10/29/11 1:55 AM ET
Thank you, Cards: St. Louis fans finally exhale
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
"These past two months are the best two months that I've ever witnessed in a baseball team's history," Rodgers said. "From 10 1/2 games back, to a strike left in the season -- not once, but twice -- you can't compare this to any other Cardinals championship.
"Based on game play, we weren't always the most disciplined, but on excitement and just drama, I can't compare it to anything I've ever seen. It's incomparable to anything. One strike away. One strike away. Hometown hero David Freese. It was meant to be."
They did it again in St. Louis, completing the mission of "11 in '11" and the fans pouring out onto Keiner Plaza and the surrounding streets to let out all that pent-up worry and tension. They are one step closer to the 27 titles of the Yankees, the only Major League Baseball franchise with more. Sure, that's a big deficit, but St. Louis feels like it's racking up championships after the 2006 title ended the franchise's longest gap between them.
Another parade comes next, another march along Market Street before the bitter cold arrives, and ask any of the happily branded "Best Fans In Baseball" how No. 11 compares, and they will tell you that this one had a place all its own. For starters, they still found it hard to believe they were even here. And it was kind of strange to feel so comfortable throughout most of the clincher.
Game 7 of the 107th World Series seemed a distant dream when Neftali Feliz was one strike away in Game 6 from closing the Rangers' first title, only to blow it when Freese, the Series MVP from nearby Lafayette High, tripled off the wall to force extras. Then it happened again in the 10th, when Lance Berkman survived the one-strike-away test, leading to Freese's walk-off homer in the 11th.
"That was my first time being at a winning World Series -- in 2006," said Neil Hustedde of Breese, Ill. "This one, I think, is much more exciting than the last one."
A fan named Thomas, a bit giddy out of his mind, reached over the rail to make sure a reporter wrote this down: "Cardinals fans are best fans in MLB, period."
Jaime Looney, 25, who moved from Springfield, Ill., to Newport Beach, Calif., after the last title, had two thick red stripes on each side of her face, and was hard pressed to leave Busch after the final out.
"It's just a dream come true to see it," she said. "I saw it in 2006, and it's amazing to see it again. My parents flew me out here for the game, and I got to go with my sister (Sarah, 22), which made it so great.
"I almost feel bad for the Rangers fans. They were in this position last year, and watching them, if I was on the other side, it would be hard to have that happen. My heart goes out to them. But I'm excited. After last night's game, which will go down in history, I'm happy and ecstatic that I could be here."
Max Corcoran is a freshman at the University of Missouri, from Chillicothe, Ohio, and he leaned over the third-base railing -- right about where Freese had leaned way over to make a remarkable catch in the fifth inning of Game 7. He said his mother had driven six hours from Ohio to pick him up at Mizzou and then they came here, the scene of confetti showers and true happiness.
"We watched Game 6 on campus, and everyone was outside cheering, yelling, 'Let's Go, Cards!' It was awesome, one of the sweetest things I ever saw, and a crazy scene there. I hear they are going crazy now. I'm ready for a parade. I'm not going back to campus yet."
Rodgers said he was texting back and forth with his cousin during Game 6, noting that she is from Dallas.
"She thought she pretty much had it in the bag last night," he said. "She was texting me and making fun. Look, the Rangers will be back in the playoffs next year, no doubt about it. They'll get better. But the Cardinals, you can't deny we are a team of destiny. They just don't ever give up.
"The wildest feeling was just knowing we had it in the bag in Game 7. As a Cardinals fan this postseason, I've never had that feeling, except for Game 3, when we had 16 runs. Other than that, it was always up and down, up and down, roller coaster. [Thursday] night, I was completely sad, dejected, and then all of a sudden Allen Craig hits a home run. You just had a feeling, the electricity was in the air."
Jon Pieper of Dallas City, Ill., 90 miles away, said he's seen two Cards titles now and called it "really, really the most awesome experience of my whole life. Actually it's the best, because it's Game 7."