ACKERMAN: Another Quick Pujols Story...

Because we have no shortage of them after his 11 seasons in St. Louis

Tom Ackerman
June 21, 2019 - 4:00 am

(Photo by Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT/Sipa USA)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The champagne burned, but it felt so sweet.

Albert Pujols is back for his first visit to Busch Stadium since signing a free-agent deal with the Angels after the 2011 season. It's a big weekend.

It's also story time...

The Cardinals had just defeated the Dodgers in the 2004 NLDS in Los Angeles. Pujols cracked a home run in Game 4, a three-run blast that turned out to be the game-winner (the Cards won, 6-2).

And the tiny visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium was absolute mayhem. Players hugged and celebrated. Jeff Suppan, who pitched seven innings for the victory, was being wheeled around in a tub of ice water. Champagne sprayed everywhere, in every direction, including all over me. Soaked and satisfied with many interviews, I made my way back upstairs to the broadcast booth.

Related: The 5 biggest moments of Albert Pujols' Cardinals career

"How was it down there?" Mike Shannon asked as he took off his headset. "Whoa."

Shannon stared at me for a few seconds.

"Your face!" he said. "It's all red."

I went into the bathroom to look in the mirror. Sure enough, a mild rash had broken out on my face and neck, apparently as a reaction to the champagne hitting my skin. I'd never had a problem drinking it; this was something new. After hosting the postgame show for an hour or so, however, that redness faded away. I left the ballpark and no other issues resurfaced after that.

Until 2006.

The Cardinals had just won the World Series, their first title since 1982. The home clubhouse was jam-packed with media, players, families, friends. There was a mob of microphones and cameras surrounding Pujols' locker.

Now, Pujols and I had known each other since 2001. Albert made the team on the final week of spring training after a hamstring injury to Bobby Bonilla created a roster spot. I had been tracking the Dominican-born prospect for a while now, and he was definitely ready for the show.

Pujols never forgot that I had paid attention to him back then. Almost every time we did an interview, he would boost my credibility, saying things like "well, you've known me since I was in the minor leagues." He remembered that I was always there to support his charitable causes, from the very first one he hosted. If I needed something, Pujols was there for me.

No better time than to ask for a favor, right then and there during the 2006 World Series celebration.

I slowly worked my way through the arms and legs of reporters and photographers until I was suddenly standing right in front of No. 5. He saw me, I saw him. And I turned the recorder on, raised the KMOX microphone to my lips and just started talking.

"Albert, you've done it," I said. "You've won the World Series. What is going through your mind right now?"

Pujols smiled. "It's great, man," he said. "I'm so happy we did it and... "

His voice trailed off. A concerned look replaced his grin.

"What's wrong with your face?" he asked me.

Oh, no. The champagne. It was everywhere. My face was most definitely turning red.

"Are you okay?" he asked me, again.

"I'm fine," I assured him. "It's just a reaction from the champagne. I'm good."

"Are you sure?" Pujols asked.

"Yes, it will go away."

"Okay, good."

Related: ACKERMAN: A Quick Pujols Story

Aaaand the interview continued. Of course, we aired the entire exchange on KMOX. Everyone loved it. It was real.

In the biggest moment of his professional life, Albert Pujols was concerned about the well-being of a reporter. Mark that down for anyone who thinks he didn't care for the media.

Great to see you back, Albert. :)

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