St. Louis trailed Milwaukee by ten games in the NL Central on August 25, 2011, and even more discouraging was the 10.5 game deficit to Atlanta that the Cardinals faced in the Wild Card chase. That frustration was completely erased on September 29, however, as the Cardinals completed one of the greatest comebacks in history to make the postseason. It took a lot of help from a Braves team that lost 20 of its final 31 games, but the Cardinals did their part, winning 23 of 32 to close out the regular season and claim the Wild Card berth on the season’s final day.
But the fun was just starting for this club.
The Phillies and the Brewers were expected to meet in the NLCS, but the Cardinals spoiled their postseason plans as well, knocking off the Phillies first, and then taking care of the Brewers in the NLCS to claim the pennant and set up a seven-game showdown with the Texas Rangers in the 2011 World Series.
The drama of the 2011 season unfolded against the backdrop of Albert Pujols’ looming free agency and an uncharacteristic slow start offensively for arguably the greatest player of his generation — but when a fractured left forearm threatened to sideline the three-time MVP in late June for up to six weeks, Pujols demonstrated the tenacity and intense desire to win that come October would define this Cardinals team … and he returned to the field after only two weeks.
No wonder this team was down to it’s final strike in consecutive innings in Game 6 of the World Series, with the season, hopes, and dreams of its fans all hanging in the balance, and somehow still prevailed.
This second volume of Cardinals history and trivia from author Larry Underwood and Black Mesa Publishing is a tribute not only to the 2011 World Series Champion Cardinals, but to the many legends and heroes who’s exploits on the field of play have made this organization one of the most respected and accomplished in professional sports.
With eleven chapters of history and more than 225 brand new trivia questions, author Larry Underwood takes readers through every era of this beloved franchise — from the American Association days to their first World Series appearance in 1926, the dominance of Stan Musial and the 1940s teams to the struggles of the 1950s, the resurgence of the club and the dominance of Bob Gibson in the 1960s and its fall back to mediocrity in the 1970s … and then finally, the success of the Herzog and La Russa eras all the way to the story of 2011, when baseball gave its fans a season that will be written about for decades, and the Cardinals run at history was its greatest chapter.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION
When I was putting the finishing touches to this second volume of Cardinal baseball IQ during the first week of the 2011 MLB season, it seemed like this would be a “lost” season for the Redbirds. Their pitching ace, Adam Wainwright had already undergone a season-ending elbow operation, and their franchise player, Albert Pujols clearly seemed distracted by the largely unsuccessful contract negotiations that left his future with the Cardinals in doubt. As Pujols stumbled out of the gate, the only thing he consistently did offensively was leading the league in grounding into double plays.
Strangely enough, as the season progressed through May and into June, the Redbirds somehow managed to win more often than not, despite the continued offensive struggles from its star player, and despite a bullpen that blew more saves than any other team in either league. Just when Pujols started to get hot with the bat around the middle of June, the team’s chances for post season play seemed to fade away for good when King Albert suffered a broken arm that would put him on the shelf for nearly a month. By the time his arm healed enough to get his bat back into the lineup, the team was beginning to fall well behind a hot rival Milwaukee in the Central Division, and Atlanta seemed to be a shoe-in for the NL Wild Card spot.
When the front office shipped the talented Colby Rasmus to Toronto for some much needed pitching help towards the end of July, the team continued to struggle through most of August; by the 25th of August, the Cards were a distant 10 1/2 games behind the Braves in the Wild Card chase. However, in the most incredible comeback in ML history, St Louis caught a slumping Atlanta team on the next to the last day of the season, clinching its post season berth in game 162, with a Chris Carpenter two-hit shutout of the Astros, coupled with the completion of Philadelphia’s three game sweep of the Braves in Atlanta. This impossible conclusion to the regular season set the stage to what would be an amazing post season run, culminating in a thrilling Seven Game World Series triumph over the heavily favored Texas Rangers. Twice, in Game Six, the Cards were one strike away from elimination, before David Freese’s 11th inning walk-off home run finally gave them another impossible victory. It seemed that Game Seven was a foregone conclusion; the Rangers never had a chance. We didn’t know it at the time, but the Cardinals’ 6-2 victory in Game Seven would be Tony La Russa’s farewell to his brilliant Hall of Fame managerial career. It was a perfect ending for La Russa and his amazing never-say-die Redbirds; and it was a perfect ending to the perfectly flawed and wonderfully glorious 2011 World Championship season for our Cardinals.
Certainly, there is enough newly created trivia in this past season to fill volumes of new books; in the meantime, savor the Cardinal tradition of excellence in this latest challenge of your fan IQ. I think you’ll enjoy this, almost as much as you enjoyed the conclusion to this wild and wacky 2011 campaign. Good luck, and have fun, Cards fans!
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