Last night was one of the most exhilarating and exciting nights of baseball that I can remember during my time as a fan of 30 something years. It is unprecendented to have so many games factored into the playoff picture on the final day of the regular season. Up for grabs were the National League and American League wildcard spots. It would take eight teams and four games to determine the final two wildcard spots.
The greatest part of it all was that the St. Louis Cardinals were right in the middle of things as they were trying to complete one of the most improbable comebacks in baseball history and earn the NL wildcard berth. The Cardinals trailed the Atlanta Braves by 8 ½ games at the start of September. The lead was actually 10 ½ games in late August when no one was really thinking wildcard.
With one game separating Atlanta from St. Louis in the wildcard race the Cardinals’ entered the series against the Astros - the majors worst team. St. Louis was thinking sweep figuring the Braves would put up a fight at home in their final three games against the majors best, Phillies. The Cardinals would lose the first game against Houston 5-4 in extra innings. If this were a Hollywood movie written by St. Louis fans things were not going according to script. However, they would lose no ground in the race as the Phillies defeated Atlanta 4-2 to keep the Cards three games back.
In a comeback made for Hollywood the Cards would suddenly flip the script. In game two they fell behind 5-0 and then led by LF Allen Craig unleashed an offensive attack on the Astros pounding them 13-6. The Phillies defeated the Braves 7-1 in the second game of that series.
The Cardinals and Braves were tied with identical records of 89-72 coming into the final game of the regular season. Momentum was clearly with the Cardinals who were beaming with confidence sending their ace on the mound. Final game of the regular season, Chris Carpenter pitching and a chance to at least force a one game playoff in St. Louis. The Braves were still reeling from a horrible month in which they had won only 9 of 26 games and trying to avoid a historic collapse to their season. The Redbirds did their part to complete the first half of the comeback as they defeated the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park 8-0 on ace Chris Carpenter’s complete game 2 hit shutout.
The comeback of course would not be complete without an Atlanta Braves loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves had their ace Tim Hudson on the mound and led the Phillies for most of their game in Atlanta but allowed Philadelphia to tie the game at 4 in the top of the ninth inning and force overtime. The Phillies would score again in the top of the 13 to defeat the Braves in an extra inning thriller and complete a monumental comeback for the Cardinals.
St. Louis’ 8 ½ game deficit is the largest ever overcome by any NL team and the second largest in baseball. The deficit is trumped only by the 9 games the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays faced against the Boston Red Sox in September of this year. Boston lost last night to the Baltimore Orioles while the Rays erased a 7-0 deficit to defeat the Yankees 8-7 and complete a historic comeback of their own to earn the AL wildcard berth.
Ironically the Braves’ collapse is reminiscent of the 1964 Phillies who held a similar lead over none other than the St. Louis Cardinals. That ‘64 Cardinals club led by pitcher Bob Gibson and
newcomer Lou Brock erased an 8 ½ Philadelphia lead to win the NL pennant and went on to win the World Series that year against the New York Yankees.
I’m not predicting that the 2011 Redbirds will accomplish what the 1964 team accomplished. However, if you’ve read some of my recent articles regarding the Cardinals I’ve made several references and comparisons between the ‘64 team and the current one. And now that this team has equaled the heroics of the ‘64 club to this point I have no reason to believe that they will not finish the job. If nothing else the 2011 Cardinals have quieted the critics and even made believers out of many of them. So I admonish even the naysayers to jump on the bandwagon and celebrate with the rest of Cardinals Nation in what has been a great season so far.
And in the words of one of the greatest broadcasters of the game I encourage you to “Go crazy folks…go crazy!!!”
About the Author
Written by Chaz Ingram
During his lengthy career Chaz has worked in various areas of the media. As an actor he has appeared on such shows as "Less Than Perfect" "CSI New York" and "Outlaw". He's performed on stage in such plays as "West Side Story", "The Wiz" "Oliver" and "Sugar". He has also landed roles in several commercials most notably as a reporter for "NFL Legends" and as a model for Ameriquest Mortgage. Chaz's extensive background in the broadcast industry has given him invaluable experience in several areas of the business. His work as an assignment desk intern as well as in the news and sports departments at the local ABC and NBC TV stations in St. Louis, MO has given him experence on various levels of news production. Chaz is a former host of of his own radio show "The Spirit of Chaz", where he was also writer and producer at KXEN in St. Louis. As a Marketing Consultant at KSDK-TV (NBC) Chaz was a major contributor to the station's #1 position in overall sales in the St. Louis market. At KEZK radio he was awarded "rookie of the year" for his achievements in sales. The St. Louis Business Journal recognized Chaz as one of their "40 Under 40" awardees for his work in the community with youth. Additionally, St. Louis public Schools recognized him as "Role Model of the Year" in 1995 & 1996. He is the recipient of the 1989 edition of "Outstanding Young Men of America". Chaz currently resides in Los Angeles where he owns Nicolexis Inspirations a motivational and life coach company.