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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Did Adam Wainwright know something we didn’t?
On August 24, the Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out of the wild card race. They had been swept by the Dodgers. The season was slipping away.
Yet there was Wainwright, delivering inspirational words to his teammates during the lowest point of the season. And I have the transcript, word-for-word. How?
It was during my interview of Wainwright at this year’s Knights of the Cauliflower Ear Dinner that the injured Cardinals pitcher sent a message to fans: his team wasn’t going to quit.
As ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark wrote in a terrific piece on GM John Mozeliak and Wainwright’s recollection of the dinner, it was Wainwright’s impromptu speech that “laid out a vision for the miracle comeback.”
Well, here’s Wainwright’s message on August 24, 2011 at the Missouri Athletic Club:
“What a pleasure it is,” Wainwright began, ”to play in front of a crowd like this, for an organization like this, in a city like this, every day. It’s really a treat for us.
I asked Wainwright how he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“I’m doing really great,” Wainwright said on that August night. “I’m hoping these boys will hold on and play some great baseball down the stretch, so I can try to talk Tony (La Russa) into letting me pitch too early.”
The crowd filled the Missouri Room with the happy sounds of laughter and applause.
“I’ve handled this the best I can,” Wainwright continued. “I found out in spring training I was missing the season. And the last thing this team — this city — needs is for me to show up and be a negative nelly every day. They need me as a positive force on this team.
“I know I can help this team win when I’m pitching. But I also know I can help this team when I’m not pitching, too.”
I held the microphone and looked at Wainwright. He kept going.
“It’s one of those things where it’s a lot easier when you’re winning,” he told the audience, which was hanging on every word at this point. “Right now, it’s not easy for anyone because we’re not winning. This city deserves us to win and we want to win.”
Then Wainwright delivered the rationale for believing the Cardinals could still do it.
“The way I look at it, we play the Brewers six more times. Yeah, we’re down ten games now. But if we beat them all six times, we’re down four games.
The crowd roared. Wainwright was on a roll.
“I don’t think anybody in their right mind would be comfortable ahead of us, only up four games,” Wainwright said. “So we’ve got a great chance, because no one expects us to come back and win. We have a greater chance to do it, because nobody is expecting it.
“We’ve proven it before that we can surprise people. And we have the people that can do it.”
And with that, Wainwright sat down. Manager Tony La Russa applauded. Mozeliak applauded. Roughly half of the team’s roster, scattered throughout the room at various tables, cheered on their teammate.
Since that day, the Cardinals are 30-13. They’re National League Champions, hosting the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night.
Adam Wainwright is a Cy Young caliber pitcher. When he finally returns to the mound and resumes his career, the sky is the limit for the righthanded starter.
He might consider a future in motivational speaking.
Tom Ackerman is Sports Director at KMOX. He can be heard weekday mornings at :15 and :45 past the hour on “Total Information A.M.” Follow him on Twitter: @Ackerman1120