On the first of April, 2012, I stood along the first base line at Roger Dean Stadium in a sea of Cardinals fans who had made the spring pilgrimage from all over the country to watch their beloved team in a pleasant, laid-back atmosphere. A World Series Championship graphic flashed across the outfield scoreboard and highlights from the 2011 postseason and World Series began rolling. As a supporter of underdogs, I had pulled for the Texas Rangers to win the Fall Classic five months prior to this moment; however, as I watched the highlights I realized that this franchise deserved its eleventh title more than anyone. The passion and pride of St. Louis players and fans was almost tangible as the unforgettable 2011 World Series was relived by those in the stadium.
After the Marlins, I am a fan of the Washington Nationals. So last Saturday morning, when I awoke to the news that the MLB’s best of 2012 had lost to the Wild-Card-inals, I was naturally disappointed. However, it did not take me long to realize that the Cardinals’ victory made sense. The Nationals are a young team without many players who have major playoff experience. The Nats had no business beating the Cardinals. Playoff atmosphere is vastly different than that of the regular season. Every pitch counts in the post season, players are locked in more than ever, and pitchers, especially experienced pitchers, become tougher to beat. The Nats took a commanding 6-0 lead early in Game 5, and I’m guessing that the young team assumed victory.
During the regular season, the Nats had an absurd winning percentage when scoring first, and probably never lost a game after going up by six. But the Nats’ players had never ground out postseason victories like the Cardinals had, as recently as eleven months prior. Every baseball fan knows the story of the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series Game 6. Twice, St. Louis was one strike away from losing, and twice they prevailed, to eventually win the game on a walk-off home run, later winning the series. It was just fitting that they come back to beat the Nationals, they simply knew how to win.
Looking back, I remember watching Busch Stadium bouncing on television as the Cardinals made that game six comeback. And now I remember standing along that first base line in Jupiter earlier this year, and I realize that again St. Louis deserves every bit of their success.
Cardinals fans, I believe, are the most charismatic and genuinely nicest people in all of baseball. They realize that there are 29 other capable teams in the league, and therefore do not despair in defeat, but rather rejoice all the more in victory.
Currently, the Cardinals are losing Game 6 of the 2012 NLCS to the Giants 5-0. This has been an evenly-matched series, and I am rooting for the Giants simply because of my affinity for underdogs–the Cardinals have 11 World Series titles and the Giants only have 6. However, unless the Nationals and Marlins were playing for the National League Title, I could not be happier with the teams vying for it. San Francisco and St. Louis are both dignified baseball establishments with great pride both for themselves and the age-old game of baseball.