Sun, Oct 29, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Little David Eckstein awarded the MVP trophy for play in `unreal' fall classic

AP , ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

David Eckstein of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a single in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the World Series against Detroit Tigers pitcher Fernando Rodney on Friday in St. Louis. Eckstein drove in two runs in the game.

PHOTO: AP

David Eckstein has taken his mother to dinner at the White House, made a believer of Barry Bonds and gotten married at Walt Disney World.

But to Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, the 1.7m shortstop looks like a "cute, little kid."

Make that a World Series MVP, too.

"It was unreal out there," he told the crowd roaring for the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday after their victory. "We got ourselves a championship."

Eckstein was hitless in his first 11 at-bats in the Series. But he hit three doubles and a single to win Game 4, then singled twice and drove in two runs in Game 5 as St. Louis beat Detroit 4-2 to clinch the title.

Eckstein finished 8-for-22, driving in four runs and scoring three.

When it was over, he hugged every player in the middle of the diamond -- and got hoisted off the ground.

Then it was his turn to lift the MVP trophy and receive the prize that comes with it: Keys to a brand new, bright yellow Corvette.

When the automobile was wheeled onto the field, it came to a stop right near the spot where Eckstein plays.

"This is my first car I can call my own from the beginning," he told the fans.

A fairy tale, maybe, and fitting. He married actress Ashley Drane last year and their wedding reception featured an Alice in Wonderland theme.

His size -- 1.7m is being generous -- and enthusiasm can also mask his skills.

A two-time All-Star who was waived by Boston in 2000, he's now a two-time World Series champion.

"I can remember talking to Don Zimmer a couple of years ago about him," Leyland said. "He said, `You look at him, you can't figure it out.' And then during the course of the game he's in the middle of every single thing."

Eckstein sparked the Anaheim Angels over San Francisco for the 2002 crown and was invited to the White House, where his mother met US President George W. Bush.

Later, at an awards banquet in New York, Bonds told Eckstein's mother, "You've got a great son."

The odds have been against Eckstein since he was in youth ball, when coaches began telling him he was too small to play. Eckstein comes from a family with a troubled medical past, with three family members needing kidney transplants. There's been no indication he will need one.

"He's the toughest guy I've ever seen in a uniform," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

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