Game 6 of the 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers is widely regarded as one of the best games in World Series history.
Most people remember it for David Freese’s heroics — his game-tying triple in the ninth inning and his walk-off home run in the 11th. The Cardinals went on to win Game 7 and claim their 11th World Series championship.
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But without Lance Berkman’s game-tying base hit in the 10th inning of Game 6, it could’ve been a much different story. ESPN re-aired Game 6 on Tuesday night, and Berkman joined ESPN’s Dan Schulman and former Cardinals teammate Matt Holliday to talk about the game and his moment.
He said he went to God in prayer before his at-bat.
“You know, I’m a Christian and I believe in prayer, and I’d been praying like, ‘Lord, just, if I have a chance … if I’m in the grease, would You just let me be able to focus and concentrate and not be overcome by the moment?’” Berkman said. “I wasn’t, like, praying for a hit or success, but just let me be able to relax. Let me be able to focus. Let me get calm and just compete.”
Just like with Freese in the ninth, the Cardinals were down to their last out with Berkman coming to the plate, with his team down by a run. A two-run home run by the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton in the top of the 10th inning put Texas back on top and sucked all the air out of Busch Stadium not long after Freese had tied it.
The Cardinals not only had to rebound mentally from that swing of emotions, but they now had to climb back from another two-run deficit with the bottom half of their lineup coming up.
Daniel Descalso ripped a base hit to right field to open the 10th and Jon Jay followed with a bloop single to left field. Starting pitcher Kyle Lohse then pinch hit and bunted them over to second a third.
Ryan Theriot grounded out to score Descalso, which brought Albert Pujols to the plate. With first base open, the Rangers walked Pujols to pitch to Berkman.
Berkman said he knew hitting behind Pujols that, at some point, the series was going to come down to one of his at-bats.
“I mean, I was so nervous in the on-deck circle,” Berkman said. “I knew they were going to walk Albert. But as soon as I took that donut off and walked up to the plate, it was like this calm and peace and focus came over me that I’ve rarely, if ever, had. It was like all of my baseball experience culminated in that one at-bat.
“When I watch it and see the replay, I can actually see the focus on my face and just the absence of any other thought. I wasn’t afraid of failing. I mean, I was literally in the moment competing as well as I could compete.”
Berkman fouled off a couple pitches but worked the count to 2-2 before lacing a single to center field to score Jay.
He credited Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman for throwing a great pitch, a 93 mph cutter on the inside corner, and said he was just happy he was able to fight it off back up the middle and tie the game, 9-9.
“I just remember being totally, totally locked in on what my job was, which was to try to get a good pitch to hit and try to have a tough at-bat,” Berkman said. “I was not concerned about the outcome at all.”
Berkman was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year in 2011 and hit .423 with a home run and five RBIs during the 2011 World Series, all at age 35, and claimed his only World Series ring that season.
Following retirement, Berkman became the head coach at Second Baptist School in Houston for four seasons. He’s often referred to that moment during his coaching years to illustrate what focus looks like.
“That’s what, to me, what total concentration looks like — when you can block everything else out but what you’re supposed to be doing,” he said.
You can check out ESPN’s entire interview with Berkman and Holliday here.
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