David Freese is the definition of a hometown hero for the St. Louis Cardinals. Let’s remember his time here on his 37th birthday.
When I got to high school, I had the pleasure of going to Lafayette HS in Wildwood, Missouri. If you know anything about David Freese, you know that he also went there, as did another former St. Louis Cardinals’ corner infielder, Luke Voit.
I may have gone to the school 12 years after Freese graduated, but I still had that special connection to him, knowing we were coming from the same place. Freese also has a special place in every Cardinals fans’ heart because of his heroics in the 2011 postseason.
It wasn’t just in 2011 that the hometown kid earned his place in St. Louis history though. On his 37th birthday, let’s look back at the career and time Freese spent in St. Louis.
After being drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 9th round of the 2006 MLB Draft, Freese’s .964 OPS in Low-A and .889 OPS in High-A put him on the rise in the Padres system, but he was blocked by Chase Headley and Kevin Kouzmanoff. For that reason, the Padres traded him for Jim Edmonds in 2008, bringing Freese back home.
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Freese then proceeded to bat .306 with a .910 OPS and 26 homers at AAA Memphis in 2008. In 2009, an injury to Troy Glaus let Freese start the year with the big club, but he was soon optioned back down where an injury kept him from playing a lot of the year.
2010 was his first season as the starting third baseman, and in 70 games he hit .296 with a .765 OPS. His power had dried some (only four homers), but it wasn’t a bad showing at all. The season was over in just 70 games for Freese though as an ankle injury resulted in him needing surgery.
In 2011 Freese started the year again as the starter and had his best regular season yet. In 97 games, he hit .297 with a .791 OPS. He missed time due to a fractured hand because of an HBP, but other than that, he was healthy.
The real magic begins in the 2011 postseason though. Starting in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Phillies, Freese drove in four runs to let the Cardinals play another day, avoiding elimination. Chris Carpenter then outduelled Roy Halladay in Game 5 to move the Cards onto the NLCS. In the NLCS, Freese batted .545 with a 1.691 OPS and three homers in the six-game series, winning the MVP of the series.
In the World Series, we all know how well he did. On the whole, Freese hit .348 with seven RBI, but he will forever be remembered for his Game 6 heroics. First, he hit his two-run triple with two outs and two strikes in the 9th inning against Neftali Feliz, then in the 11th, he hit the game-winning homer to straight center.
Freese joined Jim Edmonds (whom he was traded for) as the only Cardinals ever to hit a walk-off homer in extra innings in the postseason. In Game 7, when Freese drove in two with a double in the first inning, he set the MLB record for RBI in a single series with 21. He was a great pick as the World Series MVP and provided one of the best moments ever in the postseason.
Moving on to 2012, there was no hangover for Freese. Playing in the most games of his career (144), Freese hit .293 with an .839 OPS and 20 homers. He was selected to the All-Star team and wasn’t able to pull off any more heroics to push the Cardinals past the Giants in the NLCS.
In 2013, Freese crashed back to Earth. He still played in 138 games, but his OPS dropped back down to .721 and he saw drops in almost all major categories. When the season ended with a loss to the Red Sox in the World Series, Freese’s playing time was being cut into by Matt Carpenter moving to third base, and the team decided to move on from their hometown hero.
Trading Freese and a reliever to the Angels for Randall Grichuk and Peter Bourjos, the Cardinals didn’t get to see the third baseman often anymore. Freese had two relatively average seasons playing across the diamond from Albert Pujols in California before he moved to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Freese bounced back nicely in 2016 in his return to the NL Central. The hometown fans gave him a very warm welcome, as was deserved.
Freese hit .270 with a respectable .764 OPS in his first season with the Pirates and was again solid in 2017.
In 2018, the 35-year-old was traded to the Dodgers mid-season where he compiled another eight hits in the postseason when they made it to the World Series.
As a platoon player against lefties in 2019, Freese hit .315 with a 1.002 OPS and 11 homers with the juggernaut Dodgers. He played in all four of their postseason games in 2019, going 4-8 with a double before they were beaten by the Nationals.
Freese retired after the 2019 season, ending his 11-year career. In those 11 years, he played in the postseason six different times. He owns a career postseason slash line of .299/.370/.549 with 10 homers in 230 plate appearances.
Freese always stepped up on the biggest stage and will never be forgotten in St. Louis.
His career wasn’t all great, but Freese has proven he is a great guy off the field too and will always be an icon in St. Louis. Happy 37th Mr. Freese, thank you for all the memories.