- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2011

ST. LOUIS (AP) - David Freese gave credit to Albert Pujols for setting him on the right path. He praised manager Tony La Russa for believing in him. He thanked Mark McGwire for the swing tips that paid dividends few could have imagined.

Just maybe, Freese should give a little credit to himself.

The hometown kid who once quit baseball finished off an October to remember with the MVP of the World Series on Friday night. The St. Louis Cardinals wrapped up their 11th championship in dramatic fashion, a 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in the first Game 7 since 2002.

Freese batted .348 for the series, with seven RBIs, three doubles and one big homer. He’s the fourth Cardinals player to win the MVP award, joining Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson in 1964 and ‘67, catcher Darrell Porter in 1982 and David Eckstein in their 2006 victory over Detroit.

Freese drove in 21 runs in the postseason, shattering the previous record.

“I’ve had plenty of days of my life where I thought I wouldn’t be even close to being a big leaguer,” Freese said. “I’m here because of everybody around me. They’ve put so much trust in me to accomplish not only baseball but just stuff in life, and to do this is _ I’m just full of joy, finally.”

Freese was burned out on baseball after a standout career in suburban St. Louis, so he decided to spurn a scholarship offer from Missouri to simply be a college student. He even rebuffed the Tigers’ coaches when they called midway through his first semester to see whether he’d changed his mind.

It wasn’t until about a year out of high school that the itch to play finally returned.

Freese gave in and enrolled at St. Louis Community College-Meremec, and his play there caught the attention of the coaching staff at South Alabama. Freese blossomed into the Padres’ ninth-round draft pick in 2006, and a trade to the Cardinals eventually brought him home.

“If you wrote a story like that _ a guy gets traded, comes back to his hometown, he’s a hero _ if you sent that in the script, it would get thrown back in your face,” Commissioner Bud Selig said.

This wasn’t a perfect fairy tale, though. That would be too easy.

After he arrived in St. Louis, Freese was arrested for DUI and found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.232 _ nearly three times the legal limit. He needed season-ending surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right ankle last year, and he broke his left hand when he was hit by a pitch this season. He was hit by another pitch in August and sustained a concussion.

Each time, he came back better than before.

“I’m so proud of him,” McGwire said. “I kept telling him it shows character when you start breaking through those walls, those stumbling blocks. There’s always something good at the end of the road, and here it is.”

Freese hit a three-run homer in Game 6 of the NLCS against Milwaukee, earning the MVP of that series. His performance against the Rangers made him the sixth player to be the MVP of a league championship series and the World Series in a single season.

Story Continues →