An improbable World Series title run by the St Louis Cardinals topped a Major League Baseball year that saw legends Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens put on trial and others achieve historic milestones.
The Cardinals, one strike from losing the best-of-seven final to the Texas Rangers in Game 6, rallied to win and took the seventh game as well to claim their 11th World Series title, second only to the iconic New York Yankees.
St Louis trailed Atlanta for the final National League playoff spot by 10.5 games on Aug. 25 before winning 23 of their final 31 games to edge the Braves by a game for the last spot and ripping through October’s playoffs.
“This is definitely a dream come true,” said World Series Most Valuable Player David Freese, a Cardinals supporter since childhood who hit a ninth-inning triple and 11th-inning home run for a comeback Game 6 victory.
US home run king Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice for giving misleading testimony to a 2003 grand jury, but is appealing the verdict. Retired pitcher Clemens had a mistrial on perjury charges and will be retried in April.
Among the year’s achievements, Yankees relief ace Mariano Rivera of Panama set a record with his 602nd career save in September, while Yankees captain Derek Jeter reached 3,000 career hits in July with a homer at Yankee Stadium.
While the Cardinals stole the show on the field, they lost their manager and star slugger in the days after taking the World Series.
Three days after winning his third Series crown, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa retired at age 67.
“I feel good that this is the right decision,” La Russa said. “This just feels like it’s time to end it.”
The Cardinals also enter next year without slugger Albert Pujols, who signed a 10-year deal worth US$254 million with the Los Angeles Angels this month.
The Angels also landed southpaw pitcher C.J. Wilson, who had helped the Rangers reach the World Series for the second year in a row.
Baseball also struggled to move on from past drug scandals.
Bonds was sentenced to 30 days of house arrest and two years probation plus 250 hours of community service and a US$4,000 fine for obstructing justice.
Prosecutors had sought a 15-month jail term for Bonds. They dropped three perjury charges against Bonds after jurors were unable to render a verdict in April deliberations.
A new perjury trial was ordered next April for Clemens after a July mistrial on charges he lied under oath to Congress in 2008 when denying he took performance-enhancing drugs.
Tampa Bay slugger Manny Ramirez retired after an issue under baseball’s drug policy, having previously served a 50-game doping ban while with the Dodgers.
National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers was set to be hit with a 50-game doping ban, but appealed a positive drug test in what figured to be the first major story of next year.
A new five-year collective bargaining agreement was signed by players and club owners, avoiding the shutdowns suffered in basketball and football over similar issues.
Some teams faced financial issues this year.
Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt took his team into bankruptcy and last month agreed to sell the club to avoid a court showdown with Major League Baseball, while the New York Mets struggled after losing millions of dollars in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.