Wiedmer: With Cardinals, Dalton's Mitchell Boggs continues knack for winning

Wiedmer: With Cardinals, Dalton's Mitchell Boggs continues knack for winning

November 1st, 2011 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Mitchell Boggs celebrates after finishing off the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 24, 2011 in St. Louis. St. Louis beat the Reds 3-0. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Mitchell Boggs celebrates...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Most professional baseball players would think nothing could be better than winning your first World Series. Especially if you came out of the bullpen to get the final three outs of one of your team's four victories.

And Mitchell Boggs -- the pride of both the Dalton (Ga.) High Catamounts and the Georgia Bulldogs -- isn't downplaying the joy of being a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, who are surely the most unlikely World Series winner since, oh, the last time the Redbirds won it all in 2006.

In fact, he called last week's dramatic championship over the highly favored Texas Rangers "outstanding."

It's just that, well ...

"Saturday topped it off for me," Boggs said Monday as he drove home from the Gateway to the West. "Watching Georgia beat Florida in Jacksonville was special. We certainly haven't beaten them a lot down there."

And you wonder why the Southeastern Conference has won the last five football national championships.

Or maybe Boggs is still struggling to come to grips with the enormity of what the Cardinals just accomplished. The rally from 10 1/2 games behind the Braves for the National League wild-card spot with 31 games to go. The stunning division series win over Philadelphia. The NLCS dismantling of Milwaukee, which had run away from St. Louis in the NL Central during the regular season.

"Oh, I absolutely don't think it's hit me yet that we're the world champions," said the 27-year-old Boggs. "I still can't believe yesterday's parade. My wife [Lele] and I got to ride in the back of a truck -- just us. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people there. What we saw and experienced was incredible."

Incredible has been Boggs' whole athletic life to date. As a senior quarterback at Dalton High he guided the Catamounts to the state title game. At Georgia he won an SEC baseball crown and played in the College World Series. Now this.

Heck, with Boggs' penchant for winning, he needs to buy at least one ticket for Wednesday night's $245 million Powerball drawing. After all, 2+4+5 = 11, which is how many playoff games St. Louis won in 2011 on its way to its 11th world championship.

"I've been incredibly blessed by the good Lord in my life," Boggs said. "And I never forget that."

No baseball fan will ever forget the Cards' rally from three runs down in last Thursday's sixth game. Yet as surprising as that eventual 11th-inning victory was, what manager Tony La Russa said immediately after that game was equally unique, since the Redbirds were still one victory from the title.

"He didn't say a word," Boggs said. "He let the veterans control the clubhouse. He knew those guys would have us ready."

What they weren't ready for was what the 67-year-old La Russa told them Sunday a few minutes after the parade, that he was retiring after 33 total seasons (16 with St. Louis) and three world titles (two with the Cards).

"It caught a few of us off guard," Boggs said. "We expected him to be back. At the same time, I can't imagine a better way for Tony to retire."

Nor could many have a better memory of life with La Russa.

"When I first came up, he gave me a start at Fenway Park against the Red Sox, who were defending world champions," Boggs recalled. "It was a television game on a Saturday afternoon. I ended up getting the win. The next day he came up and told me how proud he was of me. He appreciates guys who take care of business."

The business of baseball being what it is, no one knows if the Cardinals will have the roster to repeat next season. La Russa already is gone. First baseman Albert Pujols -- whom Boggs calls "the most popular Cardinal ever except for Stan Musial" -- could soon be lost to free agency.

Boggs recorded the final three outs of the historic Game 3 when Pujols belted a Series record-tying three homers and six RBIs.

"I'll keep the ball from that game for the rest of my life," he said.

The Cardinals gave Boggs and each of his teammates a bat stamped with a World Series 2011 logo on it to help remember this championship for the rest of their lives. He had all his teammates and coaches sign it. He's also bringing home a couple of caps and jerseys.

But, mostly, he's just glad to be coming home to Dalton, to Lele, to his family and friends.

"I know who I am, where I'm from and who I represent," Boggs said. "Dalton, Georgia, will always be my home."

Considering what a positive image he's been for his hometown through the years, maybe the next parade Boggs attends should be in his honor.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273.