With our ongoing “Greatest Cardinals Moment” tournament continuing to the Sweet 16, two Cardinals greats are pitted against each other.
Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock and his record-breaking steal in 1974 were able to beat out Ozzie Smith’s Diving Catch and Stan Musial’s 5 HR Day to reach the semi-final’s of the Cardsblog division. Meanwhile, David Freese and his iconic home run absolutely crushed Rick Ankiel’s First HR and Carpenter’s bases-clearing double off Kershaw to make it here. But which moment will move on in hopes of being the Greatest Cardinals Moment?
(4) Lou Brock Steals 105
September 10, 1974 against the Philadelphia Phillies, Lou Brock immortalized himself as the greatest base stealer of all-time. Sliding under the tag of Larry Bowa, Brock stole his 105th base of the season and second of the night, breaking Maury Wills’ record of 104 in 1962.
For baseball, Brock became the pinnacle of athleticism until Ricky Henderson came along. But for Cardinals fans, 105 meant much more. The Stan Musial era was in the rearview and Bob Gibson was in the twilight of his career. Lou Brock was a new brand of Cardinal baseball.
In his age 35 season, Brock took his athleticism and added an intelligence factor. With overall speed waning in his later years, Brock had to adapt to remain elite. He needed to be patient and wait for the best opportunities to successfully steal. Having only been caught stealing 33 times that year, Brock had a knack for knowing when the best times to run were.
Having already proven himself as an elite base stealer, Brock took his game to the next level in his record setting year. The brand of Cardinals baseball became centered around speed and athleticism. Many Cardinals fans refer to this style of play as “Whitey Ball” from Whitey Herzog’s tenure as manager in the ’80’s, but it was Brock who brought speed to St. Louis.
Before McGwire’s 70 homer season in 1998, Brock was the symbol of dominance in St. Louis. With the steroid accusations against McGwire, however, Brock remains the face of pure dominance in St. Louis while still holding the National League stolen base record.
(1) David Freese Game 6 Walk Off
The 2011 season for the Cardinals still feels like a dream in St.Louis. How did that happen? A mostly disappointing season capped by a historic run to a Wild Card Berth was enough to shock fans. But what happened in the playoffs made that season unbelievable.
Chris Carpenter’s shutout in game 5 of the NLDS to stun the best team in baseball, David Freese’s huge NLCS, and the Rally Squirrel sent this team to another Fall Classic that it probably shouldn’t have been in (i.e. 2006). But, nonetheless, they were there.
A back-and-forth series came back to St. Louis for Game 6 with the Rangers up three games to two. A bevy of errors and mistakes put the Rangers on the brink of their first World Championship in franchise history. Going into the ninth with a two-run lead and one of the best closers in baseball, Neftali Feliz, meant the World Series was all but over.
A double by Albert Pujols and a walk to Lance Berkman set up NLCS MVP and hometown kid David Freese to save the season. Down to their final strike, a triple over the head of Nelson Cruz in right field gave the Cardinals new life and immediately became one of the best moments in Cardinals history.
The tenth inning quickly turned momentum back towards the Rangers after a Josh Hamilton 2-run home run put them back in the driver’s seat. After scrapping together a run in the bottom half of the inning, Texas native and Houston legend, Lance Berkman, became a St. Louis legend as well. Down to their final strike again with Jon Jay on second, Berkman blooped one into shallow center field to tie the game at nine.
Fast forward to the 12th inning of the game that has already become one of the best in baseball history when the man who carried his hometown team to this point steps up to the plate to lead off the inning. The excitement in Busch Stadium radiated to the rest of the nation. The ups and downs of the previous five hours needed to come to a close. Facing the Rangers’ least-used reliever, Mark Lowe, Freese put together a great at-bat. Going to a 3-2 count full of great swings by Freese gave all those watching a feeling that something was about to happen.
“Freese hits it in the air to center, and we will see you tomorrow night!” This call by Joe Buck quoting his father from game 6 of the 1991 World Series was the perfect call, for the perfect moment. The hometown kid saved the season for his team once again and sent them to the Game 7 that won them the 2011 World Series.
Greatest Cardinals Moment
Which moment will move on? An MLB-record, or playoff heroics? You Decide!