When St. Louis manager Tony La Russa stood before thousands of jubilant Cardinals’ fans this past week in Busch Stadium, looking for the right way to sum up the heart of his World Championship team, he spoke of Jake Westbrook and called the Madison County native over for a hug at the podium.
Westbrook, a starter who went 12-9 for the Cardinals this year, was told he wouldn’t be on the National League Championship Series roster, but La Russa told fans of how the Madison County native handled the adversity like a champion and ultimately had his time of glory in the World Series, getting the victory in the historic game six. Westbrook retired the side in the top of the 11th inning versus the Texas Rangers. The Cardinals then won the game in the bottom of the eleventh on a walk-off homer by David Freese. Twice, St. Louis was down to its final strike of the World Series, and twice they survived.
The game will be remembered as perhaps the most dramatic World Series showdown in history.
“In our game, a lot of times, there’s no justice, but there’s justice here,” said La Russa, speaking of Westbrook.
La Russa stood at the podium for just over four minutes. And he praised Westbrook for about half of his speech as the St. Louis players crowded around him.
La Russa called Westbrook “one of our favorite teammates,” describing a veteran who puts team before self.
“A guy who’s absolutely part of that perfect description (of veteran leadership) was a guy in our starting rotation that did a heck of a job getting us here,” said La Russa, whose team chased down the Atlanta Braves in September to make the playoffs. “He never, ever backs off an assignment and never gives you anything but his best.”
It didn’t appear Westbrook would contribute to the Cardinals’ postseason with any meaningful playing time after La Russa asked Westbrook into his office to tell him he wouldn’t be on the NLCS roster.
“It’s a very difficult discussion to have and he could have been, oh me, what’s this about? He could have pouted,” said La Russa. “And he said, ‘Hey, I’m here for whatever you need me to do. If I have to sit out, I have to sit out.’ And for the World Series, he’s back on the roster. And who’s the winning pitcher in the most historic World Series game of all time? Jake Westbrook! That’s a teammate, man! That’s a teammate!”
La Russa said Westbrook’s attitude is unusual.
“I’ve been around a long time,” he said. “They don’t respond like that very often. It tells you a lot about Jake. It tells you a lot about this team. And it should tell you a lot about how we got here.”
The video of La Russa’s speech is available on the St. Louis Cardinals’ official website. It is titled, “La Russa addresses fans.”
Doesn't it take a little class to make a statement such as LaRussa's? Certainly takes a class manager to take a team to the World Championship. But then apparently you know more than LaRussa on the decisions that need to be made.