10/28/06 1:19 AM ET
Reserved DeWitt can't contain delight
Cards chairman of board proud of team's struggle to summit
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
The Cardinals were minutes removed from winning their first World Series in 24 years -- a 4-2 triumph over the Detroit Tigers in Game 5 -- and DeWitt, the club's chairman of the board and general partner, was right in the thick of the pandemonium. But he displayed his usual quiet demeanor, soaking in the atmosphere as the Cardinals got ready to soak each other with champagne.
"Light as a feather," a beaming DeWitt said, when asked how heavy that trophy felt in his arms.
DeWitt's ownership group purchased the franchise in 1996, and together with general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Tony La Russa, they have enjoyed fruitful times, considering the Cardinals have been to the postseason six times, and five in the last seven years.
But on Friday, DeWitt watched his team overcome the shortcomings of prior seasons that led to playoff losses. This time, his team was the world champion, and although he maintained his composure, he assured reporters, "I'm excited."
Describing his initial reaction when the final out was recorded, DeWitt said he jumped up and yelled with joy. Like the rest of the record sellout crowd at Busch, DeWitt sat on the edge of his seat as Adam Wainwright allowed two runners to reach base in the ninth before he struck out Brandon Inge for the final out.
Chuckling, DeWitt noted that it was only fitting that the Cardinals made things slightly uncomfortable before pulling it out in the end, much like they did at the end of the regular season and at times through the playoffs.
"Kind of like in New York in the NLCS," DeWitt said. "Every one of these games was close, and it came down to the last out. They had the tying run at first and the lead run at the plate. Anything could happen. Wainwright was nails, like he has been the whole postseason."
DeWitt, who along with Jocketty was criticized early in the season for not spending enough on personnel over the winter, had the satisfaction of watching a slew of also-rans contribute to this championship -- Ronnie Belliard, Preston Wilson, and of course, the hero of Game 5, Jeff Weaver.
"We made some good moves," DeWitt said. "They weren't necessarily the most expensive moves, but they paid off. Jeff Weaver, how good was he? He's been fantastic. We wouldn't be here without him.
"It was a big game for us tonight. We added some players, and they took us to the playoffs and all the way through. The additions really helped."
Having been around baseball for as long as he has, DeWitt knew better than to worry about the way the regular season ended once the Cardinals made it to the playoffs. Never mind that his club won only 83 games en route to the division championship. What mattered was getting there, and he liked the club's chances from the start of the postseason, in the Division Series versus the Padres.
But when the Cardinals went up, two games to one, in the World Series, DeWitt finally allowed himself to feel optimistic that St. Louis had a better-than-decent chance to win it all.
"That was the moment where I thought, 'Hey, this could be our year,'" DeWitt said. "I thought we really had an excellent shot. How big is this for St. Louis? It's great for us with the new stadium, and what a way to christen it."
After more than an hour celebration in the clubhouse, the Cardinals ran back out onto the field to party with the fans. DeWitt followed, trophy in tow.
"This is a great moment, it really is," he said. "It's tremendous for the franchise, our players deserved it. They played extremely well in the postseason, and they did what they had to at the end of the season to get into the postseason. Tony did a great job managing the team, made all the right moves, and here we are.
"It was great to come together in the postseason after having a tough final three weeks to the regular season. They were great. As soon as they clicked it was, 'Let's go to the playoffs and do our best.' They did their best."
And this time, their best was enough.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.