My Game 7 Experience

Disclaimer: this post will not contain any wOBAs, xFIPs, or UZRs. This is the story of Game 7 from the perspective of one fan — me.

As soon as David Freese‘s home run landed in the grass beyond the centerfield wall, ending Game 6, I made up my mind that I was going to the stadium for Game 7. It was an interesting and amazing night, and I thought I’d try to relay that experience.

On Friday in St. Louis everyone seemingly adopted new salutations. Gone were “hello” and “goodbye”, instead, every conversation started with, “Could you believe that game last night?” and ended with, “The Cards have to win tonight.” Everyone at my office spent most of their Friday passing around emails with the best links about Game 6 (the win expectancy graph being one popular option). Cardinals fans are always crazy about their team, and we’ve been in two World Series recently, but I’ve never seen anything like the buzz for Game 7.

The only downside of the buzz was what it did to ticket prices. I was tracking StubHub and Craigslist all day, waiting for prices to drop, but they just climbed and climbed. Thinking I could do better with scalpers downtown, I held out. Big mistake. When I got downtown, I talked to a dozen scalpers to no avail. It wasn’t that they were price gouging, it’s that they didn’t have any tickets. One scalper told me, “I haven’t even seen a ticket today.” Another said, “I had a pair earlier today. Sold them in 5 minutes.” I would have traded my car for a ticket, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

With my hopes dashed at getting inside the ballpark, my friends and I headed to Kilroy’s, a bar in the shadow of Busch Stadium which set up a projection screen outside. Hundreds of fans were already lined up by the first pitch, and more filled in during the game. It wasn’t as good as being inside the stadium, but the crowd was lively, the beer was cheaper, and I still owned my car, so it wasn’t all bad. Here is a wildly inadequate photo I took from outside Kilroy’s:

Another unanticipated factor of my Friday night was the lack of cell phone reception. My phone showed full bars, but I couldn’t make phone calls, send or receive texts, or use the internet. And it wasn’t just me, none of my friends’ phones worked either. Word spread through the crowd that there were too many people in and around the stadium, so the cell phone towers were overloaded. I have no idea if this is actually true or not, but this is the type of thing that spreads when no one can look things up on their phones.

Usually I’m texting and twittering constantly during games. I love seeing what others are saying about the game online, rooting with my friends and family who are Cardinals fans and trading barbs with those who are not. However, there I was, watching the biggest game in my lifetime, and I was unwillingly thrown into a time warp to before cell phones existed. I couldn’t help but think of an article I read earlier that week, about how people followed baseball games a hundred years ago. There I was, days later, in a crowd of people huddled together in a parking lot watching baseball with nothing to do in-between innings but talk to each other.

When the Rangers scored two in the first inning, the feeling in the crowd could best be described as “oh no.” You would think that, after coming back from two runs down in the ninth and tenth innings the previous night, two runs before the Cardinals even batted would not cause much panic. However, there was a sense that the Cardinals only had so much magic in their tank, and they needed every ounce of it to win Game 6.

When Freese tied the game with a double in the bottom of the first, the message was sent that the Cardinals were not out of magic, and they were not running out anytime soon. At that point, it really felt like the Cardinals were invincible. They were able to absorb every punch the Rangers threw, and were ready with an immediate counterpunch whenever they needed it. The team that was just happy to make the playoffs now had the confidence that they were the best team in baseball. The crowd shared that confidence. It felt like we were counting down outs before we even had a lead.

In the third inning, I was watching Allen Craig‘s second plate appearance when I heard an explosion behind us. Startled, the crowd all turned to see what happened and saw fireworks in the sky over the stadium. It was a confusing few moments until we all came to the realization that the broadcast was on a slight delay, and Craig was about to homer on the next pitch. It was an odd experience to cheer for a home run while the catcher is putting down the signs.

There was one random moment from Friday night that I’ll never forget. Behind the projection screen, above the roof of the bar, there is a train track. A handful of trains came by throughout the night, and the conductors didn’t miss their chance to wave and blow the horn, which always got a rise out of the crowd. One train came by which was carrying about a dozen tanks. The crowd went crazy at the sight of these tanks and chants of “USA! USA!” broke out. In retrospect, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense — it’s not like the Cardinals were playing the Blue Jays or something — but it felt like the right thing to do at the time.

Another mental image I’ll keep with me came during the singing of “God Bless America.” With a three-run lead and only six outs to get, the crowd sang along with euphoric enthusiasm. I could try to explain it further, I’ll hand it over to this YouTube video (taken from inside the bar, but whatever):

As the game headed into the ninth inning, everyone seemed to be shaking an unopened beer, ready to spray once the final out was recorded. As David Murphy was batting, we were again tipped off by the stadium fireworks, and the celebration began as we watched Murphy fly out. The next few minutes were a haze of hugs, high fives, and beer burning my eyes. Here’s another video (again, not taken by me):

The rest of the night was like the biggest block party I’ve ever been to. The streets were simply flooded with people, and the cars that dared to drive through were met with a never-ending line of high fives. Here’s another photo I took of the streets outside the stadium:

All and all, it was a crazy night that I won’t forget anytime soon. I truly hope my story did not come off as “Na na, my team won an yours didn’t!” In fact, I hope every baseball fan (Cubs excluded) gets to experience a championship their lifetime. Baseball is the greatest sport on the planet, and it’s exhilarating to see your team ascend to the top of the mountain.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to passing the collection plate so the team can afford to resign Pujols.

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Jesse has been writing for FanGraphs since 2010. He is the director of Consumer Insights at GroupM Next, the innovation unit of GroupM, the world’s largest global media investment management operation. Follow him on Twitter @jesseberger.

26 Responses to “My Game 7 Experience”

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  1. Bob Loblaw says:

    My game experience: :(

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  2. hunterfan says:

    Why were you thinking the prices of Game 7 tickets would go DOWN over the course of the day?

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  3. James says:

    As a Rangers fan I thoroughly enjoyed going to two WS games this year, 4 and 5. Even though we lost I certainly won’t ever forget the awesome feeling of those two games and the euphoria that followed.

    Baseball is crazy like that with 7 games, but I have never been more emotionally invested in a team after going to 25 regular season games and 6 playoff games this year.

    It was such a heartbreaking finish that part of me wishes it was just a BCS game with play one and done.

    But then the other part of me remembers “NAP-O-LI” cheers bouncing off the walls in game 2 of the ALDS, “CRUUUUUUUUZ” after the walk off grand slam in the ALCS, Derrick Holland’s gem in the World Series and I gotta say… This postseason was pretty dang sweet.

    That was my experience.

    -Rangers Fan

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  4. Great read, Jesse. Thanks. I too hope to one day attend the Canadian version of the block party you attended Friday night.

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  5. mko says:

    I’m sorry to comment this one off-topic line from your great article, but I just can’t resist:
    “The crowd went crazy at the sight of these tanks and chants of “USA! USA!” broke out.”

    I love the people in the US, but that just shows how screwed up this country is…

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  6. herve houchoua says:

    De la France nous n evaluons pas bien la ferveur autour de la MLB.
    ce post est magique , comme votre sport


    ( j aime bien les CUBS….) lol

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  7. Tim_the_Beaver says:

    re: cell phone experience
    definitely a problem at big events- the towers do get clogged. happened every football game I’ve gone to in recent memory.

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  8. David says:

    When I read, “In fact, I hope every baseball fan (Cubs excluded) gets to experience a championship their lifetime. Baseball is the greatest sport on the planet, and it’s exhilarating to see your team ascend to the top of the mountain.” I was partially saddened. Unless you were too young to watch the Cardinals in 2006, every Cardinals fan has already seen their team reach the mountain top. This is why I feel for Rangers fans and why I was pulling for them in the World Series. They’ve never had it. Still a great World Series and an amazing 7 games. Gotta feel great to come out on top of such a memorable Series.

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  9. Anon says:

    “The rest of the night was like the biggest block party I’ve ever been to. The streets were simply flooded with people, and the cars that dared to drive through were met with a never-ending line of high fives.”

    This is one reason St. Louis is great. I heard the same type of story after 2006. A crowd of thousands of people during and after the game is downtown just to be a part of the experience. The worst that happens is you injure yourself because you are drunk or have a sore hand from too many high fives.

    Contrasted with another example that comes to mind: Chicago after the 2005 series had riots. (If they rioted for the White Sox, what would happen for the Cubs?)

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  10. eric_con says:

    Wow, as a Phillies fan I have been so bitter about the Cardinals this postseason, but this story just made me a ton more sympathetic. Nice work!

    Freaking David Freese.

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  11. Ryan says:

    Yeah, during pretty much every game at Busch it’s impossible to use a cell-phone. It was even worse during game 7 because of the crush of people outside of the stadium in addition to those inside (I was also down there). I guess it’s not profitable for cell phone companies to add more towers so there’s better reception on the 81 days a year (typically) when there’s a game . . .

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  12. Todd says:

    I’m a Cardinals fan going to school in Plano. Got tickets to games 3-5 on Stubhub, which cost a fortune. Then after game 6, at 2 AM, on impulse I bought a plane ticket home and tickets for my dad and I to game 7. Cost another fortune. Best decision ever.

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  13. cs3 says:

    Looks almost as fun as when the Giants won last year

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  14. Brian says:

    I am also a Cardinal fan and I have to say…I will never forget this season as long as I live. This was the most improbable season every and I remember sitting at PNC Park with my dad in mid August after a walk-off loss to the Pirates putting us 7 games out of the division thinking it was well over. I truly love this team and franchise and hope for more success in the years to come. Let’s Go Cards!

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  15. My team hasn’t won a championship in 27 years. I don’t remember it because I was 3 years old then. The last time I was in the city of St. Louis, it was to cheer my team on in its pursuit of ending what was then a 22 year championship drought. Curtis Granderson slipped and fell on a patch of grass when a fly ball was hit to him. We lost the game and series. I listened to the final game on XM radio while driving home from St. Louis, a place that I’ve never since returned to. These pictures, night time photographs taken of the outside of the same place that was the scene of that heartbreak, only serve to revive the sadness that I felt sitting in Section 428 on that night of October 26th.

    That said, I’m glad you had a good time. It would be cool to experience this one day.

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  16. RéRé says:

    I’m from Cleveland and I was too young to be downtown during the Indians best years in the 90′s. That said, the closest I can recall our city being like this was the night the Cavs clinched a Finals berth by finally knocking off the Pistons. People were high fiving for what felt like hours outside the arena in the Gateway section between the Jake and the Q. It was euphoric, and that was just for the right to get our asses handed to us by the Spurs in the Finals.

    Would love to bask in a championship run some day. Congrats to everyone in St. Louis. That must have been an amazing night.

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  17. Jeremy says:

    regarding your phone, did you try turning 3G off?

    My phone always works when I turn it off at major events.

    on iphone:

    settings>>general>>network>>enable 3G off.

    Always works.

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  18. Michael says:

    I truly hope my story did not come off as “Na na, my team won an yours didn’t!”

    Mission failed.

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