The Greatest Game Ever Played

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals. Three days ago I had zero vested interest in this World Series. Last night I found myself to getting frequent updates at work.

All things considered: late drama, perfect imperfections, a walk-off home run, a slugfest, the world series, etc., this game featured a concoction of rare attributes that made game six the best game ever played in professional baseball history.

No team within 1,000 miles of me was represented – no team I love was represented, no team I hate was represented. I was a TV station’s worst case scenario – the indifferent fan.

But then game six happened. What started as ambiance on my living room TV during a small social setting quickly became the center of attention. What started as “Oh, at least it’s a good game,” became, “No, we’re not leaving until this game is over.”

Two separate times I sat watching the soon-to-be final strike, waiting for Neftali Feliz or Scott Feldman to induce a ground ball or throw strike three, waiting for “…and the Texas Rangers are your World Champions.”

…and then they weren’t.

Lance Berkman’s hit in the tenth pumped adrenaline through me reminiscent of what I felt when Matsui’s single of Pedro knocked in two during 2009’s Game Six, or when A-Rod’s ’09 ALDS shot tied it up in the ninth. I all of a sudden wanted the Cardinals to win.

Many great games follow similar formulas: a great late comeback,  a slugfest, a pitchers duel, but this game had the “it” factor. It wasn’t just one comeback; it wasn’t your mundane slugfest.

Looking at only the game itself, similar games with this “it” factor were the Mets’ victory against the Braves on Independence Day in 1985 when pitcher Rick Camp, lifetime .074 batter, hit his only career home run with two outs in the 18th to send the game further into the night. And that was after the Braves came back with four runs in the 8th, the Mets with one in the ninth, and both teams with two in the 13th.

Games like July 1st, 2004 between the Yankees and Red Sox, where a rematch of the 2003 ALCS pitted rookie Brad Halsey against superstar Pedro Martinez. By the 13th, A-Rod was back at shortstop, the Red Sox were using five infielders, and Gary Sheffield was at third base for the first time in ten years because Derek Jeter’s kamikaze play in the 12th saved the game, yet forced him to leave.

Games with that little extra. They all have something you rarely see. The games where you need everybody.

This game had “it.”

Right off the bat (haha…) both teams scored in the first. Then the rare wheel play in the second forced the only 5-6-4 bunt-groundball-double play I’ve ever seen. Both teams traded errors in the fourth. Texas’ back to back home runs in the seventh broke a 4-4 tie, and later that inning sent out 24-year old starter Derek Holland out for his second inning of relief, and he was already the third starter to pitch for Texas.

Two improbable comebacks in consecutive innings gave me only a taste of what it would’ve been like if I was a Cardinals or Rangers fan. According to baseball-reference.com, after Ryan Theriot’s strikeout to leadoff the ninth, the Cardinals had a 4% to win the game (8% chance to tie it up). They did. Once Josh Hamilton hit his two-run homer in the tenth, the Cardinals had a 7% chance to win (14% chance to tie it up). They did.

I’m about to crunch some numbers. I apologize in advance.

8% in the ninth, 14% in the tenth, then once the game went into extras, lets assume both teams have a 50% chance to win.

.08 x .14 x .5 = .0056

I’m no baseball statistician, and this number is only a guesstimate, but I calculate the Cardinals had about a .6% chance to win this game after Theriot’s strike out. If the Cardinals and Rangers were to play 1,000 games starting with said strikeout, the Cardinals would win six times. Assuming each team had a 50% chance to win game seven, you saw something that happens three times out of 1,000.

And this was in a World Series.

Everything considered – from the errors, to the starting pitchers in relief, to the slugfest, to the late comebacks, to the World Series implications, you may never see a better baseball game in your lifetime. Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans. I’m incredibly jealous of you.

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