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New beginning for endings?10/11/2004 3:41 AM ET
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- One of the lasting images of the National League Division Series between the Cardinals and Dodgers may be something that happened after St. Louis clinched Sunday night at Dodger Stadium.
The two clubs remained on the field and congratulated each other, a premeditated display of sportsmanship that was a throwback to the days of youth baseball games. It was Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker's idea, and longtime observers said it was a "first" that they hope will become a Major League tradition.
"You'll have to talk to the Yankees and Red Sox about that," Cardinals broadcaster and former player Mike Shannon said with a chuckle, "but it's a phenomenal example for our nation's youth. It would be wonderful if the other two storied franchises [in the American League Championship Series] would do the same thing.
"It's the first time I've ever seen it and Larry Walker was responsible for it. He's a big hockey fan and he said that's how it's done there, where they beat the dickens out of each other. Larry went to Tony [Cards manager La Russa] with the idea, and Tony met with [Dodgers manager Jim] Tracy before the series about the possibility. In the ninth inning, Tony looked over to Tracy in their dugout, and they acknowledged each other that it was OK. It was just a wonderful, wonderful thing."
Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, for example, was seen embracing fellow NL All-Star Albert Pujols -- who had just hit the big three-run homer that eliminated Los Angeles. Typically an eliminated team sits in the dugout and just watches the other team celebrate -- or heads right into the clubhouse to face the long winter.
"I told him he's one of the best hitters in the game," Gagne said of Pujols. "I show him all my respect, and told him to go beat everybody else. The best team beat us and now they've got to go win the World Series. Sportsmanship. I mean, we know they're the best team in baseball, so they beat us this year and we're going to learn from that and go on, go back next year and beat them.
"Hockey's not playing right now, so it was good, give the fans a little bit of hockey stuff. To show them our respect -- they went out there and played hard and they beat us. There's nothing else we can say. Just congratulate them, tell them to go out there and win the World Series, because they're the best team.
"Everyone knew to do it, to get up there. We got beat. That's the way we do it. We show our respect."
Walker certainly had a fresh perspective, playing in his first postseason series since 1995 with Colorado. He is from Canada and said his hockey roots there gave him this idea.
"Being a hockey fan, you watch teams in the playoffs beat the daylights out of each other and then they shake hands when it's all over," Walker said. "I brought it up to Tony the last time we played here in the regular season and I said, 'Take it or leave it.'"
La Russa decided to take it.
"I went, 'Whoa, I think that's a really good idea,'" La Russa said. "And I said, depending on who we play. At the time it looked like it might be L.A. I said, 'If it's L.A., Jim Tracy and his coaches know our coaching staff. I'll mention it to him during the workouts before the first game. And yeah, that would be a really good gesture.'
"So we didn't mention it anymore, and with two outs, I motioned, I got his attention and I said, 'Do you want to do it?' And he said, 'Yeah.' I tell you what, I don't know if anyone else is gonna do it. But just speaking personally, I looked around and I had a lot of guys on that club I wanted to shake hands with, some guys I had never met. And I really appreciated the opportunity."
Tracy confirmed that the congratulations was something he and La Russa had discussed before the series started.
"I think it was just a very professional show of class between two very classy organizations," Tracy said. "It's something that you see a lot of, especially in the NHL, after you go through a series where you beat up on one another the way they do. To play this series the way it was played, with the intensity with which it was played, I think it said a lot about two very classy organizations."
Dodgers third baseman Adrian Beltre said, "We decided to give them a handshake because they're great guys and a great team, and they probably deserve to go on and win the World Series."
Rick Monday, a Dodgers' broadcaster and former outfielder, said it was the first time he had seen such a display after a Major League game and added, "That's what baseball needs."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.