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Mon, 31 Oct 2011 12:55 PM EDT

Even after it was over, they still couldn’t grasp it. In a city used to celebrating the Cardinals winning ways this one is memorable for many reasons. Football spreads

One example is that series MVP and hometown boy David Freese days ago went from villain to legend in a blink of an eye. Soon the team will once again have a parade and celebration that will immortalize this collection of players. I was there for the last parade in St. Louis and can attest to the fan appreciation of this franchise. St. Louis is a baseball town. No other sport or team comes close.

The Cardinal team story throughout the playoffs and the final month of the season was like a Rocky movie. They were the underdogs and no one believed they would pull it together on time to make the playoffs and win the title. They were like a bloody boxer who had thrown his last punch and somehow found the energy and inspiration to throw one more, and one more until he punched, bled and sweated his way to become the champ. Football lines

A long and inconsistent season for this Cardinal team resulted in an improbable and joyous ending. The Philadelphia Phillies could have easily prevented this miracle from ever seeing the light of day. So many times throughout the playoffs and the season it looked like this team was doomed for off-season discussions of rebuilding or retooling.

There was chatter and rumors starting to swirl about La Russa and whether he had started to lose his magical influence over the team. Some started to question his pitching and substitution decisions in this series.

One strike away. Just one strike and the history of St. Louis Cardinal Baseball would have been so different.

In the history of baseball, only one other team has ever done what these Cardinals have just done. Only one other team — the ‘86 Mets — ever tumbled into that one-strike-away abyss in a World Series and survived to pop the champagne bottles.

So think about that. In the first 106 World Series ever played, only those ‘86 Mets ever got down to their last strike and then won it all. Then this team found itself in that mess twice in two innings Thursday. Only 24 hours earlier, they were down to the last strike of their magical season in two different innings — and lived. And now here they were on the last Friday of October, hugging everyone within hugging range, pulling on their championship T-shirts, spraying that sweet Mount Pleasant Brut Imperial.

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