As #JuniorCircuit has a signature GIF, whenever I return to the past of #SaveEli, I shall draw upon the meme I’ve adopted for my own. I feel that it’s important to lean into your eccentricities. Plus, the GIF really does sum up that first trip.
“Admiral Halsey” Or “Accidental Witness to History”
The story of my observances of Albert Pujols is unique to most of the Dodgers, as he was nowhere to be found for the original eight-game losing streak as he was toiling in Anaheim.
Granted, Albert Pujols was the offense in the getaway game in Atlanta, which was the last game that I saw Trevor Bauer pitch in person this year. Due to the ineptness of the Dodgers’ offense that day, the below song clearly applied because the offense didn’t do anything on offense that hot muggy, Sunday afternoon.
Before supplementing the official review, it’s worth taking a look at Uncle Albert’s stats while I was around. Because I did find something very interesting when I took a second look.
For obvious reasons, I didn’t see Uncle Albert in the first nine games of the season as he was understandably unavailable. From May 22nd on, I saw Uncle Albert fifteen times, and mostly as a pinch hitter after the All-Star Break.
Pujols in #SaveEli Games
That’s actually both simultaneously worse and better than I would have thought. The only runs that Uncle Albert scored are the ones he scored himself by solo homer in Atlanta and St. Louis. I would have thought that Uncle Albert would have grounded into more double plays when I was around, but that wasn’t the case. As to his only walk…well, that’s discussed below.
It’s worth supplementing the official recap to emphasize what a huge deal it was that Albert Pujols came back to St. Louis. As such, this Post-Mortem is going to focus almost exclusively on the series in September in St. Louis.
Otherwise, the Post-Mortem is going to focus on a series of weak choppers and weak fly balls, which isn’t very interesting.
Pujols grounding out in Pittsburgh on June 9, 2021.
However, before I went to bed on the night before publication, I was working on Justin Turner’s Post-Mortem (spoiler alert), and I found some video from Cincinnati, which proves as the exception to the point that I am making above. I share it with you all for the first time. Please enjoy.
The first clue that the Cardinals were going lean hard into the “Uncle Albert is coming home meme” is the promotion they dropped after I bought my tickets. In honor of Uncle Albert coming home, the Cardinals were offering tickets for $5.55. Granted, these tickets were in the rafters and way worse in the spots than the tickets that I bought.
Game 2 - September 7, 2021.
This was one of the coolest moments of the season. Albert Pujols returned to St. Louis for only the second time since leaving the Cardinals a decade ago. He received a standing ovation and proceeded to hit a home run.
You never know what you’re going to see when you’re at the ballpark.
To be fair, this view is pretty nice, regardless of whether something happens.
Sometimes it’s something bad (flashbacks to Pedro Baez falling off the mound at ATT Park), sometimes it’s something weird (the Not-a-Home-Run games in Pittsburgh), and sometimes it’s something cool – like if you pause the included video below at 1:42 and look directly above the “Y” in the Mercy sign or if you want to refer to the below art, one of which has been highlighted for your convenience.
The storybook-gravitas of the moment was initially lost on me because it didn’t occur to me that Pujols didn’t play in Game 1. My initial thoughts were “Cool. Pujols homered. Dude, I’m right here. Oh well. Don’t be childish, Michael.”
Weirdly enough, that was a close to a home run ball as I would get all season. Granted, when do you don’t sit in the outfield very often, the likelihood of catching said home run ball drops like a rock. Speaking of rocks, Albert Pujols was the only Dodgers batter on the roster who could strike out with impunity without hearing from me. Time defeats us all and whenever he hit on the ground…usually bad things happen. He grounded into 14 double plays in 2021, and luckily for me, I only had to see three of them, which were all against the Giants (2 in May and 1 in July – the only game in San Francisco that I saw the Dodgers lose in 2021). Huh, neat. Baseball.
Anyway, for the rest of the series, after the homer, the few Cardinal faithful that attended would collectively lose their minds every time Pujols came to the plate and would call for him to play if he wasn’t in the game. Granted, that latter point is only applicable to Game 4, the getaway game, where the 2021 Dodgers bench woes came into sharp relief. If you’re looking for additional Pujols highlights, you aren’t going to find any as he went 0 for the rest of the series. The Cardinal fans didn’t care.
Behold from later in Game 2 – now known in my mind, as the Pujols homer game.
“We love you, Albert.” That was genuine, not sarcasm. That moment struck me. It was a prelude for what was to come as to Uncle Albert receiving adulation.
Game 3 - September 8, 2021.
Pujols started Game 3 of that series and the crowd was delighted.
They were happy to see him. On the other hand, I was rather nonplussed, as he went 0 for 3. Mitch White tried his hardest but the Dodgers would lose to Wainwright and the Cardinals that night, but it’s worth noting how many people stuck around in the moments immediately after the game. I thought the matchup fared poorly for the Dodgers’ future if they had to see Wainwright again in the playoffs.
Game 4 - September 9, 2021.
The getaway game. Morning baseball in Los Angeles is always a mixture of annoying and interesting because you never know what’s going to happen and even when it does, there’s no one around to share it with. The problem is that one tends to be half asleep, be it in Los Angeles or elsewhere. The view below helped, but fatigue is fatigue.
I was supposed to hit up the official Pre-Game party across the street, but sleep won out at the end. I actually barely made it to my seats in time for the first pitch, which meant I was at least 45 minutes late. Oh well.
The tears almost flowed at the end of this one. It’s the middle of the afternoon. Busch Stadium is emptier than it’s been all series, and Busch Stadium had only been half full, at most, during the rest of the series.
The fans were calling for Pujols to be put into the game. Roberts obliged and the big man, as he had done throughout the series, tipped his cap to the crowd.
I now share with you that final at-bat in full. I did gain a measure of respect for Yadier Molina at that moment. He made a point to delay for whatever reason during the first and last at-bat Pujols did in this series to let the crowd and the man soak in the moment.
I have thoughts but you should watch the at-bat first. I’ll wait.
That was some roar, am I right?
Also, yeah, the Cardinal fans booed their own reliever because Pujols didn’t get a pitch to swing at in that at-bat. And as a weird quirk of statistics, that was the only walk I saw Pujols take in person in 2021.
The general consensus here is that Pujols goes back to St. Louis, and I don’t think anyone will fault him if he does. I won’t.
The axiom is true: you don’t truly appreciate something until it’s gone. The closest Dodgers analog we have is Kershaw. For the Giants, it was likely Posey. I think I’m starting to understand the emotional relationship on why folks aren’t ready to let go and why they’d want to get the dance going, even after most folks have gone home.