Congratulations to the newest man of leisure, Tony LaRussa and his hearty band of Birds. The St. Louis Cardinals’ ascension to the highest heights after being ten-plus games out of a playoff spot in late-August is nothing short of miraculous – to say nothing of their multiple resurrections in World Series Game 6 alone.

For your intrepid columnist, St. Louisian victory will always call to mind the wrenching events of October 2006 – the date of the Redbirds’ previous title. I got to witness the local end of things first hand, my longest foray into post-season baseball.

Here’s how it all happened…

For a little background, I post on a Bruce Springsteen message board, I’ve also bought & sold a few things on eBay. The relevance of this will become clear shortly.

In mid-September of 2006, I said to my wife, Sarah “I want to see if I can get playoff tickets & I want you to come to the games with me.” Sarah said, “Well, Let’s see if we can make that work. I will tell you, though, that I won’t go with you. I don’t love it enough. You should take your Dad — see if he’ll go in half with you.” I love my wife. She’s always all about me getting what I want & being happy. God, she’s awesome.

Finances being what they were at the time, we settled on a maximum budget of $150.00 per seat per game. Having made preliminary inquiries on StubHub & Tix City, I knew that was probably going to get me a couple of seats up in the Shea Stadium rafters. Hey, at least I’d be there, right? I talked to my father about it and he jumped at the idea. He even offered to bankroll the whole thing. We were set!

As I said, prices with the online legal scalpers didn’t appear too promising. Then I got a bright idea: “Let me check on eBay.” So I checked and I found a pair for NLDS Game 1 from a nice Greek fella from Port Washington, NY. Great seats — Loge box 464, next to the LF pole just in foul territory. We worked it out so that he also threw in the pre-paid parking for $40. The whole thing ended up costing $350.00 once all was said & done.

While all this was going on, I also put up a blurb on the previously mentioned message board, known as BTX — short for Backstreets Ticket Exchange — where Bruce-Heads trade ducats, Grateful Dead-style. Seeing as human does not live by Bruce alone, they exchange tickets for other events, as well. I put up a blurb — basically, “Hey, if anybody’s got tickets to the first two games of the NLDS you want to unload, I’m interested.”

Meanwhile, my Greek friend from LI came through with the Game 1 seats. So I was set there.
About a day or so later, I got a private message from a woman whom I’d “seen” on the message boards. She says, “I have two each for games 1, 2 & 5 in the picnic area – any interest?” I had been in the picnic area a couple of times before, and always had a blast out there. My ears perked up. I wrote back, “I’m definitely interested in the Game 2 seats. I’ve already got tix for Game 1 & I don’t think there’s going to be a Game 5. How much do you want for them?” Her answer? “Face value– $30.00.” How fast could I say, “I’LL TAKE IT!” She answers, “Great! I also have the same seats all through the NLCS & World Series. Would you be interested in those?”

To paraphrase Mr. Big from Sex & The City: abso-bleepin’-lutely!

So we have a deal. I said, “Where do I send the money?” She says, “Send it to my attention, Shea Stadium, 120-01 Roosevelt Avenue.” Turns out, she worked in the development office of the under-construction Citi Field: these were employee seats. Wow!

We’re now set for October. We sat in our loge seats for NLDS Game 1 against the Dodgers, and saw two men tagged out at the plate on the same play – not something you see every day. Those seats were great, but I had so much more fun out in the bleachers! My Dad & I would make a ritual of getting there early, waltzing into the picnic area, plunking down $26 for burgers & beers, then taking up a post in Longball Alley while the Mets took BP. That was an area under the bleachers where there was an oblong cutout in the left-field fence, so you could see the field from eye-level from a pub table. So that’s where we took in the second leg of the sweep of the Dodgers, Tom Glavine’s mastery of the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS, Shawn Green’s bumbling and Billy Wagner’s humanity in Game 2 and John Maine’s heroics in Game 6.

For the two famous highlights from Game 7, I’m afraid the seats betrayed me. For Endy Chavez’s trapeze-act catch, the angle of vision was such that it actually happened below and behind me. I had to look at the reaction from the people in the field level grandstand and rely on cell phone communications with folks back home watching on TV to know that Endy had made THAT. PLAY. As for called strike three, I wasn’t sure what happened until Yadier (Bleeping) Molina leapt into the air.

So again, congratulations to the 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals: you deserved this a lot more than the last one.

But I’m not bitter, or anything…

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