Red October

Weaver helps Cards finish unlikely run, oust Tigers

Cardinals 4 Tigers 2

World Series

October 28, 2006|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Sun reporter

ST. LOUIS -- The big brother, the one who had been cast aside and told he no longer could do this, and the younger brother, the one with the golden arm who inadvertently pushed his older sibling away, held each other and wept.

Standing on the Busch Stadium infield, just paces beyond that mound where the older brother had just starred, the two men exchanged "I love yous" and wept again.

The saying goes there is no crying in baseball, but in October, on the sport's biggest stage, anything can and will happen.

There's no other way to explain how the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that nearly blew its chance to get to the playoffs, could roll through the postseason and, in five games, including last night's 4-2 clincher against the Detroit Tigers, end up as world champions.

There's no other way to explain how a 5-foot-7 shortstop who still looks a college junior could be a World Series Most Valuable Player. And there is absolutely no way to explain the brilliant postseason of Game 5 starter Jeff Weaver, the career underachiever who was the walking definition of unfulfilled talent.

Weaver saved his best for last, pitching an eight-inning gem last night in which he allowed just four hits, including a two-run home run by Sean Casey, and struck out nine Tigers, the first of three teams that gave up on him.

"I was very fortunate to get hot when it counted," Weaver said. "It's a dream come true."

Nothing, though, was worse than his nightmare in July, when the Los Angeles Angels dealt the 30-year-old Weaver to the Cardinals - primarily because the Angels wanted to make room for his 24-year-old brother, Jered, in the rotation.

That's why the baseball tears flowing last night were so accepted. Because the Weaver brothers stood together all season and were together again - one a budding star in his first big league offseason, and the other a world champion.

"It feels like I won this along with him," Jered Weaver said. "With everything that happened during the season, everybody was asking what it was going to be like at the dinner table at Thanksgiving. And now he's got all the bragging rights."

All of St. Louis, really, is puffing out its chest after its 10th World Series win and first since 1982. And doing it with a club that won 83 games, the fewest regular-season victories in a full season for a world champ.

"There were times during the year when we had doubts if we could put it all together, but no one ever lost the desire to go out and play Cardinal baseball," manager Tony La Russa said. "If we could somehow get into the playoffs this could happen."

They did it in Game 5 as they have most of the postseason, with great pitching and by taking advantage of the other's team's miscues.

Three of their runs were set up by Detroit errors. The Tigers made eight miscues in five games, including one in each game by their pitching staff - setting one of baseball's most ridiculous records.

Once each World Series night a Tigers pitcher had the opportunity to make a play - pick up a bunt, snag a comebacker or make a pickoff throw. And, in five different games, four different Tigers pitchers messed up.

Forget the three-run homer, getting the ball to the mound became the Cardinals' most effective offensive weapon. Last night, Detroit's Justin Verlander had a key errant throw.

Leading 2-1 in the fourth, Verlander allowed consecutive singles before Weaver dropped down a sacrifice bunt attempt. Verlander raced off the mound, picked up the ball and then threw it past third baseman Brandon Inge, allowing St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina to score.

Then David Eckstein, the Cardinals diminutive shortstop and World Series Most Valuable Player, followed with a groundout that brought So Taguchi in for the Cardinals' 3-2 lead. Eckstein batted .364 with four RBIs in the Series.

"Believe me, he's more than just guts," La Russa said. "He's a very good player."

The star of the night, though, was Weaver.

"The day he came over here, you could see it on his face," St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter said. "He wanted to take the ball and lead this team and he did."

Late last night, with the players huddled on the field watching La Russa accept the championship trophy and make a speech, Weaver's face was difficult to see. It was buried in his brother's shoulder.

Finally the brothers parted, and tears streaked down their cheeks.

The World Series had ended, Weaver and his counted-out Cardinals were champions.

And crying in baseball was not just permitted. But applauded. dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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