In the words of another great athlete, Golfer Gary Player, “The more I practice, the luckier I get!”
May we never forget that practice may not always make perfect, but it can definitely earn us some much-needed luck. And even though famous baseball player, Lefty Gomez said, “I’d rather be lucky than good”, I tend to disagree with him.
I’d rather be both- just like the St. Louis Cardinals.
Have a wonderful week!
© Crystal Dyer 2011. All rights reserved.