Posted on January 26, 2012 at 1:30 PM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
Before we take on the latest of the United Cardinal Blogger projects, it seems to me that we have to define the terms
of what we are looking for. What does the dictionary say about iconic, for instance?
Iconic (adj): of, pertaining to, characteristic of an icon.
Well, that doesn't do us much good. Maybe going a level deeper and defining icon might be.
Icon (n): a picture, image, or other representation.
Still not helpful. Any other definitions that might get us a little closer?
Icon (n): a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.
Closer, but still not something that makes a list like this cut and dried.
If you heard me ramble on about this topic on Wednesday's UCB Radio Hour
, you know that I consider this to be one snapshot moment, one picture in your mind that you think of instantly when you talk about the St. Louis Cardinals. So while the Chris Carpenter
game from this year's NLDS was amazing and a classic, it wouldn't necessarily be on my list because it's an entire game, not one signature event. You'll likely see what I mean as you read on.
After the jump, I have the five that are my selections. However, there are so many that you have to put down an honorable mentions list as well, in my mind. Some of those would include:
--Grover Cleveland Alexander striking out Tony Lazzeri
with the bases loaded in Game 7 of the 1926 World Series.
's record 17th strikeout in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series.
Now, let's take a look at the top five:
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I feel the need to point out, as I did on the radio show, that I believe there's a reason we hang on to some of the more recent moments in Cardinal history as iconic. Not only because what we see and experience hangs with us, but because video really hadn't developed until 30 or so years ago. We need to see the moments, whether live or not, to really experience them and burn them into our brains.
For example, many of these below I didn't see live. I'm a terrible playoff watcher, getting too nervous to watch, flipping channels, etc. However, they are moments that I've watched on replay many times and most of them I have lived through the experience, knowing what it was like on that day and the days around the moment. They stick with me and I think they are worthy moments to be considered on the all-time Cardinal highlight reel, as it were.
So, let's count them down.
Until recently, the local sports radio station around here often ran a Colin Cowherd promo where Cowherd proclaims, "By and large, sports doesn't give us what it promises." While I'm not a Cowherd fan, he's got a point.
We love to see the epic matchups, the game on the line with the best hitter up, the dramatic swings a game can take. How often do we get that, though? Especially in baseball. You can't stack the deck so that your big slugger comes up in the key situation. You never know who might be the hero or the goat.
When it happens, though, and when the slugger comes through, it's magic. Almost poetical
A moment like this would probably rate higher on the list if it weren't for the fact that the momentum provided by this epic blast died quickly, when Roy Oswalt
shut the Cards down in Game 6 and sent the Astros on to the World Series. Even Pujols's eventual departure from the team can't sully the moment, though. It's still one of the most defining moments of the last decade.
At the time, the summer of 1998 was an amazing time. Watching baseball history come alive was incredible. I still remember where I was when McGwire hit #60, #61, #62 and the last two of his at-the-time record 70 home run. It was so inspiring that I still carry around a bit of that today (in case you ever wondered just why Cardinal70 was my handle).
Granted, for some the moments were sullied by the subsequent revelations and admissions by McGwire that he used steroids during this time. There's no doubt that it casts a pall over those memories and sours what was an amazing time.
I think, though, you just have to appreciate what went on. For one thing, it seems more than just McGwire and Sosa were on steroids, yet no one else reached those heights (until Barry Bonds
came along, of course). Did it help them? Probably. Can we determine by how much? Not really.
It was magical in 1998. I don't think we have to let some ugly realities take too much away from what we witnessed that season.
#3: David Freese keeps Cardinals alive, WS Game 6, October 27, 2011
We always tend to give more emphasis to what we just saw. That was the greatest play ever, that was the most outstanding glovework I've ever seen. Stuff like that. What's recent sticks in our minds and we always want to say we were there or we were watching on the "best ever" moment.
With that said, I don't think there's any way Freese's heroics won't be part of highlight reels for both the Cardinals and for the World Series for a long, long time to come. Part of the joy and beauty of baseball is that, as Yogi Berra
said, it ain't over 'til it's over. If Game 6 had been a basketball game or a football game, the Rangers would have sat on the ball, delayed as much as they could, and have run out the clock to become champions.
You can't do that in baseball. You have to get three outs. As long as there's a strike remaining, the other team has a chance.
Freese's 11th-inning home run will likely be the moment we see over and over again, and with good reason. The home run won the ball game and walkoff shots always get a lot of attention, especially with his now-famous helmet-between-the-legs toss. It could easily be on this list instead of or alongside my selection.
However, I'm going with his ninth-inning triple that tied the ballgame and saved St. Louis for another few innings. That was the essence of baseball--two outs in the ninth, two strikes on the batter, and he is still able to get the tying runs in and give the team new life. It's an amazing testament to just how great this game really is.
#2: Adam Wainwright strikes out Carlos Beltran, NLCS Game 7, October 19, 2006
This had to be one of the best, most dramatic games the Cardinals have ever played. Scott Rolen
, robbed of a certain home run by Endy Chavez
. Yadier Molina
untying the game in the ninth with a blast, coming off of a season where he hit only .216. This game had it all.
You know what I said above? That stuff about baseball being great and you can't run out the clock? That's all well and good when you are trailing and can come back. It's ridiculously nervewracking when you are ahead.
For those of you that have become fans since then, you have to realize that we didn't really know what we had with Wainwright. He wasn't the super-stud, trust-him-with-your-life guy that we think about today. All we knew then was that the kid had pitched pretty well in relief down the stretch. He had all of three saves before the postseason started.
We'd all seen what Jason Isringhausen
had done that season, though. Putting runners on. Blowing saves. We'd been conditioned to think that the ninth was no piece of cake--something we saw again with Ryan Franklin
So when Wainwright wound up loading the bases to bring up noted Cardinal killer Beltran, there were a lot of people likely remembering the previous problems in the ninth. It seemed like everything was going to go the Mets way, but Waino got up 0-2. Then, in his words:
"I was going to throw the best curveball of my life. If he hits it, I'll tip my cap to him. If he doesn't, we're going to the World Series."
He didn't hit it.
#1: Ozzie Smith makes St. Louis "Go Crazy", NLCS Game 5, October 14, 1985.
Angela, who had the same number one on her list
, posits that it wasn't the home run that made this moment iconic, it was the call by legendary broadcaster Jack Buck. She has a point, because you never hear this home run talked about or played without having Buck's radio call going along with it. (Though, if you watch the TV broadcast on the DVD
, Vin Scully doesn't do that badly either.)
Any time you can bring together two legends of Cardinal history, you know you have something special. There's no doubt that Ozzie was well-loved in St. Louis, but more for his outstanding fielding and his showy backflip. Ozzie didn't hit home runs. So when he did, they counted and none counted more than this one.
Jack Buck brought class and history to just about every call, but this one might be the one he is most remembered for. We still play it every week to kick off the UCB Radio Hour and it never gets tiresome to hear.
It's interesting to note that this wasn't a series-saving home run. The Cards could have lost Game 5 and won the next two in Los Angeles, though that would have been a tall task. You could make the argument that the home run by Jack Clark
in the next game was more impactful than this one.
However, when you mix Buck and Ozzie, something transcends the moment. It's a magical time when you have no choice but to.....
I'm sure that your list differs from mine, so let me know how you stand in the comments. Make sure to check out the other UCB lists as well!