It was 9 years ago on Tuesday when a guy by the name of Albert Pujols hit a game winning homer to give the Redbirds their first championship in franchise history, and the first for the city since the Memphis Chicks won the Southern League championship.
Since that September night in 2000, New Orleans, Edmonton, Sacramento, Nashville, and Tucson have won PCL championships, leaving Autozone Park empty during this time of year and titleless.
Of course, the last overall championship in Memphis professional sports came in 2005 when the now-defunct Memphis Xplorers won the championship, the 17th in the city’s sports history, and the closest since the Xplorers won in 2005 was the infamous 2007-08 Memphis Tigers team that nearly won the NCAA title.
But on Friday night in Sacramento, the Redbirds, behind the pitching of Evan McLane, ended the city’s drought for a title by shutting out the RiverCats 6-0 at Raley Field, to give the Redbirds their second PCL championship in franchise history before 12,009.
This coming after fighting with the Iowa Cubs, Nashville Sounds (which won their title in 2005) for a chance to be in this position.
After the ownership changes, defaulted bond payments, and of course, numerous callups to Busch Stadium, the Redbirds can finally say that they are champions.
Not division champions.
But pennant winners.
Yes, there’s been plenty of championships here in this city’s glorious baseball history and the rosters of those teams has been filled with names like Conine, Pujols, Aparcio, Prothro, just to name a few.
But not a title like this.
If you had told me in May, when the Redbirds tumbled out of first place and gave it up to those pesky neighbors from Interstate 40, was in the middle of the pack with Iowa as late as mid-July, that this team would be PCL champions, I would have gave you a dirty look.
However, after a 7-6 road trip in late August and early September, Nashville and Memphis were separated by a half game, which in baseball terms, is like the distance from CBU to my mother’s house in Orange Mound.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Nashville ends up losing to New Orleans and the Redbirds, needing a sweep against Oklahoma to clinch, gets the needed sweep to put a capper on a playoff surprise that wasn’t seen in mid-June.
Then when the Redbirds seemed to be on the ropes in Game 2 of the American Conference championship series, the Redbirds pull off the improbable by notching 5 runs in the top of the 9th to go up 2-0 in games against the Isotopes and finished the ‘Topes off with a sweep in Game 3 at Autozone Park.
And with the first two games in a rain-soaked Memphis, the odds were in favor of Memphis to at least win one in Memphis against the RiverCats.
Well, the pot was sweeten when the Redbirds won 2 in Memphis and giving the ‘Birds a chance to win one of three in Sacramento to win the title.
Friday night at 11:49 p.m. Memphis time, the Redbirds finished the mission, giving the city the 17th professional championship in its history and a right to play Durham in the Triple-A World Series.
How ’bout dem apples?