There has been much to celebrate as a St. Louis Cardinals fan over the last 25 seasons.
Here are my top-10 late-season Cardinals moments:
September Cycle - The 1991 season wasn't a great year for the Cardinals. In the first year under manager Joe Torre, the team won 84 games and finished second in the NL East, 14 games behind the Pirates. But on September 15, Ray Lankford had a day to remember. The Cards center fielder went 4-for-4 and hit for the cycle. It was the 14th cycle for a Cardinals player since the start of the World Series era.
LaRussa leads Cards back to the Playoffs - 1996 was the first year of new manager Tony LaRussa's tenure in St. Louis. On September 24, the team beat the Pirates to clinch the NL Central and put the team back into the playoffs for the first time in a decade. The team lost to the Braves in the NLCS, but the groundwork was laid for many trips to the postseason under LaRussa.
McGwire Hits 70 - On the final day of the 1998 season, the curtain came down on the remarkable home-run duel between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. That last day, September 27, McGwire hit home runs 69 and 70 to set the all-time single season record at the time.
Rookie Gem - In 2001, Bud Smith was a rookie member of the Cardinals' starting rotation. He would win six games on he season and lose three. His career lasted just two short years, but on Septempber 3, 2001, he joined the exclusive club of pitchers who have thrown a no-hitter. His no-no came in a 4-0 win against the Padres.
Last Day Batting Title - In 2003, Albert Pujols came into the final game of the season locked in a tight race for the NL batting title with Colorado's Todd Helton. Pujols went 2-for-5 against Arizona on the final day, while Helton went two 2-for-4 and walked in his last at-bat of the season. Pujols won the title by the slimmest of margins: .3587 to .3585.
Cardinals Bring in Walker - In August of 2004, the Cardinals had a big lead in the division. They showed their determination to win that year by pulling off a waiver-wire trade for former MVP Larry Walker from Colorado. Walker would hit .280 with the Cards that year, but he was a star in the postseason. His .357 average and two home runs were a couple of the rare highlights, as the Cardinals were swept by the Red Sox in the World Series.
Topping 100 - The 2004 Cardinals team stormed through the National League, winning the Central Division by 13 games. On September 23, 2004, Cal Eldred picked up the win as the Cards beat the Brewers 4-2 for the team's 100th win of the year. The 2004 team was the first Cardinals team since 1985 to top 100 wins, and with their total of 105, the Cards barely missed the franchise record of 106, set by the World Series championship team of 1942.
Carpenter Clinches the Cy Young - On September 8, 2005 Chris Carpenter won his 21st game of the season by pitching seven innings in a 7-0 win against the New York Mets. It was part of a remarkable streak that saw the Cards win 17 times in a row on Carp's starts. The Cy Young voters had seen enough. His 21 wins, 241 innings and seven complete games were enough to help Carpenter become the only Cardinals pitcher other than Bob Gibson to capture pitching's top prize.
Wainwright Gets 20 - After narrowly missing out on being a 20-game winner the year before, Adam Wainwright came into his final start of the 2010 season with 19 wins. This time he made sure by pitching six strong innings against the Cubs for a 6-1 win and the lifetime label of "20-game winner."
The Magical Run of 2011 - Last year, the Cardinals went into the final day of the season needing a win and a Braves loss to make the playoffs. Starter Chris Carpenter took things into his own hands by pitching a shutout against the Houston Astros. An hour later, the Braves lost, and the Cardinals were headed to the playoffs.A native of St. Louis, Brad Boeker has rooted for the Cardinals for over 40 years.
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