We get it. You've seen a lot of Cardinals games in person-but which ones stick around years or even a decade later?
With a few more spring type days being sprinkled into the closure of January, baseball is slowly starting to pop its head out of the ground. Ladies and gentlemen, it's getting close.
Now, most years I'll fire up a "Best Baseball Movies" post or something related to it, but this year, I want to look back at the moments where I witnessed something tremendous at Busch Stadium 2.0 or the old arch-lined stadium across the street.
I'm not talking about a walk-off victory in June or even the game against the Cincinnati Reds in September where a Yadier Molina double should have been ruled a ground-rule two bagger and instead won a game. Bizarre or ordinary shouldn't live in your choices, so let's get sappy here.
Having worked over 800 games on the old manual scoreboard at old Busch, I have seen quite a few wonderful games and finishes, so let's break into five of them that rank among the top.
5) Edgar Renteria's walk-off blast against the Chicago Cubs on July 28, 2002. I wrote about this last September, calling it my favorite live moment-and it may very well be. The Cubs were up 9-4 heading into the ninth inning, and the Cards simply said no for an hour. They wouldn't lose, and Renteria's three run blast punctuated the comeback. This victory felt good for days, and came nearly six weeks after the deaths of Darryl Kile and Jack Buck. Busch Stadium had seen plenty of darkness that summer; Renteria's home run brought the red back into the seats.
Bonus Coolness Tip: Jimmy Kleinschmidt and I were the only ones left scoring the game on the board. Everyone else went home, and ultimately missed out. Sometimes, staying to the end has benefits.
4) Darryl Kile's final start. June 18, 2002 against the Anaheim Angels. Kile would die four days later in a Chicago hotel room before a start at Wrigley, but the last start of his life pitched the Cardinals into first place and righted the ship on his own season. Kile was coming off a beatdown in Seattle where he didn't make it five innings and the Cards were shut out. Kile had made things right plenty of times since joining the Cards, and hurled 7.2 innings against the Angels, needing only 104 pitches to extinguish their bats.
Kile threw the baseball like a cowboy. It was a work of simplistic art. A simple hitch, leg lift, push, and release. He had no time to waste out there. It was such a quick game, and another example of life being unfair goodbyes. Kile was 33 years old.
3) Mark McGwire launches #70 on Sept. 27, 1998. I don't care about the steroids and what happened after the credits rolled on a remarkable career. If that makes me a flawed baseball fan and mind, so be it. I wouldn't trade McGwire's 1998 duel with Sammy Sosa for anything, much less a poetic high horse of moral justice. 62 had made Big Mac the stuff of legend in St. Louis, but he wasn't done.
"How much more can you give us, Big Mac?!!"-Joe Buck
Seeing him smash #70 into the standing room only area just above the left field wall was surreal; a real larger than life moment sneaking into a comic book styled story. The ball landed not too far from where #62 had rested, with a little more lift leaving it in a fan's hands instead of an employee. Buck had warned us it may be the last at bat of the season for Mac, and he was right. We savored it all day, night, and winter long. Nearly twenty years later, I still do. Come at me.
2) Matt Adams strikes down Clayton Kershaw on Oct. 7, 2014 in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. I had the perfect seat for Adams' old fashioned pull shot off the greatest pitcher in the modern game of baseball. Once Adams hit that ball, every soul around in the upper terrace behind the visitor dugout rose to their feet, but the entire stadium started shaking when it landed far off in right field. It was great because beating Kershaw in big games was becoming a routine for the Cardinals. It was great because the Dodgers starter had dominated the Cards up until that point. It was great because Adams jumped up and down as he rounded first base like a kid finding out there was no school on Monday. The former Cardinal will never experience another moment like that.
1) Jim Edmonds' walk-off blast against the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the 2004 National League Championship Series. Jeff Kent had just broken the hearts of Cardinals fans with a home run in Game 5, so it seemed fitting for Edmonds to respond with his own nightmove the next game. There were few sweeter lefthanded swings in Cardinal history than Edmonds' stroke. He liked to lift the ball into the visitors bullpen in left-center, but on Oct. 20, 2004, he smashed an 0-1 pitch in the 12th inning to right-center field.
It wasn't just the home run; Edmonds follow-through and bat drop were just as good. A stamp of vicious "look what I did" approval. It was a hard fought, relentless series that would stretch seven games (including an amazing Edmonds catch), and went back and forth. Edmonds hit 42 home runs that season, but his blast in October lives on over 13 years later. It was perfect.
Great moments in baseball history linger easily, like old friends driving by your house to wave, before quickly jetting off down the street. You won't get as close to them as you did that first time, but seeing them brings a smile to your face. These are five great moments. More than likely, my favorite. There are more. Matt Holliday's walk-off against the Cubs in 2009. Chris Carpenter's first dominant start at Busch as a Cardinal. Rick Ankiel's first electric pitching performance. Jose Jimenez outdueling Randy Johnson for a second time during an afternoon game.
This is my block of Cardinal history. What are your moments?