Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2011 Baseball Playoffs: On the Road with theTexas Rangers

Tampa Rays

Detroit Tigers

SL Cardinals

This is the tale of my following the Texas Rangers to all 9 of their 2011 postseason playoff games.

2 games at Tampa

3 games at Detroit

4 games at the World Series in Saint Louis

I did not start out with the intention to go to all of these games, but favorable circumstances over and over allowed these trips to happen for me.

Following a great summer baseball trip to 15 ball parks and stadiums (Check this out at -- the June entries), it was playoff baseball time.

This is Jeannie and me (Walter) at Game 1 of the Tigers-Rangers Series. (Courtesy of Bill and Bob Utter).

This was the only playoff game Jeannie attended because she, one of the world's greatest elementary school art teachers, had to teach.
The Texas Rangers, American League West Champions, opened the 2011 MLBaseball Playoffs at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington with two games against the Tampa Rays.

Tampa won the first,

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and Texas won the second.

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This meant that the next two games would be in Tampa in the best 3 out of 5 series.

Since Tampa is a "small-market team," (but with the biggest heart in baseball) it would be easy to get tickets from fans outside the Tampa stadium. I decided to try to go.
Thanks to a Southwest Airlines Award ticket provided by one of the world's greatest AP Biology teachers, Alan Cotten

of Fossil Ridge HS, I took off for Tampa on Monday, October 3.
Monday, October 3, 2011: Game 3 -- Tampa Rays and Texas Rangers -- First Pitch at 5:07 p.m.

I got to Tampa's Tropicana Field about 4 p.m. for the 5:07 p.m. first pitch and was able to purchase a ticket from this girl's boyfriend's father. I joined the three of them.

This is Bill, the boyfirend's dad, who grew up in Boston.

We are the same age and had a great time talking about baseball and the "old days."




This is a picture of the pregame activities. At the opening playoff game in any ballpark, both teams line up on the foul lines and each player, coach, manager, trainer etc. is introduced. The blue is a tarp that covers thousands of seats which the Rays were not able to sell.

Raymond, Tampa Rays Mascot





Texas won Game Three 4 to 3, scoring all 4 runs in the 7th inning. Texas takes a 2 games to 1 lead for the best 3 out of 5 series.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011: Game 4 between Tampa Rays and Texas Rangers -- First Pitch at 2:07 p.m.

I got to Tropicana Field about 1:00 p.m. to try to purchase a ticket, and I got one from Paul, a season ticket holder who grew up in New Jersey right across the Hudson River from Yankee Stadium.

Again, Paul was close to my age, and we talked about the old days especially those at Yankee Stadium when Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra etc. played with Casey Stengal as the manager.






Very nice seats for Game 4.




The Rangers won the game 4-3 again and won the series. The Rangers scored all 4 runs by home runs, three, all on the first pitch, by third baseman superstar Adrian Beltre.

Traditional post-game celebration near the pitcher's mound.
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Texas would now play for the American League Championship (The Pennant) against the winner of the Yankees-Tigers series.

Later that Tuesday night after Texas won its series, the Yankees tied up its series with the Tigers, 2 games each by winning Game 4 10 to 1. The fifth and deciding game would be on Thursday, October 6, at Yankee Stadium.

I decided that if the Tigers beat the Yankees that I would try to travel to Detroit to watch the Rangers play the Tigers in Games 3, 4, and 5. New York would be too expensive and too much trouble. The first two games of the American League Championship Series would be in Texas if Detroit were the opponent.


I put a Detroit plane flight and hotel on hold at great rates to be ready in case the Tigers beat the Yankees in Game 5, which Detroit did 3 to 2.

The first game of the American League Championship 4 out of 7 series was at Ranger Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday, October 8. Thanks to the generosity of Bill and Bob Utter, Jeannie and I were able to go.
Tailgating before Game 1.
Butch Anderson, Bill Utter Ford General Manager, was the cook and host.
Saturday, October 8, 2011: Game 1 between Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers
Pregame Activities
First Pitch
Happy Fan
The rain came.
After two rain delays, the Rangers finally won the game 3 to 2 after midnight.
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Monday, October 10, 2011: Game 2 between Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers
Bill Utter's daughter Bailee had to complete a fifth grade school project, so she could not go to Game 2, and Bill invited me.
Here we are tailgating before the game. Bill and I met 41 years ago at SMU.
He was the best man in our wedding 29 years ago.

Game 2 was a great game as the Rangers won 7-3 on an 11th inning grand slam home run by Nelson Cruz, his second of the night. His first home run tied the game 3-3 in the bottom of the 7th inning.
Grand slam pictures:

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Game 3 would be the next night, Tuesday, October 11, in Detroit's Comerica Park


Tuesday morning, I boarded a plane for Detroit accompanied by many members of the Dallas Fort Worth media along with legendary country singer, Charlie Pride, who sang the National Anthem at Game 2 the night before.


Jeannie and I had been to Detroit in June for a game and we really enjoyed it along with eating at the Pegasus restaurant in nearby Greektown.


Upon arriving at the Detroit Airport about 1 p.m., I asked a lady if she would like to share a cab (about $50) to go downtown. She said that she was on the company dime, and invited me just to ride with her. An auspicious start to the trip.
Soon, I was back in Detroit's Greektown.


About 6:30 I headed toward Comerica Tiger Park to find a ticket. I encountered this trombone player, and I offered him $1 to play "The Eyes of Texas."

He played it great.

This is Bill. He sold me a ticket. His friend was not able to come. We had a beer before the game. Bill had recently moved to Detroit from Boston, but he said that he was going back to Boston in a few days to see his Patriots play the Dallas Cowboys.


This is a view from our seats of the Tigers' opening ceremonies.

And National Anthem sung by Aretha Franklin

The Rangers scored 1 run in the first, but by the 7th inning stretch, the Tigers were ahead 4-1.

The Tigers went on to win 5-2 to get their first win in the series.

View of Comerica Park after the game from my hotel room.


Game 4: Wednesday, October 12: Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers: 4:05 Eastern
This is a view of downtown Detroit from my hotel room on Wednesday afternoon. A cloudy dreary day that would be a harbinger for Detroit Tiger fans.

This is me and Bob, who sold me a ticket, from his season ticket seats. The game was delayed over two hours by rain. Bob used to work in public relations for the Tigers and Baltimore Orioles, but he has been a Social Studies teacher for the past few years.

The First Pitch

The Tigers scored 2 in the second inning, but in the top of the 6th inning, the Rangers scored 3 runs with 4 hits and Tiger Manager Jim Leyland went to the mound to change pitchers

In the bottom of the 7th, Tiger Brandon Inge hit a homerun to tie the game at 3.


The game went to extra innings, and I moved to a standing room section behind the plate.

In the top of the 11th, Josh Hamilton hit a double, and he scored when Napoli (NA-PO-LI) singled. Texas up 4-3.
Then with two Rangers on base, Nelson Cruz came to the plate.

Naturally Cruz hit a 3-run homerun to make the score 7-3. Here is the celebration at the plate.

The Tigers did not score in their half of the 11th inning, and the traditional victor celebration near the mound began for the Texas Rangers.
I worked my way down to the Ranger dugout and got a picture of the great Nelson Cruz.

A spectacular game 4 in Detroit. Rangers lead the Series 3 games to 1.

Game 5: Thursday, October 13: Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers: 4:05 Eastern

The game 5 pitcher for Detroit is possibly the best pitcher in baseball, Justin Verlander, and Texas would have its best regular season pitcher going, C. J. Wilson.

Fans ready
Detroit statue legends immortalized behind centerfield ready
Mascot Paws and Tiger Girls Ready
Fountains ready
But Rangers were not quite ready, as the Tigers won 7-5.

View from my seats sold to me by three old intoxicated Detroit guys whose friend was not able to make it.

Texas scored first, and it was 2-2 going into the bottom of the 6th inning. Detroit had four batters in a row hit for a combined cycle. Rayburn-single; Cabrera-double (the one that hit the third base bag); Martinez-triple; Young-homerun.

Rayburn also hit a homerun in the 7th to make it Tigers 7, Rangers 2.

7th Inning Stretch
However, the Rangers were not quite done scoring. In the top of the 8th inning, Nelson Cruz hit a two run home run to cut the score to 7-4, and in the 9th after two outs, the Rangers scored a run to make it 7-5 and had two men on base as Napoli grounded out to end the game.
On the walk back to the hotel with lots of happy Tiger fans, I stopped in a Greektown restaurant for some seafood.
I did not go to Game 6 back in Texas, but enjoyed watching it on TV Saturday night, especially the Rangers 9-run third inning, Nelson Cruz's 6th series homerun -- a baseball record, the Rangers winning the American League Pennant with a 15-4 victory, and the post-game celebration.
Meanwhile, the Saint Louis Cardinals were playing the Milwaukee Brewers for the National League Championship. The winner would face the Texas Rangers in the World Series.
Before the Cardinal-Brewers series was decided on October 16, I decided that I would go to the World Series in Saint Louis for Games 1 and 2 if the Cardinals and Rangers were playing. Just in case, I reserved (on hold) a flight and room for two nights in Saint Louis at great rates. The Cardinals then won the National League Championship. So I was going.

Ten years ago, right after 9-11, my oldest son Stewart (15 at the time) and I were watching game 5 of the New York Yankees -- Arizona Diamondbacks World Series on TV. It went into extra innings and the Yankees won in the bottom of the 12th inning to go ahead 3 games to 2. This followed Game 4 when Derek Jeter (Mr. November) hit a ninth inning walk-off home run for a Yankee win.


I had never been to a World Series game, and I asked Stewart if he would want to go on Saturday to Phoenix to see Game 6 if we could get good plane rates (since it was just after 9-11, that was likely). He said SURE, we got some reservations, and Saturday morning, November 3, we flew to Phoenix, got tickets for face value from scalpers and went to the game.

Ten years later, I would see my favorite team play in the World Series. The Texas Rangers were in it last year, but I did not attend a game.

The 2011 World Series

Texas Rangers vs Saint Louis Cardinals


World Series Game 1: Rangers at Saint Louis Cardinals, October 19, 2011, Busch Stadium
Around noon on Wednesday, October 19, I left Dallas Love Field, the gates festively ballooned-up by Southwest Airlines, for Game 1 of the 2011 World Series in Saint Louis.

In the Saint Louis Airport, lots of Cardinal Spirit.

While looking for the airport's Metrolink train to ride downtown, I met another Ranger fan, Jordan Murray who was looking for the same. Jordan suggested that we just share a cab, and we did. Pictured is Jordan, graduate of Wichita Falls High School (Old High) and the cab driver who reminded me of Samuel (Nyambi Nyambi), who works at the restaurant in TV's "Mike and Molly."

The Cabbie is from Ethiopia, but has been in Saint Louis for 20 years.
At the hotel, Millenium, which is 2 blocks from Busch Stadium, I was greeted by Colby Lewis, who would be the starting Ranger pitcher in Game 2. (Sorry for the focus)
Actually, Pitcher Lewis was kind enough to have his picture taken with me.

From my hotel room, I could see the top of the Busch Stadium. Since Michelle Obama and Jill Biden were going to attend Game 1, there was increased security. You might be able to see the security person on the top of the stadium.

Before the game, I went to Charlie Gitto's restaurant about 6 blocks from the stadium. Jeannie and I always go to Gitto's before Cardinal games when we are on a baseball trip. It was recommended to us in 2008 by David Reid, one of the biggest Cardinal fans of them all.
Lots of Cards spirit, memorabilia, and fans at Charlie Gitto's along with great Italian food.
That is Charlie to my right and maybe his body guard to my left.

After a great late afternoon meal, I headed toward Busch Stadium to search for a ticket from either a fan or the dreaded scalper.

Cardinal red in the fountains.
Lots of spirit
A cold gray rainy day.

But I ran into some Ranger fans from Dallas, Morgan and Keira, freshmen at Missouri U who graduated from W. T. White (where I taught 13 years before they were born) and Ursuline. They drove about 150 miles from Mizzou to try to get into the game, but they have two guy Cardinal fans with them. They were going to drive back to Mizzou right after the game so they would not miss class (or so they said):


These two Cardinal fans below sold me a nice ticket, and they are also famous anthropologists (not as famous as Indiana Jones, but they were featured in National Geographic in the February, 2010 issue). They work with chimps in the Congo. Dave Morgan and Crickette Sanz. They have spent the better part of 10 years in the Congo. I read the NGeo issue, and it was fascinating. Check it out. They also referred me to a website:


My seat was not with these two anthropologists, but was next to one of their anthropologist colleagues at Washington University, who has spent a lot of time in Madagascar and may know more about lemurs than anyone on the planet.

These are some views from our seats of the opening ceremonies.
Rangers heading to dugout after opening ceremony
First Pitch
The Cardinals scored 2 in the 4th inning, but the Rangers tied it up in the 5th with a 2-run homerun by Mike (Na-Po-Li) Napoli. In the bottom of the 6th, Ranger starting pitcher, C. J. Wilson gave up a double, a wild pitch, and a walk to put Cardinals on 1st and 3rd with two outs. Below is Manager Ron Washington coming to the mound to make a pitching change.

Pitcher Alexi Ogando came into the game, but gave up a run scoring pinch-hit single (almost caught by left-fielder Nelson Cruz) to Allen Craig, and the Cardinals took the lead 3-2.


We sang "God Bless America" at the 7th inning stretch.

and also "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
The Cardinal fans cheered their team on to a 3-2 victory as the Rangers could neither score nor get to first base in the 8th and 9th innings.

ESPN commentator booth outside Busch Stadium and happy fans.

Saint Louis has some of the best fans in baseball, and they were extremely, extremely, extremely happy with the 3-2 win. Joy was everywhere.
(But tomorrow is another day)
World Series Game 2: Rangers at Saint Louis Cardinals, October 20, 2011, Busch Stadium

The weather got a little better, so I took a walk to look at the sites on the afternoon before game 2.
Plus a suprise visitor is flying in to go to game 2 with me.

Old Man River
The suprise visitor is Mr. Chicago, Gregg Fleisher.
We immediately went to eat at Charlie Gitto's.
On the walk to Busch Stadium, we encountered the Saint Louis version of "Occupy Wall Street"
Gregg and I walked around the stadium, spoke to a number of sellers of tickets, bought a pair and headed into the ball park. Great seats, 10 feet from the foul line between 3rd base and the foul pole.
Ranger pitchers walking right in front of our seats from the dugout to the bullpen.
View from our seats toward home plate. Neither team scored until the 7th inning.
This is the top of the fourth inning. Ian Kinsler, #5, is on 3rd base (Michael Young just singled and is on first base with two outs). Adrian Beltre is the batter, but he (like the Mighty Casey) struck out.
This is the Cardinals' mascot Redbird with a couple of friends trying to shoot a t-shirt into the crowd.
Josh Hamilton in left field
The Cardinals scored 1 in the bottom of the 7th to lead 1-0. The Rangers did not score in the 8th, but posed a threat in the top of the 9th. These are Cardinal fans in left field cheering on their team.
The ninth inning started with Cardinals bringing in their star late inning pitcher, Jason Motte. He had faced 28 batters in 8 playoff games and had only given up one hit and no walks.
The first batter, Ian Kinsler, hit a lazy fly ball that fell in for a single in front of the left fielder and just over the outstretched hands of Cardinal shortstop.
Then Ian Kinsler stole 2nd base (barely).

Then Elvis Andrus got a base hit, but Kinsler was held at third base. The throw from the outfielder was mishandled and Andrus went to second.

This is a view at that time into the Rangers dugout from out seats.

The Cardinals, in a controversial move, replaced Motte with pitcher Rhodes. Josh Hamilton hit a sacrifice fly to score Kinsler and Elvis Andrus moved from 2nd to 3rd. The Cardinals changed pitchers again replacing Rhodes with Lynn. Michael Young came up to bat and hit another sacrifice fly that scored Andrus and gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead. The Cardinals did not score in the bottom of the 9th and the Rangers won game 2 of the World Series 2-1, and they celebrated.


World Series tied 1 game each, and the teams go back to Texas for 3 games beginning on October 22.

World Series Game 3: Cardinals at Rangers, October 22, 2011, Rangers Ballpark

I watched Game 3 on television as Albert Pujols hit 3 home runs (previously achieved in a World Series game only by Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson) to lead the Cardinals to a 16 to 7 win and a 2 games to 1 lead in the World Series.

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World Series Game 4: Cardinals at Rangers, October 23, 2011, Rangers Ballpark

I also watched Game 4 on television. It was a close one to nothing game until the 6th inning when Mike Na-Po-Li hit a monster 3-run home run to put the Rangers ahead 4-0, which was the final score. The Rangers have now tied the series 2 games each.

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World Series Game 5: Cardinals at Rangers, October 24, 2011, Rangers Ballpark
I decided to go and drove out to Rangers Ballpark about 5 p.m. for a 7:05 p.m. start. No ticket, but I knew that Carl (call me Butch) Anderson would have his delicious burgers awaiting at the tailgating party.
After some refreshment, I went to seek a ticket with some antlers.
Few tickets, but local news media were set up outside the stadium. Dale Hansen with arms crossed, Gloria Campos, Pete Delkus in the red shirt, and Joe Trahan.
Newy? from Channel 5
It got dark, the game started, and still no ticket. I decided to walk around the stadium and head to my car if I did not get a ticket. I got lucky. The first person I spoke to about a ticket all day sold me a standing room.
As I was walking to find a place to stand, I saw the Cardinals on the concessions TV monitors go up 2 to 0 in the second inning.
I moved around and watched the game primarily from these two vantage points.
In the bottom of the third, Ranger Mitch Moreland, who had just 1 hit in 20 at bats, hit a colossal home run to cut the lead to 2 to 1.
The Cardinals put lots of men on base, but failed to score. However, in the bottom of the 6th inning, Ranger Adrian Beltre tied the score with a home run.
In the bottom of the 8th, the Rangers loaded the bases with one out, and Mike Na-Po-Li hit a two run double to right center field to put the Rangers ahead 4-2.
The Cardinals did not score in the 9th, the Rangers took a 3 games to 2 lead in the Series, and the Rangers celebrated.
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Cardinals 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 7 1
Rangers 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 X 4 9 2

After seeing every 2011 Texas Ranger post season road or away playoff game (2 in Tampa, 3 in Detroit, 2 in Saint Louis), I did not have plans to go back to Saint Louis for the last game or two games.
About 2 p.m. on the day of Game 6, Wednesday, October 26, Game 6 was postponed due to weather conditions until the next day.
I might go now. Fans from Texas are already in Saint Louis, so I might be able to get a flight, and I did.
On Thursday morning I went to the airport to go back to Saint Louis for Game 6 and Game 7 if the Cardinals were to win Game 6.
World Series Game 6: Rangers at Cardinals, October 27, 2011, Busch Stadium
Picture from airplane of Missouri fall foilage taken while landing in Saint Louis
Self-picture in my room near the Saint Louis airport.
About 2 p.m., I took the hotel shuttle to the airport to catch the metrolink train to head to the ball park.
About 3 p.m. I was back in Saint Louis.
And back to Charlie Gitto's for a pregame meal.
The walk from Gitto's to Busch Stadium
Occupiers still occupying
Fans outside Busch Stadium
Clydesdale assistant and me.
I got a great, great ticket for Game 6. 5th row, 2nd level in Redbird Club
Views from my seat.
The Rangers scored 1 in the first, but Cardinal Lance Berkman hit a 2-run homerun in the Cardinal half of the first.
The Rangers tied it up 2-2 in the 2nd inning, and went ahead 3-2 in the top of the 4th.
However, the Cardinals tied it up 3-3 in the bottom of the 4th. The Rangers got one more in the top of the 5th, but the Cardinals tied it up 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth.
Then, in the top of the 7th, Adrian Beltre hits a home run for the Rangers, and the next batter, Nelson Cruz also hits a home run.
The Rangers scored a 3rd run in the top of the 7th to go ahead 7-4. Cardinal Allen Craig hit a home run in the bottom of the 8th to cut the score to 7-5.
It looked very good for the Rangers going into the 9th, a two run lead and needing just 3 Cardinal outs to win the World Series.
I was sitting between two great Cardinal fans, Evelyn and Dave. Going into the 9th inning, I asked them if I could have a picture with them (thinking I was documenting who I was sitting with when the Rangers won their first World Series).
These two, especially Evelyn were about to get very excited.
In the bottom of the ninth the Cardinals got Pujols to 2nd and Berkman to 1st with two outs. The next batter, David Freeze got down to the Cardinals' last strike. One more strike, and the Rangers win the World Series.
But it was not to be as David Freeze hit a fly ball to right field. Nelson Cruz looked like he had a bead on the ball and would make the catch, but...
Two runs scored, Freeze was on third, and the Cardinals had tied the score 7-7. The Cardinals could now win Game 6 with a hit, but catcher Yadier Molina lined out to right field, and the game would go to the 10th inning.
In the top of the 10th, Ranger Elvis Andrus got a hit and then, Josh Hamilton hit a home run to put the Rangers back on top 9-7. It was like the air had been sucked out of Busch Stadium.
In the bottom of the 10th, trailing 9-7, the first two Cardinals hit singles, and Kyle Lohse put down a sacrifice bunt moving Cardinals to 2nd and 3rd with one out. Busch Stadium was exploding with excitement. The next batter grounded out for the 2nd out, but Cardinal Descalso scored on the play cutting the lead to 9-8. Lance Berkman came to the plate, and again the Cardinals got down to their last strike.
However, Berkman singled, Jon Jay scored, and the game was tied again, 9-9. The Cardinals did not score again in the 10th inning, so the game went to the 11th inning.
Cardinal fans and especially Evelyn, jumping wildly while waving her Cardinal towel, were about as excited as they could be at a ball game.
And the climax to this great game came in the bottom of the 11th inning as Cardinal hero David Freeze hit a massive walk-off home run to give the Cardinals a 10 to 9 victory. This tied the World Series three games each, and Game 7 would take place the next night.
MLB Network broadcasting on field after game
What a great game!
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Rangers 1 1 0 1 1 0 3 0 0 2 0 9 15 2
Cardinals 2 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 2 2 1 10 13 3

World Series Game 7: Rangers at Cardinals, October 28, 2011, Busch Stadium

About 3 p.m. I took the shuttle to the airport, and the Metrolink to Busch Stadium, arriving about 4 p.m. This is the scene at Busch Stadium.

There were few ticket sellers, and many fans who were wanting to buy. A ticket to Game 7 would be difficult to get unless one would pay $500 to $1000. Those who know me know that is not me.
I decided to try a pregame meal at J Buck's restaurant close to Busch Stadium. This is a Cardinal fan, Kathy, with me outside the restaurant.
Inside J Buck's. I had a half a rack of ribs and a beer.

When I was getting to leave, a man asked me if he could have my table. I said sure, but we started talking, and he offered to buy me a beer. This is Chris and his girl friend of 30 years, Barb, who like my wife Jeannie, is a teacher.


They were a very friendly couple and they were meeting some friends to watch the game at J Buck's.


After J Buck's, I walked all around the Busch Stadium area for about an hour looking for a ticket seller. There were few sellers, but a hundred people were seeking tickets.

Clydesdales were back.
ESPN Booth just north of Busch Stadium
I finally got a standing room only for free...
Right outside the front gate. Standing room inside Busch Stadium were $500 more, so I would watch the game on monitors along with thousands of fans outside Busch Stadium.

The Rangers scored 2 in the first inning, but that would be all of their runs for the night.

The Saint Louis Cardinals won Game Seven 6-2 and won the 2011 World Series 4 games to 3.

Friday October 28, Game 7, 2011 World Series
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So, as an accidental tourist, I went to three 2011 home Texas Ranger playoff games and all nine away or road Texas Ranger playoff games, two at Tampa, three at Detroit, and four at the World Series in Saint Louis. I saw a lot of great exciting baseball and met some wonderful fans of all teams.
Congratulations to the Cardinals and their Great Fans
Let's do it again next year.