The St. Louis Cardinals celebrate after Texas Rangers' David Murphy...

The St. Louis Cardinals celebrate after Texas Rangers' David Murphy flew out to end Game 7 of baseball's World Series. (Oct. 28, 2011) Credit: AP


Confetti rained upon Busch Stadium, to the accompaniment of fireworks. The party started late Friday night, this wonderful baseball city on top once again.

The St. Louis Cardinals are 11-time World Series champions here in 2011. Eleven in '11.

Their underdog tale concluded with jubilation because, ultimately, of this:

They, and no one else, would decide when the baseball would end and the celebrating would begin.

That transition began at 10:22 local time when Allen Craig caught David Murphy's fly ball to leftfield, securing the Cardinals' 6-2 victory over Texas in World Series Game 7 and, of course, a 4-3 victory in games.

The Cardinals poured onto the field, and imagine the sense of accomplishment they must have felt. This was a team that stood 101/2 games out of a playoff spot Aug. 25 and overcame the Braves on the final day of the regular season for the National League's wild-card spot. A team that upended the Phillies and Brewers, both favorites, in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

And that rose from the seemingly impossible twice in Game 6 -- down two runs in both the ninth and the 10th, and down to their last strike in both innings, to boot -- to stave off the dangerous Rangers in what now is ensured of becoming an all-time classic.

Game 7 actually felt a tad anti-climactic. Like a sparring match. Sure, the Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead off Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter -- pitching on three days' rest -- in the top of the first. But really, now. You thought that was going to stop these Cardinals? World Series Most Valuable Player David Freese ripped a tying two-run double to left-centerfield in the bottom of the first.

"When you hit fifth, sixth, seventh, you hope to hit in the first because good things are usually happening," said Freese, who was hitting fifth because of Matt Holliday's injury absence.

Craig, another MVP candidate, ripped a third-inning homer to left off Rangers starter Matt Harrison, giving St. Louis its first lead. Carpenter and four relievers didn't allow another run, and the Cardinals poured on three more insurance runs.

Carpenter could have been named the MVP, too. So could Lance Berkman. So many heroes in this ultra-entertaining -- if not always pretty -- World Series.

Don't forget Tony La Russa. Sure, we tend to overrate the importance of managers, but there's no doubt this team's ferocity reflects its skipper's demeanor. The future Hall of Famer now has three World Series titles on his resume.

"He started it," Freese said of his manager. "That guy deserves all of the credit."

As for the Rangers: What can you say? Good enough to represent the superior American League two straight years in the Fall Classic, they now have Buffalo Bills syndrome as consecutive losers in the finals.

They'll learn and should return, and if there's any wisdom to impart, it's that strategy does matter. It's not Texas manager Ron Washington's strength, and it wound up hurting the Rangers, whereas La Russa's Cardinals' bullpen phone debacle from Game 5 now will go down as an amusing sidebar.

Nevertheless, while talent trumps all, the Cardinals' story also displays the importance of resilience. Of believing in oneself. Of not getting deterred when it looks as if it isn't going to work out.

As the outs ticked down, Freese said: "I kept thinking about mid-August, the mood of the team, the disappointment of what was going down. We talked about it [in a team meeting] . . . Most importantly, we said that the fans deserve for us to make a run at this."

A cheesy sentiment? Very much so. But this was a cheesy story. If you didn't see it, you wouldn't have believed it.

It's real. It's in the books. And it's one for the ages.