When the St. Louis Cardinals acquired sinkerballer Jake Westbrook from Cleveland in 2010, fans were vocal in their dismay over the price tag: popular right fielder Ryan Ludwick, who went to San Diego in the three-team swap. The soft-spoken Georgian went about the business of inducing ground balls, but sometimes he couldn't help but call attention to himself. Like on July 21, 2011, when he beat the Mets in what manager Tony La Russa described as "a master class" in pitching. Or a month later when he hit his first MLB home run, a grand slam. But La Russa dropped Westbrook from the playoff roster, and when he reinstated the pitcher for the World Series, it was in a bullpen mop-up role. (Westbrook made one appearance in the first five games: In Game Four, with the Cards trailing 4-0, he pitched a scoreless bottom of the eighth.) Then came Game Six. What Redbirds fan doesn't remember the Comeback of the Century, a seesaw affair that ended with soon-to-be-anointed Series MVP David Freese's walk-off solo shot in the eleventh? Yet how many Cardinals faithful recall who recorded the win in that game, who took the mound in the top of the eleventh and — finally! — shut down the Rangers? Jake Westbrook merited scant mention in postgame press accounts, but three days later, after the Cardinals triumphantly paraded through the streets of downtown, Tony La Russa set us all straight. In what would be his final public appearance in a Cardinals uniform in St. Louis, the skipper singled out only one Cardinal for accolades and an embrace: Jake Westbrook, the other 2011 World Series MVP.
© 2020 Riverfront Times