ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Tonight in St. Louis, the Cardinals and the Texas Rangers play a 7th and final game of the World Series. It's an appropriate ending to one of the most entertaining and dramatic series in Major League history, but it'll be hard to match what happened last night. The Cardinals were down to their last strike - and World Series elimination, twice - before winning a heart-pounding extra-inning game by a score of 10-9, and NPR's Tom Goldman was there.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Desperation or premonition? Maybe a little of both. In a pregame ceremony, as the Cardinals paraded out to the field, several beloved former World Series heroes - Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, even the great Stan Musial was driven out in a golf cart. The tone was set, the message was clear: With the Rangers a victory away from their first championship, St. Louis was only thinking about winners and winning. If only the early part of the game had followed that script. It unfolded as a sloppy affair with numerous errors and missed opportunities. After six innings, the score was tied four-all. Leading off the seventh, Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre sent an anxious buzz through the Busch Stadium crowd with a solo home run.
Anxiety is now turning into deep concern as Nelson Cruz just followed Adrian Beltre with his own home run to left field; 6-4, Texas, top of the seventh. Another run made it 7-4, and I overheard a conversation about how the Rangers were going to have their trophy presentation on the field rather than in the clubhouse. But then a funny thing happened on the way to a World Series celebration: St. Louis, the team that came back from 10 and a half games out to qualify for the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, turned into a baseball Rasputin; they wouldn't die. In the bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes on Cards third baseman David Freese, facing the Rangers' fearsome closer Neftali Feliz for the first time...
DAVID FREESE: You know, when you haven't seen a guy ever, you really got to go back to the basics and just try and hit.
(SOUNDBITE OF GAME BROADCAST)
GOLDMAN: That was the call of Freese's game-tying triple, as heard on Fox TV. Next inning, the 10th, a Josh Hamilton home run put Texas back up by two. St. Louis tied it when Lance Berkman did the two-out two-strikes thing again with an RBI single. And then, bottom of the 11th, Freese provided the final shut up moment.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
GOLDMAN: Yup - game-winning home run. Somewhere, Gibson, Brock, Smith, et al. were scooting down to make room for a new St. Louis World Series hero â heroes, really. Dissecting the comeback, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa stressed it takes a team.
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, what you try to do is get something started. You don't try to hit three home runs. My club does a real good job of just trying get something started, and once it gets started, I mean the other club worries.
GOLDMAN: And for the victors, well, lots of questions directed at Freese along the lines of: Did you dream about this as a boy in your backyard, tying and then winning a do-or-die World Series game with you bat? Of course, says Freese. But teammate Berkman, also a hero at the plate last night, offered a different twist on the Norman Rockwell moment.
LANCE BERKMAN: When you're a little kid and you're out there, you don't have a bunch of reporters and fans that are ready to call you a choking dog if you don't, you know, if you don't come through. So I'm just going to caution all little kids out there, be careful what you wish for.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GOLDMAN: Last night, though, for St. Louis, no choking. So dream on, kids, but make sure you wake up in time for tonight. Tom Goldman, NPR News, St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.