ST. LOUIS -- This season came down to the wire to decide the two Wild Card playoff spots, had a postseason during which a record-tying 38 out of a possible 41 games were played and a Game 6 of the World Series that saw the Cardinals twice rally from being one strike away from elimination against the Rangers. And even beyond that, the 2011 season witnessed the Cards' improbable run from 10 1/2 games down in the National League Wild Card race end with their 11th World Series title after a dramatic win in Game 6 and a 6-2 victory in Game 7 on Friday night at Busch Stadium. Following the final game of the season, baseball's ninth Commissioner couldn't have been more proud.
"This is terrific," Selig told MLB.com after presenting the World Series trophy to the Cardinals' hierarchy in a light postgame drizzle. "It's been an incredible postseason, incredible in every way. This World Series has just been spellbinding. It was one great game after another." Prior to the game, the excitement that was the past two months led Selig to eloquently delineate the state of the game he adores. He began a 23-minute news conference with a rare 8 1/2-minute soliloquy that touched on everything that has recently happened. "I would not be ashamed to tell you that [Thursday] night in the 11th inning after everything that went on, I told a couple of people, 'I'm really proud tonight to be the Commissioner of a sport that can produce what just happened,'" Selig said about a game St. Louis tied in both the ninth and 10th innings before winning it, 10-9, on a David Freese walk-off home run in the 11th. "But it wasn't only [Thursday] night. Since September, we've really had an incredible [couple of] months, topped off by Sept. 28, which everyone said we couldn't replicate. But you play Spring Training, a 162-game season, a month of postseason games, and it all came down to Game 7. I said to my wife on the way over, 'This is the one time all year you can say there's no tomorrow.'" The Cardinals were a huge part of it. Left dead and buried in the NL Wild Card race, the Cards played the Brewers in Selig's hometown of Milwaukee beginning on Aug. 30. Selig recalled meeting with old friend and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa in the Commissioner's Office before the three-game set began. La Russa is also one of three active managers on Selig's select 14-person committee overseeing on-field changes in the sport, so his visit was a little bit more than cursory. "Tony came up to see me, and I congratulated him on his great year," Selig recalled. "'We're not done,' Tony told me. And he wasn't kidding." The Cardinals came all the way back and clobbered the Astros in Houston on the season's final day. When the Phillies eliminated the Braves in extra innings in Atlanta, the NL Wild Card berth was all theirs. At the same time, the Rays came from behind to defeat the Yankees at Tropicana Field and won the American League's Wild Card berth when the Red Sox lost a heartbreaker to the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth inning at Camden Yards. Because of the two extra-inning games and a lengthy rain delay in Baltimore, all of it was decided in a span of 15 minutes. "You couldn't have written that script," Selig said. "If you gave it to somebody, they'd throw it back at you." Selig said he worried how the postseason would top that incredible regular-season ending. But it did. The 38 postseason games tied a record and included 13 one-run games, five of them decided in the last at-bat and three of those on walk-offs. Three of the four best-of-five Division Series went the distance, and the other one went four games. Both best-of-seven League Championship Series were decided in six, including the Cards besting the Brewers, who were once owned by Selig. And the World Series was decided in seven games for the first time since 2002 and only the fifth time in the past 21 years. "Somebody said on television, baseball has had a coming-out party since Labor Day," Selig said. "I don't think so. I think it's always been there. I've said over and over and over, and I believe it of course, that it's the greatest game in the world. I've believed it since I was 5 years old. It's produced for this country, really, a remarkable chain of events. "[Baseball] binds generations together. It does it like nothing else, but it takes moments like this to understand it. The game has never been more popular. There's no doubt about that by any criteria you want to use. But its impact is greater than it's ever been. This has been a proud moment for the great game of baseball."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.