Misplays and Curses
All Matt Holliday had to do was catch the ball. If he does, the Cardinals go back to St. Louis with a split and have a good chance to win the series. But he doesn't. He muffs it. Dodgers come back, win the game, and cripple the Cardinals chances to advance.
Yes, the error was costly, and put the hearts in the throat of many a Cardinal fan last night. But, I can't help thinking what might have been, had that same occurrence happened to another city last night - namely their rivals to the north, the Chicago Cubs.
To the Cardinals it was just one bad play made by made a normally solid outfielder. The game was blown, but it was just one game. And the series, now likely lost, is just one series. But had the identical play happened in Chicago, it would have been the latest in a long string of signs of the apocalypse. LaRussa and his teammates stood by their man, and the fans in St. Louis will likely give Holliday an ovation of support when he takes the field on Saturday. He will not run out of town, and a prominent St. Louis restaurant will not blow the Matt Holliday ball to smithereens as a publicity stunt. I'm not so sure if that wouldn't be the case in Chicago.
This type of thing happens, and in fact one could make the case that the Cardinals have had more of these freak occurrences and "cursed events" than the Cubs have. The Cubs have never had a playoff game literally in hand that was then dropped. Sure, part of the Cubs curse involves Don Young muffing two balls in the 9th inning in 1969 against the Mets, but that was in July! The Cubs had an out snatched away in 2003, but as you'll recall, they were pounded for eight runs later that game.
The Cardinals meanwhile, did have an entire World Series championship taken away by a blown umpire's call in the 1985 World Series. But for St. Louis, that wasn't a curse, it was a bad call. The Cardinals knew they would be back, and they were, reaching the World Series four more times in the next 21 years, and winning in 2006. And they know they'll be back now.
Winning organizations don't believe in curses because they know they can overcome misfortune by playing good baseball. But in Chicago, where chances are few and far between, every missed opportunity, every failing, and every blown play only increase the howling of demons in every Cubs fan's head. And if the Red Sox are any indication, the only way to exorcise them is by winning it all.