ST. LOUIS (AP) – As hordes of other St. Louis Cardinals fans turned out Sunday to swaddle themselves in their team’s improbable World Series title, Dave Huyette was counting his blessings rather than the riches he might have received had greed overtaken sportsmanship.
Just three days earlier, Huyette briefly held history in his hands from a World Series game considered one for the ages, winning the dash to a walkoff, 11th-inning home run ball David Freese plunked onto a grassy knoll behind Busch Stadium’s center-field fence, propelling the Cardinals into the decisive Game 7 they won the next night.
The Illinois radiologist with a 5-year-old son could have cashed in, given that iconic home run balls have fetched tens — at times hundreds — of thousands of dollars on the memorabilia market. But Huyette would have none of that, knowing that giving the ball to Freese “was the honorable thing to do.” So he did.
On Sunday, there were no regrets.
“I’m not financially needy, and I knew I didn’t want any money,” Huyette, 39, told The Associated Press by telephone from his home in Maryville, Ill., figuring hawking the ball stood to make him “an enemy in my town.”
Freese — named the MVP of the World Series and the NL championship series before it — rewarded Huyette after Thursday night’s game with an autographed bat, a baseball signed by the Cardinals and a picture with him. An auto-parts company threw in tickets for Huyette to the series’ finale.
Valuable spoils indeed, all of them partly because Huyette — an Iowa native attending his first-ever World Series game — had positioned himself for that rare moment when luck and history collide, even if initially he wasn’t even planning to be there.
Huyette had shelled out nearly $1,100 for tickets to Game 6, which he planned to attend with Chicago Cubs-loving pal Jeremy Reiland only to see it postponed for a day to Thursday because rain loomed in St. Louis. Huyette mulled selling the tickets, voicing to Reiland indifference about going. Reiland talked him out of it.
From their right-centerfield seats on Thursday night, Huyette and Reiland — two in a record crowd of 47,325 — had an inkling a home run ball would come their way and for each of the last four innings they waited for it. They knew chasing down a home run ball could get them ejected, but they waved that off.
“At least half-jokingly, I was putting my foot up over the rope as if I was going to be springing onto the grass,” recalled Huyette, who even texted a half dozen people to watch for them on television going after a home run ball.
“I just kinda had a feeling,” he said. “I’m not sure why.”
With two outs and down to his last strike as the Cardinals trailed by two in the bottom of the ninth, Freese bounced a game-tying triple off the right-field wall. With the score again knotted at 9 in the bottom of the 11th, as Reiland was returning from a restroom run, Freese turned heroic.
“I just heard the crack of a bat,” then the wild cheering as the trajectory of the ball headed his way. Huyette was on the grass before the ball hopped to a stop there, then quickly gobbled up the souvenir.
Huyette, fearing others would try to wrestle the keepsake away from him, stuffed it down his pants — “outside the underwear,” he joked.
“I worried that if I held the ball up, someone would take it or rip my arm off,” he said. “Jeremy is a lot more of a (baseball history) aficionado than me. He said, `You have to get the ball back (to Freese). You’ll be on TV — that’s enough.”‘
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)