When I was ten years old, I’d take a wiffle ball bat and a tennis ball, use my left hand to toss the tennis ball up in the air, quickly get into a batting stance, and swing. If it went 100 feet and relatively high, it was a home run. That’s what fantasies are for.
I rarely had the audacity to be a Cardinal. In my construct, I’d be…I don’t know, a Colorado Rockie? And then I’d walk off an NLCS game or something. Even as a child, I had a Hollywood producer mentality to baseball. You want to build drama, but it can’t be TOO crazy. What David Freese did was too crazy.
David Freese grew up a Cardinals fan, in the St. Louis suburbs. Surely, he had similar fantasies to mine of postseason glory. Maybe he had the audacity to one-up mine. And even then, he still may not have in his wildest fantasies imagined what he did on October 27, 2011.
Even just “the hometown kid starts for the hometown team” seems impossible in the grand scheme of things. Babe Ruth didn’t do that. Ted Williams didn’t do that. Freese did. And then, on a cool Thursday night in October, Freese went even further.
My personal favorite David Freese moment of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series was his down-to-his-last-strike triple to equalize a previously 7-5 game. But even from the perspective of what I thought was his lesser moment—David Freese, in his hometown, belted a home run into the center field batter’s eye now known informally as “Freese’s Lawn” to walk off a do-or-die World Series game.
And this barely scratches the surface of Freese’s Cardinals career. In the prior weeks, Freese was NLCS MVP. In 2012, he was an All-Star and had a critical walk in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals that season when the WORLD was expecting his louder 2011-style heroics. In 2013, he hit a home run in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Today, David Freese, after a successful season as a rotational player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, announced his retirement. Based on his personality, he might not want a celebration. I hope he doesn’t mind if those of us who allowed an era of St. Louis Cardinals baseball to be defined by him don’t mind if we celebrate on his behalf.