A brief trip down Red Sox and Cardinals memory lane: where my heart lies

| Senior Sports Editor

On a shelf of my bedroom in West Los Angeles sits a Manny Ramirez World Series MVP bobblehead. Somewhere buried in my closet are a Boston Red Sox championship hat and marginally hideous T-shirt featuring the Boston Globe’s post-victory newspaper front page.

In the fifth grade, my New Englander teacher, whose New Englander wife was my second- and third-grade teacher, would bring a television set into our classroom to watch his beloved Sox in the 2003 American League Championship Series.

Grady Little and Aaron Boone checked off year 86 for Boston fans’ misery that series, but not before I had become acculturated into Red Sox Nation. When Boston closer Keith Foulke flipped St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria’s groundball to first base for the 2004 World Series’ final out, “we” had finally done it.

On the wall of my apartment here—and in my dorm rooms freshman and sophomore year—rests the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s front page the day after David Freese’s Game 6 heroics in the 2011 World Series, alongside my ticket to unquestionably the coolest sporting event/any event ever. In my less-buried St. Louis closet are a Cardinals World Series sweatshirt and a World Series T-shirt with depictions of players so cartoonish that serious guesswork is required for recognition.

The 2011 World Series took place two months into my freshman year of college, two months after the Cardinals found themselves 10 games out of a playoff spot and four months into the bankruptcy proceedings of the sports team always dearest to my heart, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The World Series was a shocking and thrilling revelation. My roommate and I hedged our bets that it would be an extended series, selecting Game 6 for our ticket purchase.

Here’s what I remember from that game: the image flashing through my mind of Texas Rangers players about to charge the mound in celebration after one more strike.

I remember watching the ball off Freese’s bat carry into right field, directly in front of our seats down the third base line. We knew he hit it hard, but it didn’t have enough. Everyone in the stadium gasped, but people do that for any ball in the air.

I remember Nelson Cruz slowing down, settling under it. The images of celebration and locker room bubbly were getting clearer. Then Cruz sped up. He had misplayed it.

Then there was screaming—lots of screaming. And hugging. I embraced a middle-aged woman behind us. I bear-hugged my three friends. For the first time since about third grade, my rally cap had actually worked.

In the tenth inning, Texas’ Josh Hamilton launched a two-run homer. Energy became silence and bewilderment. I even laughed at this game’s absurdity. Everyone just talks about the ninth inning on, but that game was nutty and awesome from the start. It consisted of multiple Little League errors, including a dropped popup from future hero Freese himself. Matt Holliday added another chapter to his postseason magical mystery tour in left field and exited the game injured after a sixth-inning baserunning blunder. Rangers first baseman Michael Young made two errors of his own.

In the bottom of the tenth inning, the Cardinals rallied again, thanks to Lance Berkman’s two-out single.

More screaming and more bear-hugging.

One of my friends was filming, and at some point this usually pessimistic fan shouted by camera to his mother about how much of a believer her boy had become. In the 11th inning, Freese and the Redbirds walked off.

That was all Thursday night, and the next day I trudged back to classes and the usual rhythms of Wash. U. life.

I watched Game 7 on planet Earth again—also known as the Liggett/Koenig basement. But late in the game, with the Cards nursing a sizable lead, my friends and I made an improptu call. We were taking the MetroLink to Busch Stadium for the end. We ran to our rooms for sweatshirts and hats and charged to the Big Bend station.

We made it downtown in time for the eighth inning, slithered our way to the front of the crowd and eagerly joined the chants of “Let’s go Cards!” Then, in the ninth inning, the gates came open—only that must not have been intentional because only one friend and I got in, and she received a healthy dosage of pepper spray to the face for her efforts. Regardless, we watched the final three outs of the World Series live.

Those two days constituted a formal acculturation into Cardinal Nation.

Yet for this World Series, featuring two teams that have, at different times, claimed beloved status in my heart, I am somehow almost totally apathetic. My Red Sox fandom has waned, and I can’t forgive the Cardinals so quickly for defeating my Dodgers in this year’s National League Championship Series.

Bill Simmons once wrote about how fans who root for more than one team in a sport are the worst people ever. This season, I agree. I can’t turn over my interest to St. Louis in what was supposed to be a Los Angeles year.

But all you others should forget what Simmons said and relish the opportunity.

Bostonians and bitter Angelenos aside, go Bird-s— crazy, Wash. U.

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