This is their story. The story of the Last Great Call(s) of what we might as well call the Age of the Human Element, carefully reconstructed from the viewpoint of everyone involved.
There is one out in the ninth inning of a tied World Series game. Yadier Molina stands on third base. Allen Craig, playing just his third game after missing a month and a half with a still-painful foot injury, leads off second. Koji Uehara is on the mound. Jon Jay digs in to await an 0-1 pitch.
Craig: "In that situation, I was on second base, and just kind of going through my head what my responsibility was: `Don't get picked off. Don't get doubled off on a line drive. Don't tag up on a ball to the outfield and get thrown out at third before that run scores.' It's the kind of situation where you never expect to get involved in the play."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (on why he hadn't inserted a pinch runner for Craig): "At the time, his run didn't mean anything. It was the run in front of him. So I didn't bother to pinch run for him because I wanted to make sure we had guys around in case we needed to go into extra innings. And I needed to save every player that we could."
Uehara serves up one of those killer splitters that has made him famous. Jay thumps it back up the middle. It looks, for a millisecond, like a game-winning single past a drawn-in infield ... until Dustin Pedroia unfurls one of those classic Pedroia moments -- willing himself to make a lunging, backhanded stab of a sizzling two-hopper, then picking himself up to nail Molina at the plate.
And then it happens. As the throw comes home, Craig takes off for third base. Saltalamacchia spots him from the corner of his eye and "knew he had his ankle injury, so he wasn't as fast as most guys." So the Red Sox catcher makes the decision -- and the ill-fated throw to third base -- that leads to all of this. The throw tails away from Middlebrooks and skids off Craig's left sleeve, just below the shoulder, and the insanity officially begins.
Middlebrooks: "It was something that sort of happened so fast. After watching the replay, you see a lot more. But in the heat of the moment, you just go diving for the ball and then try to get up and try to find the ball, because I knew it hit him, and it was somewhere close. But I didn't know where it was. So I was just trying to get up and find the ball so the run didn't score. And then, in the midst of that, I get stepped on."
Craig: "I slid in hard. Felt the ball hit my arm. And I got up and turned and looked over my shoulder and saw it got away, and I was just trying to get home. And I couldn't get there."
Saltalamacchia: "You're taught to slide into third, pop up and then run straight home. Well, he had trouble getting up. And then ... as he got up, he was on the second-base side, and he had to run towards home. And his legs were dead, you know? So he was trying to jump over Will and tripped, which is weird, because you know, Will's not huge. He's probably only about 12 inches off the ground. So you'd think a guy could get over him. But I guess he was just gassed and couldn't do it. So it was a weird play."