Celebration Caps Off 2011 Cardinals Season

The World Champions enjoyed a downtown parade and celebration at Busch Stadium on Sunday.

Two days after he helped the St. Louis Cardinals win their 11th World Championship and was named World Series MVP, third baseman David Freese tried to explain his magical journey to a packed Busch Stadium crowd Sunday.

"December 15th, 2007, I was sitting in a Burger King in California when I got the greatest phone call I've ever received in my life," Freese said. "It was from a guy named John Mozeliak, telling me I got traded to the St. Louis Cardinals."

"I had one dream, and that was to be in this position, to win a World Series for the city of St. Louis. This is amazing."

Hundreds of thousands of fans lined the streets of St. Louis and filled Busch Stadium Sunday afternoon to honor Freese and the Cardinals with a World Series victory parade and celebration.

Manager Tony La Russa rode atop the wagon of the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales, leading a line of white and red Ford pickup trucks filled with Cardinals players, coaches and front office personnel past a throng of jubilant and screaming fans.

Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. was the first to follow La Russa, holding the World Series Championship trophy high for fans, who were lined as many as 30 deep in some spots along the parade route.

The procession continued right into Busch Stadium, where a packed crowd stood and cheered as the cascade of stars rode around the warning track before climbing onto a large stage set up near second base.

"You're the reason we were able to assemble a team of this caliber," DeWitt told the crowd. "Not only your financial support and your buying of tickets, but your strong emotional support to this team that attracts the best players to come here. Thank you very much."

Multiple highlights were shown on the video board during the ceremony, including the final day of the regular season when the Cardinals snuck into the playoffs as the Wild Card winners.

Those downtown Sunday couldn't have imagined the scenario two months ago, when the Cardinals trailed the Atlanta Braves by 10 ½ games on August 25.

But the Cardinals overcame the deficit and clinched on the final day of the regular season, beat the Phillies and Brewers to reach the World Series and took down the Texas Rangers in seven games in one of the best Fall Classics of all time.

Several players addressed the crowd including starter Chris Carpenter, who went 4-0 in six playoff starts and was the winning pitcher in the deciding Game 7 Friday night.

"I've said all along that this group of guys is amazing," said starter Chris Carpenter. "It started in Spring Training. We have the best group of guys I've ever been around. I'll do anything for them and to win this World Series and bring this back to our city, and for the guys that have never had the chance to win it, it's unbelievable."

The St. Louis native Freese has a postseason to remember, becoming just the sixth player ever to win the League Championship Series MVP and the World Series MVP in the same season. He set a singe-postseason record with 21 RBIs.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay presented Freese with a key to the city while St. Louis County executive Charlie Dooley gave him a key to the county and a framed proclamation declaring Sunday David Freese Day in St. Louis County.

"You can have all this talent and the right trades, but none of this is possible without the city of St. Louis and the fans," Freese said. "I thank you guys. You are the reason why this is possible."

While thanking the fans for their support, La Russa referenced a game against the Chicago Cubs on Sept. when the Cardinals scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to earn an unbelievable and crucial 2-1 win.

"We came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning and the full house stood up and started screaming," La Russa said. "It was the damnedest thing I've ever seen in a ballpark and our club responded with that rally to where we scored two.

"If every one of our guys hadn't contributed, we wouldn't be here. If you fans hadn't been here that Saturday night, we wouldn't be here."

The celebration also allowed fans a final chance to let slugger Albert Pujols know they hope he returns next season. The free agent was greeted with loud cheers throughout the parade route and a lengthy standing ovation on stage.

Asked on stage about having another World Series celebration with the Cardinals next year, Pujols paused and smiled before saying, "Hey. Why not?"

Should Pujols return, the Cardinals have a chance to be even better in 2012. Starter Adam Wainwright is scheduled to return from Tommy John surgery and nearly the clubs entire core will be back as well.

La Russa is expected to announce his return for a 17th season in St. Louis in the near future.

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