The 2006 World Series, the 102nd edition of Major League Baseball's championship series, began on October 21 and ended on October 27, and matched the American League champion Detroit Tigers against the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals won the Series in five games, taking Games 1, 3, 4 and 5. This was the third Series meeting between the Tigers and the Cardinals, the first in 38 years. St. Louis won the first in 1934, and Detroit won the second in 1968; each went the full seven games. The 1968 Series was the last before divisional play and an extra round of playoffs began.
It was only the fifth time in 40 years that the Series featured two teams that had both remained in the same city since the formation of the American League in 1901, the last time being the 2004 World Series between St. Louis and the Boston Red Sox. The last three prior to 2004 were in 1975 (Boston–Cincinnati), 1968 (Detroit–St. Louis) and 1967 (Boston–St. Louis).
The Cardinals, who moved into Busch Stadium in April, became the fourth team to win the Series in their home stadium's debut season, joining the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates (Forbes Field), 1912 Boston Red Sox (Fenway Park) and 1923 New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium (I)). In 2009, they would be joined by the 2009 New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium). St. Louis also won their 10th Fall Classic, the most of any National League franchise, and second to only the Yankees' 27 (then 26) titles, and their first since 1982. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who won the 1989 World Series title with the Athletics, became the second manager in history to lead teams in both leagues to championships, joining Sparky Anderson. Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who won the 1997 World Series title with the Marlins, also could have became the second manager in history to lead teams in both leagues to championships, had the Tigers won the series.
The Cardinals finished the regular season 83–78. This is the second-worst record ever for a league champion (the 1973 New York Mets finished 82–79) and the worst record ever for a World Series champion. Previously the 1987 Minnesota Twins finished 85–77 and defeated the Cardinals in the 1987 World Series.
Ceremonial First Pitches: Game 1: Al Kaline and Willie Horton; Game 2: Sparky Anderson and Alan Trammell; Game 3: Ozzie Smith; Game 4: Lou Brock; Game 5: Stan Musial
A pair of battered ballclubs
Neither team was given much chance to advance far into October by many baseball pundits. Both teams stumbled through the second halves of their seasons. The Tigers, enjoying their first successful season after twelve years of futility, surprised the baseball world by building a ten-game lead in the American League Central, but eventually the lead evaporated in the final months and they lost the division to the Minnesota Twins on the last day of the season after being swept by the last-place Kansas City Royals at home, settling for a playoff berth as the AL Wild Card. The Cardinals held a seven-game advantage in the National League Central over the Cincinnati Reds and an 8 1⁄2-game lead over the Houston Astros with just two weeks to play. However, the combination of a seven-game losing streak by St. Louis and an eight-game winning streak by the Astros (highlighted by a four-game sweep of the Cardinals in Houston) caused the Cardinals' lead to shrink to 1⁄2-game with only a few games left. However, the Cardinals held on to clinch the division after an Astros' loss to the Atlanta Braves on the last day of the season.
Thus, both the Tigers and Cardinals were clear underdogs in their matches, against New York Yankees and San Diego Padres, respectively. The Tigers' pitching took care of the vaunted Yankees lineup, and won their series 3–1. The Cardinals also won their series 3–1, including the first two games in San Diego. The Tigers then swept the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS, winning game four on a three-run walk-off home run by Magglio Ordóñez in the bottom of the ninth. The Cardinals won their series against the New York Mets with the help of a ninth-inning home run by Yadier Molina in a tense Game 7.
The Tigers had home-field advantage in the Series, due to the AL's 3–2 win over the NL in the 77th Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 11 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. These two teams had already played against each other in June 2006. The Tigers swept the Cardinals 3–0 in Detroit, part of an eight-game Cardinals losing streak. This was the first time since 2000 that teams meeting during the regular season met again in the World Series.
The Series marked the third time in a row that both teams sought to win a championship after at least a twenty-year drought. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox ended their 86-year hiatus by defeating the Cardinals; in 2005 the Chicago White Sox ended an 88-year drought by defeating the Houston Astros, who were competing in their first World Series after 43 seasons. The Tigers had not appeared in the World Series since winning it in 1984. The Cardinals last won in 1982, losing three times since then, in 1985, 1987 and 2004.
The Tigers were the eighth wild card team to compete in the World Series since MLB introduced the wild card in 1994. A wild-card team participated in the Series from 2002 to 2007.
Riding the momentum they built up during their surprisingly easy ALDS and ALCS victories, Detroit entered the Series as a prohibitive favorite. Bob Nightengale of USAToday expressed popular sentiment when he said "Tigers in three".
Two veteran managers return to postseason play
St. Louis' manager Tony La Russa joined his mentor, Sparky Anderson, as only the second manager to win the World Series with teams in both leagues. La Russa won in 1989 with the Athletics. Coincidentally, Anderson first accomplished the feat by managing Detroit to their previous championship in 1984. He was chosen to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2. Interestingly, if the Tigers had defeated the Cardinals, Jim Leyland would have joined Anderson for this feat instead of LaRussa as he had already won the 1997 World Series with the Florida Marlins. When he came to St. Louis, La Russa wore number 10 to symbolize the team's drive to their 10th championship and pay tribute to Anderson, who wore number 10 while manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
After winning the championship, he chose to continue wearing number 10 to pay tribute to Anderson.
Jim Leyland is the seventh manager to win pennants in both leagues. The previous six are Joe McCarthy (1929 Cubs and the Yankees of 1932, 1936–39 and 1941–43), Yogi Berra (1964 Yankees, 1973 Mets), Alvin Dark (1962 Giants, 1974 A's), Sparky Anderson (1970, 1972, 1975–76 Reds, 1984 Tigers), Dick Williams (1967 Red Sox, 1972–73 A's, 1984 Padres), and Tony La Russa (1988–90 A's, 2004, 2006 Cardinals).
Additionally, the opposing managers are close friends. Leyland was La Russa's third base coach for the Chicago White Sox in the early 1980s. Leyland also served as a Pittsburgh-based advance scout for the Cardinals before he was hired by the Tigers.
This was the first World Series in 22 years to have two previous World Series-winning managers facing each other, but at the helms of new teams. As previously mentioned, Leyland previously won the 1997 World Series with the Florida Marlins, and La Russa won the 1989 World Series with the Oakland Athletics. Overall, it was the first World Series since 1999 to have two previous Series-winning managers facing each other.