A day after the Texas Rangers lost the 2011 World Series, at 1 p.m. in Arlington, Texas, general manager Jon Daniels quickly conducted his end-of-the-year staff meeting.
"There was so much going on in the backdrop during the World Series," said Daniels. "Ron Washington's mom was really ill. We got home Friday night and she passed away on Monday. I knew he was suffering through that."
Daniels wanted to get Washington home, so the meeting on Saturday was quick. They didn't talk much about the World Series, a wound still too fresh to dissect. But the one thing Daniels will always remember as they left the meeting was a quote from Bill Walsh that his director of professional scouting, Josh Boyd, shared with the group.
"It talks about how at the moment of your greatest despair, let it fuel you," said Daniels. "Embrace it, don't run from it. Let if fuel you and make you better."
Everyone involved in the 2011 World Series -- from player to coach to front office member -- walked away feeling some emotion. Maybe it was pain or joy or hope or disappointment or even thankfulness. The feelings were different for everyone, but no one was left untouched.
To understand how the 2011 World Series had such an impact, our story begins in Game 6 when the Rangers were ahead 7-5 with two outs in the ninth inning. With a 1-2 count on Cardinals third baseman David Freese, and 12 pitches into the at-bat, reliever Neftali Feliz and the Rangers were one strike away from winning their first World Series.
Highlight: Josh Hamilton's two-run homer in 10th inning of Game 6 (after David Freese's triple ties game in 9th)
Mark Lowe (Rangers reliever, 2010-12): "I was up on the fence. Me and Mike Gonzalez, we were standing on a bench, a chair, something. I remember our hearts pounding. We were just really excited. We were one strike away."
David Murphy (Rangers outfielder, 2007-13): "Before that pitch I was thinking, 'What am I going to do if they hit the ball to me? How am I going to celebrate?'"
David Freese (Cardinals third baseman, 2009-13): "The thing that I was most focused on was staying in the now. I think being in the present moment, worrying about what I can control."
Ron Washington (Rangers manager, 2007-14): "All we was thinking about was, number one, we were in double-play depth [runners were at first and second] -- no doubles over the outfielder's heads. But David Freese started fighting for that at bat, started slicing balls down the right-field line, and for one moment -- myself, I take the full blame for that -- we took our eyes off of [right fielder] Nelson [Cruz]. Nelson was thinking, [Freese is] slicing the ball, I'm going to come in and take the ball away from him. He happened to hit one that got over his head."
Josh Hamilton (Rangers outfielder, 2008-12, 2015): "You are not thinking he is going to get a triple. You are not thinking he is going to get a double. If anything happens, he's going to hit a ball in front of you. If he gets lucky he might squeak it in between your outfield, but it would have to be, like, a line shot. So the odds are definitely in your favor as the fielders."
Chris Carpenter (Cardinals pitcher, 2004-12): "This is where it gets a little fuzzy. I just remember excitement. ... He hits that ball and you think that you're going to lose, but you still have a feeling you're going to win, and then all of a sudden it was amazing."
Lance Lynn (Cardinals pitcher 2011-16): "I was in the clubhouse trying not to tear the whole place down. [Lynn gave up three runs, including two on solo home runs in the seventh inning, to allow the Rangers to go ahead 7-4.] When he hit that, I ran back out as fast as I possibly could to get to the dugout, hoping that David bailed me out."
Mark Lowe (Rangers reliever, 2010-12): "When the ball came off the bat, we thought it was going to be caught. When it dropped, our hearts kind of sank."
Josh Hamilton: "It was interesting to stand out there and watch it all unfold in front of you. Because, unless you are involved in the play, there is really nothing you can do, but watch and hold your breath, and hope the guy falls down or something."
Mark Lowe: "I had that feeling of wanting to throw up all over the place."
David Freese: "We're still alive, that was my first reaction -- once I heard the crowd, because I kind of lost sight of the ball when it got to the wall. And I heard the crowd and then saw the ball kick off. I got to third. I was obviously jacked up. It was a pretty intense moment."
Jason Motte (Cardinals reliever, 2008-14): "The next thing I know, I came back out to pitch the 10th."
Josh Hamilton: "Motte was pitching. I'd never faced him before. A guy that throws that hard, you think about, what has he seen that you haven't been able to do well? Because of the groin injury, I couldn't really turn on the inside pitch. I'm thinking maybe he's going to try and throw me fastballs in."
Motte didn't get to throw more than one. His first pitch was a 98 mph fastball on the inner half. Hamilton, despite his injury, turned and deposited it in the right-center-field seats.
Jason Motte: "When [Hamilton] hit the two-run homer, I just remember being on the mound thinking to myself, 'Man, I just lost the World Series. This is pretty brutal.'"
Josh Hamilton: "The cool thing for me was, just praying in the on-deck circle. Just the Holy Spirit telling me as I'm walking to the plate, 'You're about to hit a home run.' I'm like, 'OK.' I've felt like I was going to hit a home run before and maybe done it, but I've never had something inside say, 'You're hitting a home run, right now.' I'm like, 'OK, that's cool.'"
Jon Daniels: "I thought, there it is. Write the movie script."
David Murphy: "I just thought going into that at-bat, I'm like, man, all that Josh has been through with his storied and well-documented past -- I was like, this is the perfect moment for him."
David Freese: "Honestly, I remember him taking Motte deep and thinking we still have a chance to get back in this thing, but if it ends this way it's pretty cool that Josh is the one that hit the homer. He was a big part of those two [Rangers] teams that got there. And on the soft side of what he's been though and what he has battled -- this all happened in like 10 seconds. I'm thinking this while he was running around the bases. I remember thinking, if he is the reason why this series is over, cool for him."
Josh Hamilton: "It was cool. I remember that moment, that pitch. Just running around the bases in disbelief almost that it just happened, yet so overwhelmed and excited, and in pain. All of those things combined. It was just a really cool moment."
Mark Lowe: "I felt it was meant to be. It was meant to happen. Here we are again with another two-run lead."
David Murphy: "After Josh hit that home run, if you would have asked me what the chances are that we were going to win that game, I don't know if I would have said 99 percent. I think I would have said 100 percent. I'm running out to left field [in the bottom of the 10th] and I see Darren Oliver running in from the bullpen. I'm like, 'Man, we've got this. ... This is destiny.' ... He's not even a closer but he gets this opportunity at his age to close out a World Series."
Heartache: Innings Nos. 10-11, Game 6, 2011 World Series
The Rangers led 9-7 in the 10th inning and were three outs away from winning their first World Series when Daniel Descalso came up to bat.
Jon Daniels: "I remember every pitch, every sound. Vividly."
Daniel Descalso (Cardinals second baseman, 2010-14): "I just knew I had to find a way, somehow, to get on base. ... I remember getting into a 2-2 count and chopping off a few close pitches. He kept throwing me sliders, and finally I got one that was in the middle of the plate. I was able to put a good swing on it and hit it to right field."
David Murphy: "Probably because of Freese's triple, we started not quite in no-doubles defense, but we started out deeper than we had been. Sure enough, because of that no-doubles defense, Jon Jay dunks a single right in there -- which I normally would have caught in left field if we are playing normal depth."
Daniel Descalso: "So when [we] pinch hit [Kyle] Lohse to bunt, he ... bunted, like, a hard line-drive bunt, and my heart kind of sank for a second. Beltre might catch it, there would be a triple play, the game is over and the World Series is lost."
But Lohse successfully sacrificed the runners to second and third.
Jon Daniels: "Ryan Theriot hit a slow roller with Descalso on third, where Adrian looks home. We're up by two, thinks about cutting down the runner, but makes the smart play and goes to first and gets the out."
Descalso scored, but Beltre's assist again had the Rangers one out away from their first world championship. After an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, Cardinals slugger Lance Berkman, who was 2-for-4 with four runs scored at that point, headed to the plate.
Jon Daniels: "[Reliever Scott] Feldman is on, a tough at-bat against Berkman. ... [Feldman] throws him a cutter in and breaks his bat. It lands and ties up the game."
Josh Hamilton: "I remember [Lance] Berkman's little blooper more than anything. Oh, ugh. I just remember being back in no-doubles again. He hits a ball that normally would be caught, but it falls in because we are in the no-doubles situation."
Jon Daniels: "I'm sitting down by the third-base dugout. I remember some jackass in a squirrel hat jumping around in front of me. They had that rally squirrel. I just remember this guy in a squirrel hat. I wanted to choke him. But I didn't, I behaved myself."
Josh Hamilton: "Guys were picking on me. They were like, 'I thought you were going to hit a home run to win it.' And I said, 'I never told you I was going to hit a home run to win it. I said I was going to hit a home run.'"
David Murphy: "That was heartbreaking. Once again, a wide range of emotions. Just thinking from being nearly certain that we are going to win the game, to having it tied up again."
Cardinals reliever Jake Westbrook allowed one hit and no runs in the 11th inning. Mark Lowe came in to pitch the bottom of the 11th. The first batter he faced was David Freese.
Mark Lowe: "At this level, you believe in your ability no matter what is going on. I was thinking, I was going in and I had an opportunity to get three outs, and our team would score a run. And I'll go back out and record that last out of the World Series. Just to have that opportunity, I was pretty pumped up about it. Obviously, the script was written differently."
David Freese: "I knew [Lowe] threw hard. I think I faced him once earlier in the series in Texas. I knew I was leading off the inning. So my mindset was not to hit a homer. It was to battle, focus, get on base, drive a ball if the pitch allows me to do that -- but find something that I can hammer. At 3-0 I thought it was a ball. I was pretty fired up, because I was leading off the inning, so that's a pretty big deal. I had a pretty good swipe at 3-1 and connected on 3-2. I was fortunate that it left [the park]."
Chris Carpenter: "I remember leaping over the rail in the front of the dugout and it just being chaos. I don't remember who I was hugging."
David Freese: "I remember rounding second base, just looking in, thinking, 'Enjoy this, slow it down.' I was looking around, soaking it all in. Mayhem at the dish. Best feeling in the world."
Ron Washington: "I said to [bench coach] Jackie Moore, 'It wasn't meant to be, because we had two chances. We didn't lose because we were nervous; it just didn't happen.'"
Mark Lowe: "It was a tough thing for all of us to go through. Even talking to Darren Oliver and Scott Feldman after the fact, I told them, 'I won't watch that game until I'm done playing baseball.' I will never go back and watch that game until I retire."
Josh Hamilton: "I haven't [watched it]. I don't even own a computer. I'm very low-tech. I guess I could Google it. I don't have a burning desire to watch that game. I'm sure one day I might want to sit around and reminisce a bit, but I haven't had that feeling yet."
Mark Lowe: "I grabbed my things from the dugout, and I was feeling pretty bad about the whole thing, not only for me, but for my teammates. It's hard to not put the blame on yourself. Everybody on that team, all the time, took responsibility for things that happened. That's what made us so good, and I felt responsible for that."
Ron Washington: "It ended up being something that I'll always think about and fret about. I was, twice, one pitch away from winning the World Series. I don't think it could be explained. We were two pitches away."
Jon Daniels: "We walked into the clubhouse with the plastic tarp taped up. I remember seeing the cases of beer and the 'Texas Rangers World Series Champions' T-shirts. Now I'm thinking, somebody else got my T-shirt."
Because of a rainout on Wednesday, pushing Game 6 to Thursday, Oct. 27, Chris Carpenter pitched Game 7 for the Cardinals against Matt Harrison on Friday, Oct. 28. In the top of the ninth inning, the Cardinals were ahead 6-2. For the final at-bat of the 2011 World Series, David Murphy went to the plate to face Jason Motte.
Allen Craig (Cardinals outfielder, 2010-14): "That is something that I will never forget. I will never forget standing out in left field with Jason on the mound and hearing the 50,000 Cardinals fans cheering, 'Let's go, Cards! Let's go, Cards!' I think that was one of the first moments where I was like, 'Holy smokes, I think we're going to do this.' So I was just standing out there hearing the crowd chant, and it was like a really powerful moment. I had a feeling that the ball might come to the left side of the field because Jason was throwing hard, and Murphy was up and he's a lefty. So I was ready. The ball came to me. I caught it, and it was the best feeling in the world to catch that ball."
David Murphy: "I was so worn out. ... Being further removed from it, and seeing highlights of that game and of the World Series, it makes me more sick to my stomach now, knowing how close we were and that we did not get it done."
Jon Daniels: "After Game 7, I was sitting in the dugout. That was an emotional deal. A local station got the [shot of me in the dugout] and my wife saw it back home. You think of how many people put in how many hours of work to get to that point."
John Mozeliak (Cardinals general manager): "As I reflect back on that moment, success is fleeting. Nothing is more gratifying than raising the World Series trophy. As I was walking back to the dugout, my first thought was, 'When should we tell the team [manager] Tony La Russa is stepping down? How quickly should we look to fill that position, and how will the negotiations go with Albert Pujols?'"
Josh Hamilton: "It reminded me more than anything about how much baseball and life can compare to each other. You can think something is going the way you want it to go, and in an instant or a flash it can change unexpectedly. I think because of everything I've been through in my life, the mistakes I made, and learning from them -- and coming back and making some of the same mistakes over and over -- I think it was a little easier for me to handle being that close and not getting that ring."
David Murphy: "I think generally in life, life is full of disappointments. It's not about the disappointments that you experience, but usually those challenging moments are the things that help you grow. I feel like a moment like that, and so many other failures that I had in my career in the game of baseball, have helped me and taught me so many different lessons, and made me way more of a man than I would have become without the game of baseball."
Chris Carpenter: "Twenty-eleven was special, and it was special in a lot of ways, and not just because it was a World Series. It was special because we were 10 1/2 games back and we had no chance. Everybody said we had no chance. What it showed was that you do have a chance. I don't care, unless you are mathematically eliminated, you have a chance. So I learned that is what makes this game so great."
Mark Lowe: "I think it made me stronger as a person and a baseball player. You put yourself in that situation as a little kid growing up all the time. You picture different things happening, and it didn't happen the [way I wanted], but if it didn't happen to me, it was going to happen to somebody else on our team, or their team. I was the one fortunate enough who had to deal with it."
David Freese: "Growing up here, it just effected the whole situation more so. For me personally, it sped up a maturation process I needed, but not right away. It brought me right in the spotlight. Even before that happened, I was the hometown guy. When that situation magnified everything, it definitely pushed me into a position to start understanding things about me, my life, and the lane I was in.
"It's just baseball. I know we won the World Series, but I really hope that if I wasn't a part of the team that won the World Series -- and I lost in '13, but I still had a ring -- I hope I would wake up and understand that it's just baseball. I understand the importance of it. It's a big part of what we do and what we are, but I battled, allowing baseball to define me. How you play is how people look at you, that kind of thing. It's a tough thing some of us go through. But if the greatest thing that I was ever a part of was on a baseball field, then I think I'm missing the point."
Ron Washington: "We were two pitches away. It hurts that we weren't able to bring that world championship home. It hurts me as the leader that I failed those people. I feel like I failed my players, also. My players feel like they failed me. It hurts every day. You don't take that for granted. That lives with you."
Jon Daniels: "I remember I came home that night. I got home about 3 a.m. My son was 4 at the time. I went upstairs and checked on him. He woke up and said, 'Dad, did we win?' And I said, 'No, no, we didn't win.' And he said, 'So, no parade?' I said, 'No buddy, no parade.' That hit me."