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15 years later, '04 NL champion Cards reunite

@anne__rogers
July 27, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Multiple members of one of the best teams in recent Cardinals history are back at Busch Stadium this weekend to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the 2004 National League championship, when St. Louis beat Houston in seven games to advance to the World Series. That 2004 team

ST. LOUIS -- Multiple members of one of the best teams in recent Cardinals history are back at Busch Stadium this weekend to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the 2004 National League championship, when St. Louis beat Houston in seven games to advance to the World Series.

That 2004 team won 105 games, tied for second-most in franchise history, and captured the National League pennant for the first time in 17 years. The Cardinals won the NLCS, thanks to Jim Edmonds’ walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 to force a Game 7.

“I don’t really have a favorite story. Just being in this brotherhood of these guys was so special,” Edmonds said. “It was just a special season. Getting to the playoffs was special, playing in those rounds. They all start to run together, but the worst part was losing in the World Series. That’s the only part I can remember.”

The Cardinals were swept by Boston in the World Series, ending the great season with somewhat of a dud. Of course, many of those players were on the team in 2006, when the Cardinals beat the Tigers in five games to win the organization’s 10th World Series.

“These guys, they deserved better [in 2004],” former bench coach Joe Pettini said. “It was such a good team. Great staff, great manager. Everything was going for us. On the flip side, you look at Boston and they were on a roll. Sometimes the baseball gods smile on the wrong team.”

But this weekend wasn’t about how the 2004 season ended. It was about reuniting 24 players and coaches, and reminiscing about the talent that team had. The offense was led by Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Edmonds, who finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in MVP voting. The pitching staff led the league in fewest runs allowed. It included the starting rotation of Chris Carpenter, Matt Morris, Woody Williams, Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis, and the bullpen featured league saves leader Jason Isringhausen.

“Everything was strong the whole year,” Suppan said. “I’ve never been on a team like that, where we were just consistent. You usually don’t have that. To win 105 games, that’s a lot of games. That’s what I remember. It was a pretty consistent type thing, where it was how are we going to win this series, how are we going to win this game.”

The winningest manager in Cardinals history, Tony La Russa said this weekend is a reminder of how talented the team was and how much fun the group had -- including the moment that the Cardinals won the pennant, when he realized St. Louis was back in the World Series for the first time since 1987.

“I remember thinking, ‘Woah, we just won the league championship and we’re going to the World Series,’” La Russa said. “That’s one of the happiest moments that I’ve ever experienced. The guys had great character, a lot of respect and trust and affection for each other. To see these guys again interacting without missing a beat, it was just like Spring Training last week and we’re at it again.”

The weekend is filled with events for those who made the trip to St. Louis and giveaways for fans, including Saturday night’s NLCS ring and Sunday’s “MV3” bobblehead that features Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds. On Saturday, the 2004 players and coaches were introduced from the dugout and involved in a pregame ceremony.

Stories from the season and beyond filled the room when the players, coaches and their families met for a luncheon Saturday afternoon.

“This is cool because we see each other once in a while, but you don’t get to see everyone together,” Edmonds said as he watched a group of his former teammates. “That’s a special thing because of that right there, the laughter and reminiscing. You see them one on one, and it’s just, ‘Hey, how are you doing? How’s the family?’ But when you get everyone together, you get the stories and camaraderie and the good old times.”

Anne Rogers covers the Royals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.