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On a perfect day, St. Louis celebrates

On a perfect day, St. Louis celebrates

ST. LOUIS -- On a day that couldn't have been more perfect, the city of St. Louis celebrated. Never mind the chill and rain that plagued the World Series -- on Sunday, when thousands upon thousands of St. Louisans and Cardinals fans took to the streets of downtown, Mother Nature delivered a day perfectly designed for festivities.

Under bright sunshine, with temperatures pushing 70, Cardinals players, coaches and staff paraded through downtown St. Louis and into new Busch Stadium. Manager Tony La Russa and his family led the parade in a carriage pulled by the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, with the team riding behind in pickup trucks and convertibles.

"This is awesome," Albert Pujols said as he rode through downtown. "It's an unbelievable feeling. The fans have been waiting for 24 years, and we got it done this year. What a great way to do it. New stadium, world champion."

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The Cardinals shared it with their baseball family, their teammates, just as they did all season long. But every bit as important was that they shared it with their real families. La Russa's wife, Elaine, and daughters Bianca and Devon rode with him, and a host of players brought their wives and kids with them as well.

"My whole family came out," said Aaron Miles. "It's a wonderful time. It was awesome on the field. Coming from the Rockies, the minute I got traded, I thought playoffs and World Series. The best happened. It's a wonderful experience, and I'll never forget it."

After parading through downtown for an hour, the contingent entered the stadium around 3 p.m. CT. At 3:30, Cardinals radio voice Mike Shannon kicked off the in-stadium events, and the Clydesdales began their trek around Busch Stadium's warning track.

With every ticket spoken for, a full house greeted a series of dignitaries, followed by the ballclub. Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt declared the day "St. Louis Cardinals Day" throughout the state. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley spoke before team representatives took the stage. Slay presented principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. with a key to the city.

Shannon first introduced the men behind the scenes -- DeWitt, team president Mark Lamping and general manager Walt Jocketty. Lamping announced that Monday is a "World Series holiday" at the team offices.

Every player from the active roster took the stage, except Juan Encarnacion, as did the entire coaching staff, save Jose Oquendo, who had a family matter to attend to. Video coordinator Chad Blair, athletic trainers Barry Weinberg and Greg Hauck, strength coach Pete Prinzi, bullpen coach Jeff Murphy -- they all had their moments in the sun. And what a sun it was, for the first time in days.

But the day was all about the players, manager and coaches -- the men who did it on the field.

From World Series MVP David Eckstein to NL Championship Series hero Yadier Molina to superstars like Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen, the crowd showed its appreciation for the first Cardinals world champion since 1982.

"We tested the patience of our great fans this year throughout the regular season," Eckstein said, "and I just want to thank them for sticking behind us all the way to the finish."

Edmonds had little to say, but still induced one of the loudest moments of the day. After his brief address, he led the crowd in a chant of "Ya-di! Ya-di!" in honor of fan favorite Molina.

Carpenter was overwhelmed by the response.

"To get in that truck today and start going down the street in St. Louis, with the fans, it's out of control," he told the crowd. "I thought I'd never have this feeling, and I can't describe it."

But then, it's been like that for the Redbirds for the past 48 hours, ever since they secured the title. After the festivities, Carpenter told reporters that at dinner on Saturday night, fully 20 different players received standing ovations from the diners at their restaurant.

That's what Sunday was about.

"Everywhere you go, you see the fans and people in the city are so excited about what happened," Carpenter said. "They let you know, and it's a great feeling."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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