Cardinals fans soak up win after 24-year drought

Updated: October 28, 2006, 12:35 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Nearly a quarter of a century of pent-up emotion poured out Friday night as this baseball-loving city saw its first World Series championship since 1982.

A crowd of more than 46,000 roared as Detroit's Brandon Inge struck out for the final out as the Cardinals beat the Tigers 4-2 to win the Series in five games.

As players celebrated on the field, fireworks flared from beyond the fence in center field at Busch Stadium, the new ballpark christened with a championship in its inaugural season. Confetti poured on the fans, nearly all of them dressed in Cardinal red.

The faithful who stood throughout most of the game in a wind chill in the 30s continued screaming long after the game ended. Many held up cell phone cameras to capture themselves at the historic event. Some hugged. Others cried.

"It's very emotional," 69-year-old Paul Long said. "The great thing about it is my son and grandson are up from Florida. They love the Cardinals too."

The Cardinals' 10th title capped an improbable run for a team that finished 83-78 -- the lowest win total ever for a champion in a full season -- and survived a seven-game losing streak during the final two weeks of the season.

"Nobody expected this, nobody thought this team would get here," said Mike D'Aphus of nearby Highland, Ill., his weary 5-year-old son, Evan, at his side. "It's unbelievable."

Many players recognized the fans in comments on the field that were shown on the scoreboard.

Winning pitcher Jeff Weaver called them "the best."

Albert Pujols told fans to soak up the moment.

"You guys have been waiting for 25 years -- you can enjoy this," Pujols said.

Before the game, Bob Pittman was willing to pay well above face value to get inside for the potential clincher.

``Three hundred dollars, that's my ceiling,'' Pittman said as he stood under an umbrella and held up two fingers in his search for tickets. ``I have made it to every Cardinals World Series since I was born. But I have to draw the line somewhere.''

By mid-afternoon, the best offer he had received was $400 for a standing-room ticket.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press