October in St. Louis means baseball — yes, we Cards fans are spoiled. But even in Cardinal Nation a World Series only comes around every so often, so when I was offered free tickets to Game 4 of the 2004 World Series, I jumped at the opportunity. How did I get FREE tickets? My father — a season-ticket holder for 30-plus years. No tricks to share there. (Sorry!)
We went downtown early. Even at three games down, Redbird fans are optimists. Those boys can come back from anything. And the Red Sox. Still cursed. We were sure. And this was likely to be our last World Series in our beloved Busch Stadium. It had to happen, right?
Along with the scalpers ($1,100 tickets, anyone?), fans clad in red, hawkers of peanuts, programs, souvenirs, and waters, downtown St. Louis was host to saxophone players. Blues music waved over the excited throngs moving like a river toward the stadium gates, adding to the anticipation of the game.
We finally settled into our seats — middle section, above first base, with a view of the field that allowed us to see every corner. We would NOT be swept. No way. The game began.
Three innings in. Three runs for the Sox, zero St. Louis. The crowd stayed in the game, cheering our pitchers, our fielders, our batters (Pujols! Pujols!) But the bats were quiet. Rolen, Edmonds, Walker. They surprised us all season. And surprised us again as Game 4 progressed — by the sixth inning it was as if the air left the stadium. Boston fans around us continued to cheer, but we mustered as much enthusiasm as possible — read: not enough. And it was cold! My World Series experience (not my first, but my first since childhood) was quickly becoming an effort to find something else to put on and a mug of $5 hot chocolate in one of those souvenir World Series cups. (Sold out! Could nothing go right that night?)
We filed out silently as Boston cheered its first World Championship in 86 years. It would have been nice of us, more host city-like, maybe, to at least acknowledge that the celebration was hard won and a long time coming. But we were not in the mood. Some Cardinals fans even began leaving by the seventh. At a World Series game. Heartbroken.
Two years later I was lucky enough to attend Game 4 as the Cards beat the Tigers, then went on to win their 10th World Championship title. Totally different experience. I lost my voice screaming and cheering, and I think the whole stadium was on its feet for most of the game. But that’s a story for another time.
If you want to know what it’s like to attend the World Series, there are likely as many stories as there are fans, and every game has its own story. But this is mine. Boston will never forget. But neither will we.