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Holliday Weekend included Buehrle

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 27, 2009 - St. Louis has just finished an unscheduled Holliday Weekend. In fact, it was a long weekend, one that actually began on Thursday with good and/or bad news, depending on how you felt about embattled outfielder Chris Duncan.

The trials and tribulations of Duncan finally came to an end last week when he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Julio Lugo. I never bought into the talk that Duncan’s sole reason for still being a Cardinal was because his dad is pitching coach Dave Duncan.

But I did wonder how he kept his roster spot because he had lost all his power at the plate, struck out too much and continued to be more than just a defensive liability – he is dangerous in the outfield and it is just a matter of time before he gets someone hurt.

So Duncan got dealt and the chatter amongst the sports media types, me included, was that a Matt Holliday deal was in the making. The Oakland A’s made it clear they wanted one of the Cards’ top prospects in Brett Wallace and several other prospects. With Holliday being a free agent at the season’s end, it could just be a “rent-a-player” move, one that could cost the Cards dearly.

By Thursday afternoon, there was no deal, but I figured it would get done sometime before the trading deadline of July 31. But this Holliday Weekend in St. Louis would take a historic turn that very afternoon. It involved a St. Louis guy, but not a St. Louis Cardinal.

Our own Devon Alexander will fight for the World Boxing Council super lightweight title on Aug. 1 in California and he held a public workout on Thursday at the Marquette Gym on the city’s south side. After taping an interview, I was in the car headed west on I-44 when I heard that Chicago White Sox lefthander Mark Buehrle had a perfect game through seven innings.

Being the possessed baseball fan that I am, I immediately decided that I had to get somewhere to see how it turned out. With apologies to my family, the place to watch this was not my own home. Explaining to two little girls why a perfect game is such a rarity is not something that should go on while that game is going on.

If you do have little children, you understand why I pulled into the Culpepper's in Kirkwood, bought a Michelob and watched the final two innings on The MLB Network.

There were four of us watching. As Buehrle breezed through the eighth inning, the stage was set for just the 19th perfect game in Major League Baseball history.

I had never heard of DeWayne Wise before last Thursday; now I’ll never forget him. Called on as a defensive replacement in center field for the ninth inning, Wise forever made his mark on baseball.

The Toronto Blue Jays’ Gabe Kapler led off the inning by ripping a drive to left-center field that was inches from costing Buehrle his perfect game, no hitter and shutout.

Then, that Wise guy did his thing. He jumped, snared the ball, crashed into the wall, lost control of the ball on his way down, snagged it with his bare left hand and tumbled to the playing surface. The 28,000 people in Comiskey Park went nuts and so did the four of us in Culpepper's.

A strikeout and ground out later, Buehrle, a St. Charles native, was perfect. The Culpepper's crowd all cheered and high-fived.

A day later, this Holliday Weekend continued with the trade that brought the former Rockies and A’s slugger to St. Louis.

By chance, Holliday’s wife and two sons were with him in New York for the A’s series with the Yankees. He and the family caught the train down to Philadelphia and he was in uniform for the Friday night game. In borrowed shoes, he went 4-for-5, scored a run and drove in another in the Cards' 8-1 win.

Yes, this was indeed almost like a real holiday. Holliday added two hits and an RBI in Saturday’s blowout loss to the Phils and kept on keeping on with another in Sunday's 9-2 drubbing. That left him seven for 11 for as a Redbird with three RBIs. I can’t wait for his reception tonight (July 27) when he is introduced to the Busch Stadium crowd for his first at-bat. And by the way, Julio Lugo should receive just as loud an ovation. He has eight hits since putting on the Cardinal jersey.

No, it won’t be like watching the last outs of a perfect game. But Holliday does seem like a perfect fit for the Cardinals. I’m not automatically giving the Redbirds the National League Central Division title, but they are now the favorite – barring the Chicago Cubs or Milwaukee Brewers trading for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay.

Then, one of those cities could have a Halladay Weekend, but it won’t include a perfect game. Trust me.

Alvin A. Reid is editor of the St. Louis Argus and a weekend host on the new ESPN 101.1 FM. His weekly Major League Baseball - St. Louis Cardinals column, which is now published on The Beacon website, was honored by the Missouri Press Association as Best Sports Column in 2004 and 1999. He is co-author of the book, "Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was a member of the inaugural staff of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly.