Spellbinding Game 6 leaves pundits stunned

Spellbinding Game 6 leaves pundits stunned

In the hours following David Freese's historic walk-off home run in Game 6 of the World Series on Thursday at Busch Stadium, fans, players and media alike tried to find proper context for what they had just seen.

But perhaps the most telling reaction came merely a split second after Freese's homer landed in the grass behind the center-field fence, sending the Cardinals to a thrilling 10-9, 11-inning victory over the Rangers.

"We'll see you tomorrow night," FOX play-by-play man Joe Buck stated, echoing his late father.

The words were also those of Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck in 1991 when Kirby Puckett's home run ended Game 6 in Minnesota -- the last time a walk-off shot forced a Game 7.

Jack Buck's famous call now has company. So, too, do Game 6's in 1975, '86, '91 and '93 in the debate of greatest Game 6 ever, a debate that continued in the hours before the first pitch of the winner-takes-all Game 7 in St. Louis. It's a debate bringing in players who have had a hand in the World Series' greatest moments.

"I was watching last night, and I'm just so happy for the game of baseball," said two-time World Series champion and D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, who hit a walk-off home run for the Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against Oakland Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley. "My moment became very vivid again, and it reminds us all why we should never give up. Hopefully, there's more to follow tonight."

"It was edge-of-your-seat exciting," said 2001 World Series champion Luis Gonzalez, who delivered the Series-winning single off of Mariano Rivera to make Arizona the 2001 champ. "Just when you thought it was over twice, down to the last pitch, the Cardinals came back. It definitely makes you remember the stress and the excitement of it and, at the same time, how nerve-wracking it was for both sides because it was a see-saw battle late in the game."

Images from those games had already been shown on FOX before Freese stepped to the plate. The pitch he crushed to the center-field batter's eye simply cemented the 2011 edition of World Series Game 6 among those classics.

"I've never seen anything like it," said MLB.com analyst Frank Thomas. "Tonight was an instant classic, ups and downs. One of the ugliest ballgames you ever want to see for six innings, then all of a sudden, it became one of the best ballgames you'll ever see."

"It was such an unbelievable roller coaster of emotion," said MLB Network analyst Al Leiter, who was a part of the 1997 Marlins team that won Game 7 on a walk-off single. "We felt it watching the game, certainly the fans did and in each respective dugout."

"At first I thought I was watching an ear-biting tired Holyfield-Tyson rematch," ESPN Baseball analyst Doug Glanville said. "Then, I ended up with an Ali-Frazier thriller."

Thursday's game was just the fourth walk-off home run in a World Series Game 6, and the first since 1993. ESPN's Karl Ravech was quick to point out that no team had ever scored runs in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings of a World Series game -- and for good measure, Freese's homer added another run in the 11th.

"A 10-9 final, which at one point was one of the uglier World Series games," Ravech began. "It turned out to be one of the most memorable."

"Very bad game in the beginning," said Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, who has spent this Series as an analyst for ESPN. "All of a sudden, it's one of the best games to be played in the World Series."

This unbelievable finish certainly captured the nation's attention. The 11-inning classic had 21.1 million tune in, and the improbable outcome had people, from pro athletes outside of baseball to celebrities, tweeting in the aftermath.

"That was the kind of game that would have made a baseball fan out of a non-fan. #WorldSeries," tweeted actress and noted baseball fan Alyssa Milano.

"Best baseball game I ever seen in my life wow I still can't believe it," tweeted Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce.

"@MLB What an unbelievable game tonight! Are you kidding me?! As an avid baseball fan, I am blown away!" tweeted musician and reality television star Bret Michaels.

Given the long, storied history of America's pastime, it takes a true classic for analysts to heap superlatives on a game or a Series. But most weren't shy to do so Thursday.

MLB Network's Harold Reynolds said the Series ranked with the 2001 classic between the D-backs and Yankees among the best ever. He added that he told Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman after the game it might have been "the greatest game ever."

"What a game," said Reynolds, almost at a loss for words trying to explain the magnitude and the historic implications of what he had just seen. "The excitement and the enthusiasm and the craziness that were going on in the ballpark."

For ESPN's John Kruk, who was on the losing end of Joe Carter's walk-off home run for Toronto against Philadelphia in 1993, Thursday's game was about "resiliency." The Cardinals' ability to come back on so many different occasions gave new meaning to resiliency.

"This game was unbelievable," he said. "The thing I liked about it: the young guys were contributing."

"Tony La Russa is using 25 guys," said MLB.com analyst Jeff Nelson. "He's using every single person, and every single person is making an impact."

MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar had an interesting take on the Cardinals' thrilling triumph, in which they came from behind in both the ninth and 10th innings.

"Probably two or three times they were ripping plastic down," Millar said referring to the plastic in the Rangers clubhouse protecting lockers from the champagne that will remain on ice for one more night. "Unbelievable heart from that Cardinals ballclub."

"Unbelievable" seemed to be the word of the night for analysts trying to define the Cardinals' improbable victory. Even St. Louis' biggest star had some trouble comprehending what he had just seen.

"This is unbelievable," Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols said when asked where the game ranks among the greatest ever. "This is what it's all about. [In] baseball, this is what it's all about."

And leave it to Hall of Fame player and Hall of Fame quote machine Yogi Berra, and Cardinals luminary and fellow Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith to put a perfect wrap on this spectacular moment.

"Go Crazy Folks, Go Crazy!" Smith said.

"Boy, that was exciting," Berra said. "I always say it ain't over til it's over, but that one should've been over a while ago."

AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.