Pujols provides iconic Series moment (cont.)
Total distance of the three home runs: 1,226 feet, or a small mountain worth of home runs in one night; it's the elevation of Little Mount Grace on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border.
"This is certainly something you can tell your grandkids about," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said. "What makes it even more special is he has carried the pressure of an entire city on his shoulders night in and night out for more than a decade. He deserves it."
If baseball had a Nicene Creed, it would begin with the belief that baseball is a humbling game. Failure, even for the very best, lurks around every corner. Those who survive to this level know deeply how punishingly hard the game can be. And so to see major league ballplayers in awe of one of their own, as the Cardinals were last night, as if somehow Pujols slipped through the physical laws of the game that apply to everyone else, was in itself a wonder. And of the five swings Pujols took for his hits, the one that produced the home run off Ogando was the "wow" moment for the rest of the ballplayers. Ogando threw a pitch up in the zone at 96 miles an hour. It actually was so high that it was too high to be a strike.
Somehow Pujols met the pitch with the barrel of his bat, meeting the back of the baseball perfectly, not the bottom of it, and with the perfect path to backspin the ball. It sailed 423 feet, a modest estimation for a sortie that was interrupted coldly by the facing of the upper deck in left field.
"The Ogando homer," teammate Skip Schumaker said, when asked to pick out his favorite Pujols masterpiece, referring to it by name like "Starry Night" in the Van Gogh oeuvre. "The guy was throwing a thousand miles an hour."
Said teammate Matt Holliday, "The ball is up in the zone at 96 miles an hour. And to not just get that ball, but to hit it with backspin and hit it that far is amazing. It's hard to hit a ball that far in BP. There's not a lot of guys, if anybody else, who can do that. He may be the only one."
By the time Pujols prepared to bat one last time, in the ninth, everybody knew they were watching history unfold. Already he had two homers, four hits and five RBI, a collection of hitting jewelry never before seen in World Series history.
The rookie outfielder Adron Chambers actually went up to Pujols in the dugout before he batted in the ninth and told him, "You might as well go up there and hit another one." Pujols didn't say anything. He just looked at him and gave a little laugh.
With two strikes, Oliver threw Pujols an 89-mile an hour fastball with a little cut to it. The pitch was off the plate and Pujols reached for it. He popped it up to the right side. First baseman Mike Napoli ran to the wall of the stands and reached as far into the stands as he could. The ball barely missed the tip of his glove, striking a fan three rows deep on the elbow. It was a nice little literary device to get Pujols one more swing.
Carpenter, watching on the clubhouse television, said out loud, "Man, if he tries to throw that little cut piece again and it's near the plate it's going to be gone."
Oliver tried that little cut piece again. It was over the plate. And Pujols smashed it 397 feet, the most modest of his homers in a collection of no-doubters.
"I ran up and hugged him," Chambers said. "I mean, I can't believe it. He hit another one like it was just that easy. Man, this is fun. To be here and be able to see it? Wow. I'm lucky."
Leaving the clubhouse, pitcher Adam Wainwright said, "I'm going back and playing MLB The Show and I'm going to be Albert Pujols."
There is a lot of noise around Pujols these days. His dereliction of media duties after his game-changing error in Game 2 made for a 36-hour story, thanks to the off day before Game 3, though in the scheme of things a rather unimportant one. His impending free agency, and the guesswork about where he will end up and the sum of his contract, is the stuff of gossip and conjecture better left to days when there is no baseball.
None of it meant a thing in Game 3. You didn't need to embellish any part of the narrative by introducing more "motivation" into the story.
What happened in Game 3 was the perfect synergy of talent, swing and stage. It was midnight -- the official end of the night -- with Pujols sticking around talking to the media until he finally had to catch the deep bus, when he pulled on a black suit, a light blue knit collarless shirt and a heavy silver necklace and at last made his way out the clubhouse door. A representative from the Hall of Fame stopped him. The tangible evidence of the night -- bat, spikes, gloves, shirt, anything; all of which had been authenticated by MLB officials -- is wanted in Cooperstown. Pujols agreed to talk today about what to give the Hall.
The totems of the night, whatever they may be, will be gazed upon with wonder by baseball fans for generations. But what Pujols gave the game was something bigger than any glass case could hold. He gave the memory not just of a lifetime but of many, a night that will be passed on from generation to generation. It is a night that truly has no end.
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