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Iconic Game 6 sets stage for World Series finale

By Alan Silverleib, CNN
updated 12:22 PM EDT, Fri October 28, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Game 6 of the World Series is an instant Major League Baseball classic
  • "The game has those transcendent moments," says sports writer Andy Martino
  • The St. Louis Cardinals are in the midst of an improbable playoff run
  • The Texas Rangers are seeking their first World Series title

(CNN) -- Strap yourselves in.

If Game 7 of the World Series is anything close to Thursday night's instant classic, it's going to be a white-knuckle, gut-wrenching, hair-raising, eye-popping ride.

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If you're a Cardinals fan, how can you not believe destiny's on your side?

If you're deep in the heart of Texas, Busch Stadium just became your own personal Halloween house of horrors.

The game "breaks your heart," the great Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti once wrote. "It is designed to break your heart."

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A lot of hearts are going to be broken Friday night. But for fans from coast to coast, the drama of this series -- Game 6 in particular -- is a reminder of why 21st-century America still loves this 19th-century game.

The game has those transcendent moments that connect the generations.
Sports writer Andy Martino

"The game has those transcendent moments that connect the generations," said Andy Martino, a sports writer for the New York Daily News. Game 6 "was so exciting that it roped everybody in."

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The Rangers went into Thursday night leading the best-of-seven series three games to two, needing only one more victory to claim their first championship.

St. Louis was down to its last strike not once but twice -- in the ninth and 10th innings. Twice, the Cardinals clawed back from two-run deficits, setting the stage for David Freese's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th and a staggering 10-9 St. Louis victory.

Freese -- a third baseman who dropped a Little League-grade pop-up earlier in the night -- made the instant leap from zero to hero.

"I've played in some special games, but this one takes the cake," Cards right fielder Lance Berkman said.

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For St. Louis -- a team with 10 world championships -- it's been the most unlikely of postseason odysseys. The Cardinals erased a 10.5-game deficit to the Atlanta Braves in the last month of the regular season simply to make the playoffs. A last-minute wild card entry, they went on to bump off two division champs -- the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers -- en route to the fall classic.

"I'm still high from that game," said Alvin Coleman, a St. Louis native who now lives in the Washington area. "It was the greatest game in Cardinal history. This team doesn't die."

I'm "exhausted, happy and tired," said Jonathan Nicholson, a 41-year-old lifelong Cardinals fan. "It's certainly the most amazing game I've ever seen.

"Momentum's on our side," he said. "Maybe fate."

Nicholson called the game payback for Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, which St. Louis narrowly lost to the Kansas City Royals after a hotly disputed call at first base by umpire Don Denkinger. "Denkinger" is still a four-letter word for a lot of Cardinals fans.

"From a karmic, cosmic perspective, we were owed a Game 6," Nicholson said. "We finally got it."

Texas fans don't see it quite the same way.

"It just made you sick," said Greg May, a Rangers fan from Waco, Texas. "You're one strike away, and suddenly your stomach just sinks.

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"The roller coaster was unbelievable," May said. "Nobody could have scripted this. That's probably one of the best baseball games I've ever watched."

For Jerry Jones, a Rangers fan from Tyler, Texas (no relation to the owner of the Dallas Cowboys), Thursday night was pretty much sleepless.

"That was a tough one there. Emotions were high," he said.

Jones watched the game at home with his wife, Charae, and two of his kids, Misty and Cobe. But "we were talking to about 20 or 30 people on Facebook through the whole thing," he said.

Needless to say, fans of both teams will be glued to their television sets Friday night.

"We've got it. It's over. We took the life out of Texas," Coleman said. But then again, he added a second later, "this is baseball."

"I think (the Rangers) will come back," May said. "Hopefully this will give them the little push that they needed."

Jones is driving up to Kansas tonight but will probably pull off the road to watch the game from a sports bar.

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The Rangers are "going to pull through," he predicted. "They've got to step up."

Nicholson's going to watch Game 7 at the same place he watched Game 6: a place called the "Lucky Bar."

"You do what you have to do," he joked.

Friday's first pitch is 8:05 p.m. ET.

Strap yourselves in.

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