ST. LOUIS – It’s been a decade since one of the St. Louis Cardinals’ most memorable runs in recent history. On this date, exactly 10 years ago, the Cardinals secured their 19th National League pennant and rallied behind an epic pregame competition.
The Cardinals exploded for seven runs against eventual NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, rode the hot hand of rookie Michael Wacha and defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 9-0, in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
At the time, the Cardinals had advanced to their second World Series in three years. It’s the last time St. Louis has clinched a spot in the Fall Classic, twice making it back to the NLCS, but not any further. The Cardinals eventually dropped the 2013 World Series, four games to two, to the Boston Red Sox, despite carrying a series lead into Game 4.
One signature moment remembered fondly, and maybe even more than two wins against Kershaw or Wacha’s dominance for some, came from another starting pitcher, none other than Joe Kelly.
In 2013, his second big-league season, Kelly became a big piece of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation. He started Games 1 and 5 of the NLCS, covering 11 innings between both outings and giving St. Louis a fair chance to win both games.
As the Cardinals returned home for Game 6, Kelly put some swagger on display. At previous points in the 2013 season, in between his starts, Kelly took pride in staying on the field longer than anyone else after stadiums played the national anthem. Once he outlasted everyone else, he would return to the dugout for good.
Some teams took notice throughout the 2013 campaign but either didn’t think much about it or chose not to act upon Kelly’s rituals. But ahead of Game 6, right after the national anthem, Kelly found himself a challenger. It was none other than Dodgers outfielder Scott Van Slyke, a suburban St. Louis native and the son of former Cardinals outfielder Andy Van Slyke.
For several minutes, Kelly and Van Slyke were both determined to outlast one another. For much of that time, they remained in a pose with their hats off and over their hearts. The TBS broadcast team estimated that Kelly and Van Slyke engaged in a standoff for at least 12 minutes. Even as the Cardinals took the field for warmups just before first pitch, both Kelly and Van Slyke remained on the field.
The umpire crew had to confront both Kelly and Van Slyke as the game neared its scheduled start time. Kelly then took two small steps away from his long-standing pose and looked toward the Cardinals dugout, so naturally, the Dodgers bench cheered on their own and claimed victory.
Van Slyke then entered the dugout, and Kelly returned to his original spot and pose for a brief moment before he too went back to his team’s dugout.
“He would say that he won, but I definitely went for a decoy,” Kelly told Yahoo Sports after the game. “I went for the fake step, and he started to walk off into the dugout and I still stood there on the grass.”
Kelly revisited the standoff in his book “A Damn Near Perfect Game: Reclaiming America’s Pastime.” He claims it’s one of many steps he has taken in hopes to make baseball more exciting for fans, coaches, and players alike. He also recalled having the support of then-Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to engage in the standoff as long as he did.
Van Slyke recalls the standoff being a bit tense, but largely in good fun as well. “I didn’t want him to be out there longer than I was,” he told Yahoo Sports. “I was just going to wait for the home plate umpire to start yelling at me.”
Kelly, oddly enough, has enjoyed two stints with the Dodgers since he was traded from the Cardinals in 2014, pitching in this year’s NLDS round. Kelly also won two World Series titles, most recently with the Dodgers in 2020 and also with the Boston Red Sox in 2018.
Van Slyke has not played at the MLB level since 2017, though has played internationally for several years and has not indicated he’s done with baseball just yet.