The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals were feted Sunday night at the 58th annual Baseball Writers Association of America Dinner, held before a crowd of about 900 at Marriott Grand Hotel.
It was the 10th anniversary of the franchise’s 10th World Series championship, which snapped a 24-year drought. The Cardinals were powered by seven of the players who attended the dinner: center fielder Jim Edmonds, shortstop David Eckstein, closer Jason Isringhausen and pitchers Adam Wainwright, Jeff Suppan, Josh Kinney, Brad Thompson and Randy Flores.
Manager Tony La Russa, now the chief baseball officer for the Arizona Diamondbacks, also attended. La Russa managed the Cardinals from 1996-2011.
St. Louis won only 83 games in the ’06regular season and watched a seven-game lead Sept. 20 melt to one-half game Sept. 28. But the Cardinals held on, then defeated San Diego in the National League Division Series, the New York Mets in a pulsating NL Championship Series and the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
“We were really beat up,” La Russa said of the Cardinals, who experienced significant injuries to Edmonds, Eckstein, Isringhausen, Albert Pujols and Mark Mulder.
Isringhausen didn’t pitch after Sept. 6, but everyone else was ready. Wainwright stepped into his shoes and cemented the World Series with a Game 5 strikeout of Brandon Inge.
“I tell you what, we saw when we showed up in San Diego and put our lineup out there, they were all back,” La Russa said. “We got in (the playoffs) on the last day of the year and it was scary, but we got healthy.”
Eckstein earned the World Series Most Valuable Player Award, batting .364 (8-for-22) with three doubles and four RBIs as St. Louis won four games to one.
“Once we got in, we took a deep breath,” Eckstein said. “We knew we were ready to go.”
The Cardinals’ 100-victory team of 2015 also was recognized. St. Louis claimed the NL Central crown, edging out the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs before falling to the Cubs in the best-of-five NL Division Series.
“It was a pleasure to go to work every day,” said third baseman Matt Carpenter, who hammered a career-high 28 homers to lead the Cardinals.
Pitchers Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez also represented the 2015 team, along with Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Trevor Rosenthal and Mitch Harris.
Asked about the Cubs’ unfamiliar status as favorites for 2016 and the Cardinals’ equally unfamiliar position as underdogs, Carpenter made a promise.
“I know we love playing that role,” Carpenter said. “We want people to sleep on the Cardinals. “If that’s what they’re going to do, we’re going to come after them.”
General Manager John Mozeliak echoed Carpenter’s sentiments, acknowledging the Cubs’ offseason additions have caught the Cardinals’ eye.
“We hear it, we get it, but we believe in what we have,” Mozeliak said.
Catcher Yadier Molina was the recipient of the Darryl Kile Award, while Grichuk and Piscotty were recognized as co-winners of the Jack Herman/Joe Ostermeier Rookie of the Year Award.
Naval Academy graduate Harris was a winner of the Stockton/Broeg Award for outstanding achievement in baseball. Alex Reyes was the Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Wainwright won the Bob Bauman Physical Comeback Award for returning Sept. 30 after suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon April 25 in Milwaukee.
“This has to be the least amount anyone has ever played to get this award,” Wainwright cracked. “I’m going to take this as a token of what I’m going to do this coming year.”
Piscotty also won the Cardinals’ Minor League Player of the Year Award.
“I felt blessed to get picked by the Cardinals,” Piscotty said. “I’m so blessed to be with this organization, the way they took care of me going from each level to the next.”
Rosenthal, who establised a Cardinals franchise record with 48 saves, also won a J. Roy Stockton/Bob Broeg Award.
Fans also showed their love and support for the late Yogi Berra, a St. Louis native who died Sept. 22. Several members of Berra’s family were on hand to receive the Hyland/Hummel Award for Meritorious Service to Sports.