The Cardinals and Game 7

Heading into tonight’s Game 7 of the 2017 World Series between the Dodgers and the Astros, I share the sentiment that I have seen expressed elsewhere that watching games like Game 2 or Game 5 of this series is a delight when there are no rooting interests at stake and absolutely terrifying when there are. So I can only imagine what Dodgers and Astros fans are feeling right now. And if tonight’s game turns out to be a nail-biter then Godspeed to all of them.

The rubber match of a three game series in May can tie my stomach in knots. A Game 7 to decide the entire season is another level of indescribable agony. One game to see if a new flag will fly. One game to see if an off-season of enormous goodwill awaits or if I’ll be sorting through various what-if scenarios in my head for a lifetime.

When I was eight the Cardinals went seven with the Minnesota Twins in the 1987 World Series. In almost every way imaginable the Cardinals were the superior club. The Twins even had a negative run differential for the regular season, which should rank right up there for absurdities with an 83-win team winning the World Series. But the Cardinals were banged up, and the Twins had the homefield – the Metrodome and their dreaded white roof, which felt like some level of cheating at the time.

Or maybe that was my impression based on how inept the Cardinals looked on the road in that series. Heading into Game 7 in Minnesota, the home team had won every game, which at the time was a first, and the Cardinals had been outscored at the Metrodome by 19 runs in Games 1, 2, and 6. Suffice to say, the feeling heading into Game 7 was never good. Cruelly, I was forced to go to bed before it was over with the score tied 2-2. Worse, my parents woke me up a few hours later and told me that the Cardinals lost 4-2.

The next morning I convinced myself maybe that didn’t actually happen. Maybe the Cardinals won? Maybe my favorite team had won the World Series? Nope. For the second time in just a few hours I had to be told that the Cardinals, in fact, lost the World Series. It was the first time I cried about sports.

That was not the first or last disappointing Game 7 of my lifetime. Oddly, looking back, it feels like one of the better ones. Coming off the Denkinger game in 1985, the Cardinals turned in perhaps the worst Game 7 performance that baseball has seen in the World Series and lost 11-0. And they had blown a 3-1 series lead. The Cardinals also blew a 3-1 lead in the 1996 NLCS and lost 15-0 to the Braves in Game 7. And another 3-1 lead in the 2012 NLCS to the Giants, only this time they lost 9-0 in the decisive game. Three 3-1 leads blown and then outscored by a football score of 35-0 in the three Game 7s. That doesn’t even seem possible.

That is why Game 7s make me anxious. I don’t want anything to do with them. And yet, the Cardinals actually have an exemplary record in World Series Game 7s, both recently and historically.

Of their 19 trips to the World Series, 11 have gone the distance and they have won 8 of them, more than any other team. Maybe it’s time to stop being so torn up about all those Game 7 misses from years ago.

On another note, everyone enjoy the game and unless you’re a Dodgers or Astros fan, rest easy knowing you can watch tonight in peace. And if you are a Dodgers or Astros fan, just try to survive.

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