Cardinals fans everywhere should be whistling ‘Luck Be A Lady’ tonight….by Brad Eastland, TSP

November 1, 2011
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     Everybody expects me to dissect Game Six of the recently-completed World Series, won by the St. Louis Cardinals 4 games to 3 over the Texas Rangers.   Everybody.   My family, my friends, my son, my dog….even the editor of this very newspaper is expecting it.   Can’t wait to read your dissection of a classic Game Six!” he emailed me within hours of its completion, or something like that.   I get why.   It was, indeed, the greatest baseball game ever played.   Period.   Nothing remotely like it has ever happened before in baseball history.   So naturally everyone is expecting me to take that epic game apart, piece by piece, and put it back together again.   Analyze it to death.   And then make some sort of sense out of it.   Put it into perspective.   Give it context, linkage, and relevance.   I get it.   Everybody’s expecting it.   Everybody.

If he can play through this, Mike Napoli can take having a World Series stolen from him.

If he can play through this, Mike Napoli can take having a World Series stolen from him.







     Well, forget it.

     No.   I’m not going to do it.   Every cockeyed sports scribe from St. Louis to Katmandu to Arlington is doing that, ‘has in fact already done that.   Not me.   I’d rather say a few words about Game Seven, a downright boring game compared to Game Six, but it featured a particle of the Human Condition which I always find fascinating, a villain in the grand sweep of the Human Experience with a tight grip on Sports and also with its fingerprints all over your life and everyone else’s.


     Yes, I said Luck.   Lady Luck if it’s good, Devil’s Luck if it’s bad.   Usually bad.   And Game Seven proved once again something I have always known; that Luck does play a huge role in Sports and life.   It’s unfair either way.   But it’s there.

     The Cardinals’ run to the title was pretty damn lucky long before they lucked out in Game Six and then again in Game Seven.   They were lucky to even make the playoffs.   They owe their ticket into the post-season tournament to the Braves and the Giants, who both collapsed down the stretch.   They were lucky to beat the Brewers and very lucky to beat the Phillies in the playoffs.   I’m not saying the Cards aren’t a good team and don’t have good players, they definitely are and they definitely do.   But they are also lucky.   Flagrantly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly lucky.

     In Game Six (and this is all the shrewd and incisive detail on that epic clash you are going to get out of me), they were VERY lucky.   They were down to their last strike in the 9th, one pitch away from going home.   Texas had their nasty-ass good closer, Neftali Feliz, on the mound, and David Freese was up, the Cardinals’ last chance, with the count 1 and 2 against him.   Again, Texas was one….lousy….pitch….away.   Lousy is right.   Lucky for St. Louis, Feliz threw a fastball (the wrong choice).   Lucky for St. Louis, the pitch wasn’t outside the strike zone a few inches.   If either of those things were the opposite, either a low breaking ball or a fastball too far outside to hit solidly, Freese would likely have struck out or popped up.   But he luckily got a hittable fastball, luckily he didn’t miss it to end the season (it’s easy to strike out on a 99-mile-an-hour fastball, even if it was the wrong pitch to throw in that particular situation, and he was lucky to have even hit it with the whole season on the line), and so he does hit the ball high and hard to right field.   And then the St. Louis Cardinals got really lucky when Texas right-fielder Nelson Cruz put forth perhaps the most puzzlingly bizarre lack of effort and urgency on a fielding play I have ever seen in my life.   Cruz has gotten NO heat in the press for his gaffe.   He will now get some from me.   What he did was drift back sort of casually on the ball, actually slow down and then hesitate for a moment, then speed up a little, while taking a poor angle, then pretend to jump about six pathetic inches off the ground, and then reach his glove up almost comically into the night to try (if “try” is even the right word for such utter lack of urgency or effort) to catch the ball while looking over his shoulder and cringing a little bit to avoid hitting the wall which was padded and which he wasn’t even that close to hitting.   In other words, he pussied out.   And with all that, he still only missed catching the ball by about ten inches.   Ten lousy inches!   Even dogging it like that, slowing down, hesitating twice, and acting like the soft, heavily padded right-field wall was a gigantic Doberman pinscher drooling with rabies, he almost had it.   It was one of the worst fielding plays (or rather non-fielding plays) this reporter has ever seen.   To be fair to Cruz, he is a young player.   He probably needed counseling on how to play that ball.   He might have put out more effort and showed more courage and jumped more like he actually meant it if one of the veteran players on the Rangers had come over and imparted to Cruz the following wisdom right before Freese came to the plate: “NELSON, IT’S TWO OUT IN THE BOTTOM OF THE 9TH INNING OF GAME SIX OF THE FREAKING WORLD SERIES AND IF HE HITS IT TO YOU AND YOU CATCH IT THE SERIES IS OVER AND WE WIN, SO MAKE DAMN SURE YOU PUT FORTH YOUR ABSOLUTE 100% MAXIMUM EFFORT TO CATCH THE DAMN BALL!!!”    I bet if someone had yelled that to him he would have tried harder.   But apparently no one did that.   Two runs scored on Freese’s gift triple to tie the score, and the Cards went on to win in the 11th inning of this epic baseball game which I am continuing to go into no further detail for you….

     Now to Game Seven.   A game where the Cardinals lucked out several more times and in several different, diverse, and very important ways.  

     The first way they lucked out was that there was a rainout earlier in the week, extending the Series a critical extra day, which allowed St. Louis to pitch exhausted ace Chris Carpenter in the season’s final game.   On short rest, to be sure, but enough rest that he could now start.   And he is easily the best and most battle-tested starting pitcher on either team, which gave St. Louis a vey lucky advantage they would not have had save for the elements.   Pure luck.  

     Then, in the 1st inning, bad luck struck Texas again.   In the only inning all night when they had Carpenter on the ropes, Texas lead-off man Ian Kinsler singled but then slipped while trying to steal 2nd base and wound up getting picked off as he tried to retreat meekly back to first.    It was an embarrassing, devastating blow to the Rangers’ chances, because they hammered Carpenter for the rest of the inning, getting a walk, two doubles, and scoring two runs.   But if Kinsler doesn’t slip, or just stays put and waits for the barrage that came later, Texas probably scores four or five runs in that 1st inning and that would probably have meant victory.   But St. Louis and Carpenter escaped, they scored two runs of their own in the bottom of the first (god, they are an annoying team) and the rugged, re-energized Carpenter gave up nothing the rest of the way.   In fact, Texas never scored again.

     But it was in the 5th inning when the Cardinals’ good luck reached a tipping point where it finally drove me to write this tortured column.

     In the 5th, St. Louis scored two runs without even getting a hit.   Three walks and two hit batsmen produced those two critical runs.   Annoying things like that happen in baseball, and by itself would not necessarily have been “lucky” or gotten me to mortgage several hours of my life thinking and writing about it.   But the way it happened was pure good luck for the Cardinals, and some purely nauseating bad luck for Texas.

     Here’s how it went down.   With one out and one on Texas reliever Scott Feldman has the count 0 and 2 to Albert Pujols.   He has him on the verge of a strikeout.   Pujols has looked bad on both pitches.   But the next pitch comes inside, Albert does a terrible job getting out of the way (perhaps on purpose), and the ball barely brushes his jersey.   Hit batter.   An 0-2 count wasted, and now there’s two men on.   That was bad enough.   But it was later in the inning when the mother of all lucky breaks occurred which let me and everyone in America who keeps track of such things know that this is simply the Cardinals’ year.   It’s two out, bases loaded, Cards’ catcher Yadier Molina at the plate.   It’s a full count, 3 and 2.   Here comes the key pitch of the whole season for both teams….and it’s a perfect pitch, just above the knees, and right on the outside corner!   Unbelievable!   It is the kind of pitch umpires love to see, the perfect “out” pitch!   Catcher Mike Napoli freezes as he catches it and thus deftly “frames” the pitch, so that the ump can see just how picture-perfect a pitch it is.   It is a thing of beauty.   Inning over, right?  

     Nope.   Something interceded which proved to be very good luck indeed for the St. Louis Cardinals.

     Human error.

     The ump called it a ball.

     I couldn’t believe it.   Feldman couldn’t believe it.   Napoli couldn’t believe it.  The announcers couldn’t believe it.

     Feldman, in fact, yelled at the ump and Napoli, who had totally dominated the 2011 World Series up to this point with his bat, glove, and arm, sagged disconsolately behind home plate like he’d just gotten a Dear John letter in the mail.   I myself yelled at the TV, and my dog got scared and ran under the bed.

     Yes, I was rooting for Texas in this series.   Not hard, just a little, what you might call casually.   But I am first and foremost a baseball fan.   For me, it took all the air out of the balloon and all the fun out of this game.   That pitch to Molina is a pitch which umpires always, always, ALWAYS call a strike.   Then, to make it worse, Channel 11 put up their “Foxtrax” strike-zone rectangle showing exactly where the pitch was, to show if it really was a ball or if it was in fact a strike.   You guessed it.   Foxtrax shows most of the ball comfortably in the strike zone.   Not just barely touching the edge of the strike zone, mind you, but rather puncturing the strike zone.   It wasn’t even that borderline a call.  

     It’s a pitch that is correctly called a strike virtually every….single….time….except this time.

     The resultant counterfeit walk forced in a run, and then another hit batter forced in a second run.   Both runs do not score if that 3-and-2 pitch is called correctly.   If you’re a Cardinals fan, it’s pretty lucky that particular ump was working behind the plate on this particular evening.   Pretty lucky indeed.   So instead of Texas remaining down by only a run, the score became 5 to 2, the home crowd went crazy, it was essentially over at that point, and the final score was 6 to 2 Cards.   Series over.

     Fifty years from now it will be 2061 and people will still be talking about Game Six, and all the wonderful things that happened in that wonderful game which I refused to go over with you.   But what the 106-year-old Sports Philosopher will remember fifty years from now is that blown call by that ump on what should have been strike three and the final out in the 5th inning of Game Seven.   And how flat-out and unfairly lucky the Cardinals were at that moment….and in 2011 in general.

     My point is that in baseball, as in life, luck exists.   Lots of it.   Most of it bad.

     Do I have any advice for you on how to handle the bad luck when it comes a-calling?



     No, not really.


meet….The Sports Philosopher!

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered literary giant, and a big fan of Mike Napoli.   Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack, of triumph, and of despair, WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for it on,, or   it’s easy!   

Or, you can attend his book signing at Santa Anita Racetrack on Saturday morning, November 5th, and pick up a signed copy of WHERE GODS GAMBLE in person for only  $24….







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