10/28/06 2:15 AM ET
Eck yeah! Sparkplug wins MVP
Scrappy Eckstein caps brilliant Fall Classic with two more RBIs
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
At 5-foot-7, 165 pounds, Eckstein is the ultimate component part, the archetype of the team player. But the little shortstop stood tall on Friday night at Busch Stadium after the Cardinals defeated the Tigers, 4-2, to win the best-of-seven series in five games. It's his second championship, having been a member of the 2002 Angels that defeated the Giants in seven games.
"It's a great honor, but I feel like I was just trying to do what I usually do," Eckstein said. "I just got very fortunate. I found some holes. But this club is unbelievable. One of the main contributors was [catcher] Yadi Molina. Yadi did such a great job behind the plate controlling the pitchers, calling the games, and then coming up so big with his bat.
"I feel like he definitely could be sitting right here with me -- with the rest of the guys. Just stuff like that -- just the team coming together and playing within themselves and [me] trying to find a way to help the club win."
Eckstein became the fourth shortstop to win a World Series MVP, joining Bucky Dent of the Yankees (1978), Alan Trammell of the Tigers (1984) and Derek Jeter of the Yankees (2000).
Despite opening 0-for-10 in the series, Eckstein finished 8-for-12 and wound up hitting .364 (8-for-22), with three doubles, four runs batted in and three runs scored.
He was the offensive catalyst of the last two games. In the Cards' 5-4 win in Game 4, Eckstein had all three of his doubles and drove in the winning run with two outs in the eighth inning when his drive to left-center ticked off the glove of a lunging Craig Monroe.
In the Game 5 closer, Eckstein drove in the first run with an infield single, the third run with a grounder to short, and scored the final run after another infield single.
He was on base six times in his final nine plate appearances in the last two games.
"Whenever David is playing, there is absolutely no doubt that our club responds to how hard he plays and how committed he is to doing whatever the team needs," said Tony La Russa, who became only the second manager in baseball history to win the World Series in both leagues. "I mean, he is a wonderful leader on and off the field, and not just quietly, but he can also be very vocal. And believe me, he's more than just guts, he's a very good player."
Two titles in five years in two different cities and leagues substantiates that. And both times, Eckstein has been able to celebrate on his home turf.
As the postgame activities headed from the field into the clubhouse on Friday night, Scott Spiezio, Eckstein's teammate on the title teams both in St. Louis and Anaheim, interrupted another interview session and held out a half-empty bottle of tequila.
"He doesn't drink," Spiezio said. "It's the second time in the history of the world. It's tradition. He had to do it in Anaheim, too."
Obligingly, Eckstein took a long, uncomfortable swig and asked friends standing near him for a glass of water. It was that kind of day.
"It's the best feeling in the game, having the opportunity to win back in 2002, when no one predicted us to win and we got on an unbelievable roll," Eckstein said. "And coming here [in 2005], it's been pretty much the same type of thing the way it worked out.
"No one believed in our club, but we just believed in ourselves and went out and took one day at a time. We didn't dwell on the past and we weren't looking towards the future. We stayed in the moment. By doing just that, there's a lot of similarities between the two clubs. And it's just been unbelievable to be able to do it in both places."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.