ST. LOUIS -- For all that Tony La Russa has accomplished and for all that he has seen in a storied 33-year managerial career, this will be a stage upon which La Russa has never stepped foot.
The Cardinals' dramatic 10-9 win over Texas on Thursday has extended the World Series to a Game 7 for the first time since 2002 and the 37th time under the best-of-seven format. Until now, La Russa, who ranks second all-time in managerial postseason victories, has never been involved in one.
"When you dream," La Russa said, "you dream about seventh game, all the heroics."
One of only nine managers in Major League history to win six pennants, La Russa has never managed in a World Series nearly as close as this one. Three of his first five World Series trips ended in four-game sweeps, with La Russa's club in Oakland winning the 1989 World Series in such fashion.
CARDINALS WITH ONE TO GO
The Cardinals will be playing in a World Series Game 7 for the 11th time in their history. They've won seven of the previous 10.
The other two years La Russa advanced a team to the Fall Classic, the series ended in five games. That was the case in 2006, when La Russa won his second world championship with the Cardinals' 4-1 series victory over the Tigers.
Now he's set to manage on a winner-take-all stage like none other.
"There are a lot of guys in our club that are really enjoying the World Series, especially the first timers or second timers, and the experience of Game 7 is something they'll never forget," La Russa said. "It's just as exciting as it's supposed to be, and I'm sure ... we will represent ourselves well."
La Russa isn't entirely naive to the magnitude of a Game 7, as he has been involved in three of them during the National League Championship round. In his first year as St. Louis manager, La Russa's club dropped the deciding game to the Braves, 15-0.
In 2004 and 2006, the Cardinals moved on to the World Series with Game 7 victories. The '06 game was particularly thrilling, with St. Louis scoring the winning run in its final at-bat.
"It's not the World Series," La Russa said of that 4-2 win over the Mets. "But believe me, it felt just as good."
Knowing he is getting closer to the end of his managerial career, the 67-year-old La Russa appeared genuinely grateful for the opportunity for this new first. There are few left for someone who has managed 5,097 regular-season games and 127 more in the postseason and ranks third all-time in managerial victories.
Perhaps that wait, as a few players noted Thursday, will serve him well.
"I think one good thing is we have the best manager in the game," first baseman Albert Pujols said. "He's going to come [Friday] and make sure that we come down from the cloud that we are at right now. He knows we have to get ready for Game 7 and do whatever it takes to bring another championship to St. Louis."