Sometimes in life, sports lift you up when it is most needed. They circulate through our lives like blood flows through our bodies. They drive us mad, make us sad, and at the end of the day, remind us of the joy we've had and will have tomorrow.
Five years ago, David Freese shook St. Louis with a pair of unforgettable moments in St. Louis Cardinals history. He also helped lift my family up in a dark time.
Weeks before his big night, my son Vinny went into the hospital for a heart condition. He would leave before the World Series began, but my wife and I were just settling into a new regimen when Game 6 rolled around.
It's one thing to plan around a new job or shift in the life of a house. When you are balancing around a new kid and a new medicine that will keep the kid alive and well, the effect is great. Let's just say the Buffa household needed a little baseball that night. Some good baseball.
The hometown kid didn't just deliver a big hit. He picked up the city of St. Louis and gave them a moment to remember. It was a moment for their kids and the kids of those kids to spread for decades to come. Down to their final strike and pitch, Freese launched the ball over Nelson Cruz's head in right field for a two-run, game-tying triple. Sometimes, I wonder if Cruz was a better defensive outfielder if this conversation would still be taking place. Nevertheless, Freese wasn't done yet.
When he hit the triple, I didn't move from my couch. I just sat there, sunk my head, and smiled for a few seconds. My son was sleeping in the other room and I didn't want to wake him. It was a quiet celebration for a diehard fan and budding writer. There were stories to tell and the night wasn't over, but all I could do was sit still and wonder what would happen next.
Jason Motte didn't let the good times last too long when he delivered a game-changing home run to Josh Hamilton to give Texas the lead again. That only allowed Lance Berkman to come up huge with a game tying single and for Freese to deliver another dose of unforgettable.
While the camera showed Freese walking to the plate before his home run, he may as well have been walking on water. With his hand raised high rounding first base, Freese saved the Cardinals season. That's the power of playoff baseball. One swing, or two swings, can change the course of an entire series and game. Pitching matters, but home runs shift the box score in an instant.
When he hit that majestic home run, I rose to my feet. I couldn't help it this time. Rarely do you see a player create two memorable moments inside an hour of a World Series game, but Freese pulled it off. The extra icing on the cake — that he was from the area — sprinkled awesome atop the trail of legends.
Photo flashback: Game 6 of the 2011 World Series
My son got better and healthier. The Cards partied outside Busch after a win the next night. Freese produced a solid 2012 season, but eventually departed after the 2013 season. He could never match the expectations set on his shoulders that fateful night in October five years ago.
Some may say he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates because that was the best offer out there. I'll say he wanted to go to a place where he could create a new legend and not live up to the old one.
No matter what Freese does, the fact of the matter is he will never reach the high of Oct. 27, 2011. And who cares? Who could possibly recreate that moment? With no offense to Kyle Schwarber's lovely line drive singles in Game 2 this week, Freese's moment should soak up love for another few decades. Possibly forever.
He was an imperfect yet underrated baseball player who became a legend one night in St. Louis. He picked up a city with his bat. He picked up my family with his heroics.
That will never go away. The Cardinals may not be playing right now, but fans will always have memories to fall back on.