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.

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Bob Loblaw
Bob Loblaw

My game experience: :(