As I gazed out my hotel room window, the glow of the Busch Stadium lights was all I could focus on. It seemed like destiny had led me to this point and I wasn’t ready to sit around and take a backseat to World Series history. The Tigers and Cardinals were doing battle just three blocks away. Now all I needed was a ticket in.
When I first learned I was attending the national college media conference in St. Louis a few months ago, a handful of questions immediately popped into my head. What if the Cardinals do actually make a run to the World Series? What if my Chronicle buddies and I are fortunate enough to be in the city if they clinch? And finally, is there any chance on Earth I will be able to witness the Fall Classic firsthand? At first it all seemed rather farfetched. But, with a lot of luck, a little bargaining and 130 of the best dollars I’ve ever spent, I’m proud to say all three of the previous questions can be answered with a resounding yes.
The Cardinals did make it to the World Series. My newspaper companions and I were in the city when they won the 2006 title. And last Thursday night, I watched my first World Series game in person, just 20 rows up from Albert Pujols manning his position at first base. Even as I write these words now, I have trouble grasping the fact that I was there. Since I was a little kid I dreamed about going to a game like this, whether my beloved Red Sox were playing or not. Yet it only took minutes that night for everything to come together.
On the night prior to my first World Series experience, my friend Doug Manners and I wandered around the stadium simply trying to get a feel for the ticket situation. The weather was rainy and the prices were high so we decided to call it a night. Eventually the game was postponed, giving us another chance at tickets the following night. We were not to be denied.
I awoke on Thursday morning and told Doug that I had a strong feeling we would be at Game 4 that night. So, after a day of media sessions and speakers, we were ready to try again. We arrived at the stadium a little after the first pitch and got a feel for the scalping scene. The two of us decided we would spend no more than $100 a piece, a low sum considering the magnitude of the game. At some point during the second inning we found a scalper holding two $225 tickets. He originally wanted around $150 for each. Doug and I put on a sad face and told him we only had $200 between the two of us. At this point the scalper became antsy and decided to charge us $260 total. Magically we found the extra money buried deep within our pockets.
Then the transaction occurred. Money exchanged hands and I held tightly in my grasp a ticket to the 2006 World Series. As we walked through the Busch Stadium gates, it felt like we had entered another world. We took out our cell phones and proceeded to call everyone we knew. This was big news.
We expected to be sitting somewhere miles away from the field, possibly in the third tier of seating. Yet when we got to our seats we couldn’t believe our eyes. We would be watching the World Series only 20 rows from the field.
I’d like to give you an in-depth and detailed account of the game itself, but in all honesty it was a blur. Fans cheered. Flash bulbs went off on every pitch. White towels waved wildly over the heads of Cardinals supporters. It all blended together to form one of the most euphoric and surreal experiences of my life.
In the end, the Cardinals pulled out a 5-4 win, and, in the process, picked up a 3-1 series lead on the lowly Tigers. Twenty-four hours later, Cardinals closer Adam Wainwright struck out Brandon Inge for the final out that sent the entire city into hysteria. Car horns beeped long into the night and people danced on their vehicles. Genuine jubilation was visible on the faces of every Cardinals fan I saw. St. Louis had won the World Series for the first time since 1982.
And I was lucky enough to be part of it all. No Fox broadcasters spewing useless information. No long commercial breaks. Just pure October baseball. And it was beautiful.