On Assignment-Game 6-2011 World Series

Wow!  What can you say other than Game Six of the 2011 World Series will go down in history as one of the most exciting, entertaining, emotionally mind melting World Series games in history!

A view of Busch Stadium during Game Six of the 2011 World Series from my elevated photo position along the first base line. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

Not once, but TWICE the Cardinals came back from a two out, two strike, down by two runs situation to end up eventually defeating the Texas Rangers and send it all to a deciding, winner take all Game Seven Friday night in St. Louis.

I’m still feeling drained from it all.  I can’t even begin to think how the Texas Rangers and their fans feel this morning.  It must feel like being hit by a truck, getting up, taking a step and then getting hit by yet another truck coming from the opposite direction!

For me, this game ranks right up there with the Twins/Braves Game Six of the 1991 World Series, which ended on a Kirby Puckett walk-off home run to send that Series to a deciding Game Seven.

Entertaining? Absolutely! Pictures to be made? All night long!

The Cardiinals David Freese did a header nearly into the third base camera well early on in Game Six. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

Game Six had me positioned in the wonderful elevated first base platform, located just up the first base line from home plate.  My responsibility from this position was not to shoot batters (we had Brad Mangin and Rich Pilling located at field level) but to follow the action on the field as best I could.  Think of this position as the “roving” spot.  I had the entire field in front of me.  All I had to do was wait for things to happen.  And did things happen!

Any game with five errors is going to provide pictures.  Add 19 total runs to the equation and you can see where I’m going with this.  It was a fun game to shoot to say the least.

Rafeal Furcal and Matt Holliday got their signals crossed on what turned out to be the first of five errors commited during Game Six. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

The errors started coming the fourth inning when Matt Holliday and Rafael Furcal got their signals crossed and what should have been a routine play in short left field turned into the first error of the night, and of the inning.  Shortly afterward, Fernando Salas threw wildly to second base in an attempt to force Mike Napoli.  Napoli twisted his ankle on the play and lay writhing in pain for minutes while being attended to by the Rangers training staff.  Take a look at the frame I made of Napoli’s ankle and tell me how he didn’t snap it in two.

The Rangers Mike Napoli somehow avoided serious injury on this slide into second base. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

The fact that he didn’t injure himself severely and ended up staying in the game blew me away.  I’m thinking Series MVP for sure should the Rangers hang on.  The way the Cardinal defense was playing, it looked at this point like it was the Rangers night.  Sure.

The Cardinals David Freese had began his wild night in the third inning when he went upside down and nearly landed in the third base photo box attempting to catch a pop foul hit by Josh Hamilton.  Two innings later, Freese dropped a routine popup hit again by Josh Hamilton, this time resulting in a run for the Rangers.  Little did we know at the time that Freese would make amends big time later in the evening!

David Freese's night improved dramatically after dropping this Josh Hamilton pop-up in the fifth inning of Game Six. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

The Cardinals game back with a run in the fourth inning, thanks to a nice takeout slide by Matt Holliday which sent Elvis Andrus skyward preventing a double play.   This allowed Lance Berkman to advance to third and eventually score the Cardinals third run of the evening.  My elevated position provided a nice angle to capture this sequence.

Matt Holliday had Elvis Andrus in his sights as he broke up a potential double play in the fourth inning. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

After the Cardinals eventually tied the score at 4-4 in the sixth, they looked like they may seize control of the game, that is until Mike Napoli once again played a major role in the outcome of the game by picking off Matt Holliday at third base.  Adrian Beltre also contributed to making this play work by deftly placing his foot between Holliday’s hand and the third base bag, a big play in a game that was beginning to take shape as one of the all-time classic games in World Series history.  This pick-off play seemed to take the steam out of the Cardinals rally and kept the score tied.

Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre combined to pick-off Matt Holliday in the sixth inning of Game Six, shutting down a Cardinal rally. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

After the Rangers took a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth, it was time to start preparing for potential a World Series ending celebration pictures.  I was certain that Mike Napoli was the likely candidate to win the Series MVP, however my photo location wasn’t ideal to photograph Napoli until he was in the arms of closer Neftali Feliz.  Brad and I discussed our strategy prior to the game, and given that his photo location was in the outside third photo well, we figured he had a better angle on Napoli.  I would go to Feliz for the final out, shooting first with my 500 f4 tight vertically, then switching to my 70-200 and shoot the ensuing mob scene loose.

Not exactly the image I had in mind of Neftali Perez with two outs in the ninth inning. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

With two strikes and two outs, I was ready to go and focused on Feliz.  As I focused on Feliz, I watched him look toward right field when David Freese lifted a fly ball toward Nelson Cruz.  I was hoping that Feliz would react and spin towards me.  That didn’t happen.  The crowd was quite and then suddenly went nuts and I knew there would be no jube on this play.  It wasn’t until later that I watched the replay as the ball sailed over Cruz’s head for a triple and send the game into extra innings.

Josh Hamilton's dramatic two-run home run seemed to seal the deal for the Rangers in the bottom of the tenth inning of Game Six. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

Then, like a scene out of The Natural, an injured Josh Hamilton connected on a two-run home run in the top of the tenth inning to put the Rangers back up by two.  It seemed like the Rangers really were destined to become World Champions this night.  Once again, I prepared for shooting the Rangers celebrating, this time without Neftali Feliz.  Bummer.  Feliz is a “reactor”.  Darren Oliver?  No offense Darren, but you weren’t gonna make the picture I was looking for.  I decided that Adrian Beltre would be my guy.  Lance Berkman changed those plans with a clutch hit to tie the game and send it to the eleventh.

David Freese reacts as he rounds first base after hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh inning to give the St. Louis Cardinals a dramatic come from behind win over the Texas Rangers in Game Six of the 2011 World Series. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

One inning later Mr. David Freese once again took the spot light and dramatically ended this classic World Series Game Six with a dramatic walk-off solo home run off of Rangers reliever Mark Lowe to send the 2011 World Series to a deciding Game Seven.

My elevated photo position gave me a clear shot of David Freese as he prepared to be mobbed by his fellow teammates after hitting a walk-off home run to end Game Six. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

Thank you David Freese.  I don’t think I could have handled the excitement any longer!

As Joe Buck so eloquently said on air in a tribute to his dad Jack as Freese’s home run left the yard… “We’ll see you tomorrow night”!

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One Response to “On Assignment-Game 6-2011 World Series”

  1. Ben Krause says:

    Now that was certainly something special. I was looking forward to your recap of the game. As I was watching what could have been the final plays of the Series I was trying to imagine how I would have photographed it if I was there. I was almost getting stressed out just watching it on TV going through the potential scenarios and how to capture them, I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be there in person behind the lens!

    After Game 1 you sounded a little concerned about the book you and the MLB Photos team is going to create from this Series because of the lack of drama or action. Well I don’t think you need to worry about that anymore! I can’t wait to see the end result.

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