A day before facing the Red Sox in an elimination World Series game, the Cardinals spent much of their day turning an unexpected inconvenience into a unique bonding experience while stuck on the tarmac at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. About 45 minutes before their scheduled takeoff, a mechanical issue had been detected in the team's chartered plane.
The organization chose to fly to Boston on Tuesday in order to give players an extra night at home after Game 5 on Monday. Their plane was scheduled to leave around 1 p.m. CT, but crews realized that only one of the three computer navigation systems was functioning.
"It was one of those things that started and, as it was explained to me, it got to be a little more severe than they thought," said C.J. Cherre, the Cards' traveling secretary for the last 35 years. "It's a safety issue. They weren't going to fudge on that."
After about 90 minutes of trying to make the necessary repairs, Delta, which charters all of the team's flights, determined it would need another plane. It had a Boeing 767 available in Atlanta but had to first call in a pilot to fly it to St. Louis. That plane arrived around 6:45 p.m., and approximately 75 minutes later, the Cardinals were finally in the air.
It arrived in Boston at 11 p.m. local time.
"I think from a reactionary standpoint, they did everything they could," general manager John Mozeliak said from the hotel lobby. "But unfortunately, it just took awhile."
Asked why the group was not taken off the plane during the holding pattern, Cherre explained the logistical challenges that would have followed. Shuttles would have been needed to bring everyone to the terminal, and the entire traveling party would then have had to be rescreened at security.
"I don't think that anybody would say the plane was uncomfortable," Cherre added. "It was just a lot of time to spend in one place. It's like if you spend that much time in your hotel room, it's tiring."
Entertainment, though, was self-contrived and abundant according to those who were stranded. It came in all sorts of forms -- movies, music and iPad games among the most popular. Even Twitter became a distraction.
The delay prompted a frenzy of social media activity -- first from fans and eventually from players, who provided real-time insight into what it was like to spend all day trapped inside an airplane. #Cardsplaneproblems began trending nationally as Twitter was lit up with clever reasons for the delay. Even a picture of Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks obstructing the plane's departure made its way around.
Soon after, tweets starting coming out from inside the plane.
At 5:46 p.m., David Freese (@dfreese23) tweeted: "Pizza is on the way boys!!! #IMOS"
It would have been a fitting contribution from the third baseman, who is a spokesperson for the St. Louis-area pizza chain. However, it was actually Domino's pizza that came through and delivered pies to the plane at, according to Matt Carpenter's tweet, 6:45 p.m.
In between, Carpenter found a moment for humor. At 6:07 p.m. he tweeted: "On the bright side really getting to know some of my teammates children #bonding #cardsplaneproblems." Around the same time, a Cards front-office member went to Facebook to request suggestions for a "third in-flight movie."
After arriving at the hotel, Lance Lynn described it as a "typical travel day" for those not fortunate enough to fly on chartered planes regularly. How did he pass the time? "A lot of stick-man golf and a movie," Lynn said. Which film? "The Great Gatsby," Lynn added. "It was the longest one I could find."
"The mood was amazingly positive," said Mozeliak. "The young children on this flight were awesome. Everybody involved decided to take the patient trail and deal with it. In the end, it was unfortunate, but we were there for a reason and we're happy to be there."
This was not the first time the Cardinals have endured a travel inconvenience during a World Series trip to Boston.
When these two clubs met back in the 2004 Fall Classic, the Cards were forced to lodge in the Boston suburb of Quincy due to a scarcity of downtown hotel availability. Manager Mike Matheny recalled the cab ride from the hotel to the ballpark totaling $80. At the time, players complained about the absence of room service and nearby dining options.
These accommodations -- at a four-star hotel about a mile from Fenway Park -- were plenty sufficient. On Tuesday, it was the transportation that proved problematic.
Aside from having any evening plans with family and/or teammates delayed in Boston, the travel issues did not have an effect on anything baseball-related for the Cardinals. Matheny had not scheduled a workout for the off-day.
The Red Sox did hold a brief workout at Fenway Park on Tuesday. It started and ended while the Cards and their families were waiting to take off.
The Cardinals were able to meet their conference-call obligations mid-delay by putting Matheny and Game 6 starter Michael Wacha on the phone with reporters while they sat in the plane.
"Yeah, we've been on the runway for a while, but everybody seems to be doing all right," Matheny said, about halfway through the eventual seven-hour delay. "We're fortunate that our club allows our families to travel with us. We have some younger kids, but I'm impressed with how everybody has handled it. Fortunately, we have plenty of food, snacks for the kids, lots of entertainment with on-board movies, and everybody travels with all their high-tech stuff. Most of these kids are pretty happy that they're not in school right now, and it's a great way to spend a day, and no complaints so far."
"Everyone is just watching movies," Wacha added. "They've got dinner on here for us and stuff. Everyone is just walking around. Nobody is in a bad mood or anything like that. The attitude is pretty good."
There was humor, too, and arguably none better than this: With a nod to his now notorious standoff with the Dodgers' Scott Van Slyke in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, Kelly, while the group was boarding the second plane, tweeted: "Sorry media and @Cardinals I finally won the standoff with @Delta."
The Cardinals tweeted a picture of players boarding at 7:45 p.m. (@Cardinals: New plane same journey #PostCards http://instagram.com/p/gEkDhdhzAG/), and 10 minutes later, Carpenter tweeted the words everyone had been waiting to hear for hours: "Flight attendants prepare for departure...."