How do you celebrate winning one of the most unbelievable World Series games ever — in the most dramatic way possible? Well, if you're the never-give-in St. Louis Cardinals, you rip the uniform right off the baseball hero.
That's what David Freese felt happening as he roared into home with the entire Cardinals team waiting there for him. Before he even touched home plate — with the umpire waiting too, just to be sure — to complete the game-winning, extra-inning home run, Freese's white jersey was already in the early stages of being ripped to shreds. Albert Pujols — the moody superstar who could be playing his last days in this sheltering baseball town — was one of the prime, giddy culprits, grabbing chunks of Freese's shirt and tearing.
By the time, his out-of-their-mind teammates were done, Freese didn't have a single bit of jersey left on his body — and for minute, it looked like he might lose the pants too, before cooler heads prevailed for the sake of sanity and Joe Buck's ever sensitive feelings.
"I think they shredded me," Freese said in his postgame TV interview.
What a game. What a series. What a moment.
It didn't matter where you were on Thursday night. If you are a sports fan, you found a way to watch the end of Game 6 of this World Series as news spread of what the Cardinals and Texas Rangers were doing. Even if you were at Robertson Stadium watching University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum put up more crazy sick numbers.
Does the Hall of Fame accept jerseys in pieces? It does now. For that is where the torn remains of Freese's are headed.
How incredible was this baseball game?
Its celebration alone (the Freese strip) will be talked about for years. In fact, that post-homer moment would have completely overshadowed even most ordinarily great games. But not this one. Not with Cardinals down two runs, down to their last strike, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth . . . Not with the Texas Rangers surely set to celebrate, only to see hell Freese over.
The game-tying triple that Freese laced just out of reach of drifting Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz in that moment brings to mind another epic Game 6 of World Series lore — the one the Boston Red Sox somehow lost with crates of opened champagne and Bob Costas already waiting in their locker room.
This was that good of a game. How many moments?
There's Josh Hamilton shaking off his aching hurts (and the shock of Freese in the bottom of the ninth) to hit a two-run home run in the top of the 10th, one that looked like it might deliver a World Series title to the Rangers after all, one that Hamilton would later say God told him he'd hit. There's the Cardinals coming back again in the bottom of the 10th, scraping out two more runs when it needed two runs to extend the game, tying it on a clutch, two-out, two-strike hit from former Houston Astro Lance Berkman.
It looks like Berkman will be getting his ring after all. How does anyone bet against the Cardinals in Friday night's Game 7 now? Down to their last strike twice in Game 6 — and still swinging.
"You had to be here to believe it," Cardnals manager Tony La Russa said in his televised postgame press conference. Even La Russa is coming across as less arrogantly annoying and more just mischievous in this series. The 67-year-old wore the grin of a 5-year-old prankster when Freese's triple sped over Cruz's head in the ninth.
It brings to mind another epic Game 6 of World Series lore — the one the Red Sox somehow lost with crates of opened champagne and Bob Costas already waiting in their locker room.
Any real Astros fan who is rooting for the Rangers because they're in Texas too, should have been banned from Minute Maid Park for life as soon as any such phrase escaped his or her lips. There is only one way Houston can root Friday night — and it's not for Nolan Ryan, no matter how pitifully glum the legend looked as the Fox cameras kept cutting to him as Game 6 spun out of control.
Finally, baseball commands the stage, all of America's attention. What a game. What a series. What a moment.
To be fair, until Game 6, until Freese, all the talk about this being one of the best World Series ever seemed more than a little forced. The fawning columns. The Sports Illustrated cover declaring it "A Great World Series." The gushing from the talking heads on the MLB Network. All of it.
That should change now. Everyone will at least pretend they watched Game 6. They might not realize that this shredding celebration actually became something of standard, crazy practice for the Cardinals as they roared back from being 10 and 1/2 games out of a Wild Card playoff spot on Aug. 25, that Cardinals utility man Nick Punto's nickname is The Shredder for his love of separating teammates from their shirts.
But even those who only found Freese on highlights will claim they watched the St. Louis kid turn his hometown city upside down live. They'll be a whole lot of folks with sudden recall of Freese hitting that home run over the center field wall to lead off the 11th.
A stripping can do that for a series.
Watch David Freese get shredded for the epic win: