World Series history: Cardinals over Texas Rangers in 11 is instant classic

Twice the Texas Rangers were within an out of winning the World Series. But the Cardinals came back in dramatic fashion, and David Freese's walk-off in the 11th grabbed a bit of history.

Eric Gay/AP
St. Louis Cardinals' David Freese hits a walk-off home run during the 11th inning of Game 6 of baseball's World Series against the Texas Rangers on Oct. 27, in St. Louis.

Move over, Carlton Fisk.

There's a new rival for the title of most thrilling Game 6 in World Series history, and new rival for the title of hero.

At the very least, the 11-inning win by the St. Louis Cardinals is an instant classic, one that enters the top tier of postseason epics.

The game twice took the Texas Rangers within one strike of a world championship. It took fans of both teams on an emotional roller coaster. And it is taking the bat and the shredded jersey of David Freese, who homered to win the game and keep Cardinal hopes alive for a Game 7, to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It was baseball at its white-knuckle, goose-bump finest.

Part comedy of errors, part battle of managerial wits, and no small part a show of performance under pressure.

A recap of the drama: The teams battled to a 4-4 tie by the dawn of the seventh inning, when the Rangers mustered three-run rally. The Cardinals appeared all but doomed when they closed out the eighth inning still two runs down, missing a bases-loaded opportunity.

All the Rangers had to do was have their closer, Neftali Feliz, get three more outs. The first Rangers title ever would be theirs. And Feliz almost accomplished the job. But in the ninth, with two outs and two men on base, Freese tripled to tie the game and send it into extra innings. The Rangers answered with two runs in the top of the 10th.

Again, in the bottom of the inning, the Cardinals came down to their last out. Berkman's single to center field evened up the game yet again, paving the way for an 11th inning after both teams had already worked through most of their available pitchers.

Freese's walk-off home run in the bottom of the inning finished the game. As he struggled to touch home plate amid a swarm of team-mates (one of whom ripped his jersey apart), two things were clear to anybody watching. There would need to be a decisive Game 7. And wow, what a game that was.

So where should this game rest in the baseball pantheon?

Certainly it's up there on a top-hits list, when it comes to multi-act drama in a potentially decisive World Series game. (This wasn't a one-man or one-team show of force, like Don Larsen pitching a perfect game midway through the 1956 World Series.)

That said, let's admit that in baseball's long history, there have been more than a handful of remarkable games that ended or nearly ended the championship series.

It's hard to argue that this one tops the best Game 7s, such as those of 1960 (with Bill Mazeroski's home run for Pittsburgh), 1991 (with Jack Morris's 10-inning shutout for Minnesota), or 1924 (a 12-inning epic). Fans of the game could toss in a number of other favorites.

And what about Carlton Fisk? His 12th-inning home run for the Red Sox in 1975 was another instance of a team fending off doom – in this case the threat that the "Big Red Machine" of Cincinnati would win the Series that night. The Boston catcher famously waved the ball fair, as it veered toward the left-field foul pole in Fenway Park.

To Boston fans and many others, that was unforgettable. To many baseball fans today, Freese's shot holds a candle to it.

The Cardinals' win represents just the third time that a team one out from elimination in the World Series came back to win the game, the Associated Press reports, citing STATS LLC. The New York Mets did it in 1986 (and won the championship in the next game), and the New York Giants did it in 1911, but ended up losing the series.

Indeed, the comparison with Game Six in 1975 reinforces the reminder: The winner of a legendary game isn't always the winner of the Series. The Sox lost to the Reds back then. It remains to be seen what will happen in Game 7 between the Cardinals and Rangers Friday night.

If the Cardinals win, the prominence of this Game 6 will ratchet a notch higher.

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