A new hero emerges every postseason, but an October legend has never taken hold quite as spectacularly as that of David Freese. The Cardinals' third baseman and World Series MVP was an unknown outside of St. Louis when the postseason began, but the details of his story have since been told and retold so often that Freese himself hoped "people aren't getting sick of hearing about it."
"It's been amazing," he said on the confetti-strewn field at Busch Stadium after Game 7. "I've had a lot of days in my life where I thought I wouldn't be even close to being a big leaguer."
Really, it couldn't have been any other way: Of course the unlikeliest World Series champs in recent memory would be led by a kid who grew up a 45-minute drive from Busch Stadium, quit baseball for a year after graduating from high school because he was burned out, and, after the Padres drafted him in the ninth round in 2006, was traded to his hometown team the next year for a childhood hero, Jim Edmonds. Of course a player who had never enjoyed anything longer than a nine-game hitting streak would go on a club-record 13-game tear in the playoffs and set major league postseason records for RBIs (21) and total bases (50) and tie the mark for hits (25). Of course a player who had never hit a walk-off home run in his life—"not even Little League," he says—would in Game 6 of the World Series hit one of the greatest game-ending blasts in baseball history.
The Cardinals believe that Freese's magical October—he was the first position player since the Cardinals' Darrell Porter in 1982 to win league championship series and World Series MVP trophies in the same postseason—is just the beginning for a 28-year-old late bloomer whose promising career had been derailed by a series of injuries. "He's a very tough individual," says manager Tony La Russa. "He's had bad breaks with his ankle and hand. This guy has got great insides, and it matches his talents. This guy is going to be a star."
"He's a .300 hitter [who can hit] 20 to 30 homers and drive in 80 to 100 runs a year," says Cardinals leftfielder Matt Holliday. "He's going to be that kind of guy, maybe better, when he's healthy."
As he floated across the bases after his Game 6 home run, Freese couldn't help but think about Edmonds and the walk-off homer he hit for the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS. The next night, after lingering for interviews on the Busch Stadium field and posing for countless cellphone photos with the faithful who stayed in the stands after St. Louis's Game 7 win, Freese ran into his hero, who is retired, outside the Cardinals' clubhouse. They chatted for a few minutes before Edmonds pushed Freese toward the partying clubhouse and said, "Go inside. It's your time to celebrate." And with that, an unlikely World Series MVP disappeared into the din, into the haze of champagne and history.
DAVID E. KLUTHO
FREESE FRAMES The MVP lashed a game-tying triple in Game 6 (left), then sealed his legend in his next at bat with a walk-off homer (above).
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