St. Louis proves to be no match for battle-tested Boston in World Series

World Series

October 28, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Cardinals won 105 games during the regular season, creating the expectation that they would give a much better account of themselves against the wild-card representative from the American League.

Of course, we really shouldn't be surprised that it hasn't turned out that way. If you know the history of each of the competing cities in the 100th World Series, it should be obvious that the Boston Red Sox had the advantage all along.

Boston has always been a tough town. It's the place where a bunch of guys with sticks and rocks tried to take on the British army and touched off the Revolutionary War. It's the place where academics dressed like Native Americans turned Boston Harbor into the world's biggest pitcher of iced tea.

It's the place where Matt Damon overcame his initial shyness to pick up Minnie Driver in that Harvard pub in Good Will Hunting. We're talking tough, tough town.

St. Louis?

Well, you might think it's a hardscrabble place because of the role it played in the great migration of the 19th century, when millions of settlers passed through town on the way to open the West.

Those people definitely were tough, but they didn't stay in St. Louis. They boarded ferries and crossed the Mississippi River and got on covered wagons and headed into Indian country.

So, you have to wonder about the ones who stayed the ones who looked across the great river and said, 'Ooh, it looks dangerous over there. Maybe we'll just stay here and open a Spaghetti Factory when they renovate LaClede's Landing in the 1970s. Someday, we'll even have riverboat casinos.'

The Pilgrims endured great privations to land in Massachusetts. The settlers braved great privations to leave St. Louis. They call Missouri 'The Show-Me State,' when it's really the 'Show-Me-The-Door State.'

St. Louis is the only city in America that has a huge monument to everybody who left.

Don't get me started on the Gateway Arch. I'm not sure what they were thinking when they spent millions to put that thing up, but if God ever wants to play croquet, he'll definitely think St. Louis.

I'll admit the city is not without its charm, and Busch Stadium is one of the last remnants of the most creative architectural period in the history of baseball. They really knew how to build a stadium in the late '60s. The design was so perfect that they put up four others exactly like it. (Note to Eagles fans: It's called sarcasm. Don't write. See you Sunday.)

The fans are polite and enthusiastic, festooned in their bright red sweat shirts, which - coincidentally - match Curt Schilling's socks. It's not their fault that they've fallen victim to the backlash from 86 years of bad Red Sox karma.

If only their team were as imposing as its impressive regular-season record. The Cardinals warmed up with the weather and took advantage of the key injuries that hampered the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros to run away with the National League Central title. They were the winningest team in baseball, but that cuts two ways.

They played very, very well for a large portion of the season, but they were never seriously challenged down the stretch. They carried that momentum into the NL Championship Series before coming dangerously close to blowing a advantage against the Houston Astros.

The Red Sox came out of the epic American League Championship Series on a roll. The Cardinals came into the World Series on the defensive. Not a promising combination for the nice people of St. Louis, who expected a lot more.

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

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