There were two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, David Freese was at the plate, Neftali Feliz on the mound, and the Cardinals trailed the Rangers by 2 runs. I was sitting in the kitchen on a wooden chair next to my mom, who was on pins and needles. I chewed on what was left of my fingernails, my heart was pumping out of my chest, and for some reason the passing thought ran through my head that we aren’t the Red Sox and this isn’t 1986 and there’s no possible way this could actually happen right now, right?
Then David Freese changed the rhythm of baseball history. For the first time.
I watched Feliz get the last out of the inning, then pulled myself lugubriously through my mom’s kitchen and out into the fresh air for a cigarette. The world had to slow down for a second. I slouched down, draping my arms around the seat I was in, and for the first and only time in my life I had to ask myself if that really, seriously, just happened.
A few minutes later, I heard a cheer from the kitchen. My mom yelled my name, and came running outside. I quickly perked up and gathered myself at attention.
“Josh Hamilton just hit a home run!” she said, ecstatically. I put out my Newport and scurried back to the television. The inning just ended. 9-7, good guys.
At the risk of retelling the entire thread, Lance Berkman tied the game at 9 and Freese won the game later on. You were there. You have your own story, vivid as it may be, or as hazy as you choose to remember. It happened.
Looking back on it now, I’m mad at myself for skipping out on Josh Hamilton’s home run, mostly. Sports have always brought out the child in me, and there was something about that Game 6 that killed off what remained of my boyish hope, and in that moment it was too much for me to bear. I haven’t made the mistake of abandoning my guys since then.
As we move into the weekend in St. Louis, a lot of old feelings and images have been running through my head. I remember little things about the 2012 season, and even less about the 2011 campaign, but the 2011 World Series has stayed engrained in my memory. It’s the type of stuff I’m going to have to tell my kids about some day, much like my dad told me stories about the Yankees when I was growing up. Game 6 was so iconic that the story has to be told, even if it’s locked away in the sports’ fan inside of you.
For me, returning to the site of such (relative) pain is cathartic, in a sense. It’s like seeing an old girlfriend after a long layoff, except it’s not just another bitch, it’s the girl who crushed your hopes and obliterated whatever was left of your heart. All the old feelings in your stomach hurt a lot worse than the reality of playing three regular season games.