Like most fans, I remember the Cardinals' last trip to Los Angeles quite well. Circumstances had conspired to make for a highly eventful Thursday evening in Columbia, Mo. The Cardinals played game 2 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. Mizzou opened its Big 12 schedule at Faurot Field against Nebraska on ESPN. Jim and Pam got married on "The Office". Two of these three things ended disastrously.
I listened to most of the game on my car radio while tailgating in a parking garage. After the eight inning, I make my way into Faurot. I bring my pocket radio and headphones, though. I needed to hear the ninth, just to make sure. The football game kicks off. I have headphones on under my Mizzou hoodie, standing in the pouring rain. Franklin gets the first two. I'm listening to Mike Shannon's always entertaining, though not especially accurate description, as James Loney comes up.
Swing and a slash into left. There's Holliday. He dives (not really) and it goes off of his chest (not quite) and Loney's gonna go to second, in scoring position.
Then all hell breaks loose. A walk to Blake. Belliard lines one up the middle to tie it. A passed ball by Yadi puts runners at second and third. A walk to Martin. Loretta floats one into center to win it. Not sure how to react, I just stand there in the pouring rain.
Meanwhile, the rain never halts as the Tigers collapse in the second half against Nebraska, Blaine Gabbert injures his ankle, and Mizzou's season is pretty much derailed. But that's not why you called.
I saw the highlights of the Cards game when I got home. The full impact of the defeat finally hit me. I remember watching the error online repeatedly, into the wee hours, drunk, wet, and exhausted. I was hoping that just once, maybe he'd catch it.
Game 3 was a classic Dead Man Walking Game. Those magnanimous Cardinals fans gave Holliday a standing ovation as he took the field, then gave a loud passive aggressive cheer as he made a catch on a routine line drive in the first inning. The Dodgers win, complete the sweep, and the Cardinals find out how the Cubs felt the previous two years.
I still haven't forgiven Holliday. Is that fair? No. Like Denkinger or Bartman it was a mistake that would have been forgotten if not for the collapse that followed it, a collapse that swung a game and a series. Still, its intangible effect transcended its tangible significance. It's a hard to fathom a more painful way to lose a baseball game. It lingered with me throughout the fall and winter. I didn't want Holliday back. He was the embodiment of an exceedingly cruel postseason defeat. I couldn't imagine looking at him and not thinking of that error. I went as him for Halloween (which got me on Deadspin) in what was definitely not intended to be an homage.
After he became the $120 million man, I tried to talk myself into it, how he and Pujols would form an unmatched hitting duo for years to come. So far, however, Holliday has done little to make me forget his fateful error. Through June 6, Holliday has just 6 HR, 25 RBI and an embarrassing .206 average with runners in scoring position. This from the guy with the biggest contract in franchise history. I hope the day comes when I can look at Holliday and not think of either the size of his contract or how he took a line drive in the crotch to lose a playoff game. It's not here yet. Please, Matt, help me forget.