Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–January 17, 2012 – 3:33 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Please be seated. Hello, everyone.
AUDIENCE: Happy birthday!
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, thank you!
THE PRESIDENT: It’s her birthday!
MRS. OBAMA: It’s my birthday.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s her birthday today.
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. And this is a great way to spend — no, you don’t have to sing, that’s very sweet of you. My husband is not used to me being at these events, because I usually don’t come, but I had to be here and welcome you all to the White House.
And I want to thank you all for being here as we celebrate another world championship for the St. Louis Cardinals. (Applause.)
And that is not easy to say as a Cubs fan. (Laughter.) But I have to say, you all make it a lot easier to say with all of the good work that you do in the community, especially everything that you all do for military families — and that is why I’m here. (Applause.) And I got to see that firsthand when Jill Biden and I visited Game One of the World Series, which was very cool, which Major League Baseball dedicated to our nation’s military families. And that was just amazing. I mean, you all threw out all the stops. It was a powerful experience for all of us, and we’re grateful. It truly captured the strength, service and sacrifice of our troops, veterans and their families. As an example, we have two special guests with us here today — Marine Lance Corporal James Sperry and Hannah. Hey, Hannah! Would you guys stand up? (Applause.)
I had the pleasure of hanging out with these guys in the box, and Hannah stayed awake for most of the game. (Laughter.) She ate a lot of hot dogs. She had a great time. And it was a wonderful experience. And I just have to tell you that Lance Corporal Sperry is a perfect illustration of what our troops and wounded warriors display every day throughout this country. He’s a veteran of Iraq, and he sustained multiple wounds from a rocket-propelled grenade, and he still feels the effects today. But since he’s returned home, that hasn’t stopped him. And that’s what we see. It hasn’t stopped him from being a first responder during last spring’s devastating tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri; it hasn’t stopped him from being a mentor to other wounded warriors; and it certainly hasn’t stopped him from being a phenomenal dad to a very beautiful, brave little girl — who I really like a lot. (Laughter and applause.)
So I want to give a special thank you to the Cardinals for saving a couple of seats for these guys on the plane, and they’ve been able to be here today, and hopefully everybody treated you well here. And I want to thank the Cardinals and Major League Baseball as a whole for supporting the “Joining Forces” initiative. Together, we’re showing that it doesn’t matter who you are — whether you’re a Cardinal or a Cub fan, or even a White Sox guy — (laughter) — we all can find a way to give something back to our troops and families who’ve given us so much.
So with that, I want to thank you and congratulate you, and introduce your proud President, Commander-in-Chief, and sports-fan-in-chief, my husband, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you. It is wonderful to be here. It is wonderful to be joined by my wife. It is her birthday today. When we first married, it was a little controversial that she was 20 years younger than me, but — (laughter) — now it seems to have worked out okay. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: I’m 48. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: And I want to join her in congratulating the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. (Applause.) I won’t lie, I’m a little disappointed I had to leave my White Sox jacket in the closet for another year. (Laughter.) But this is a special team, both because of what they do for our military and their families, but also what they did on the field last season. And I know we’ve got Mayor Slay from St. Louis and some members of Congress who agree with me. I see the delegation here; they’re beaming. (Laughter.) They are quite pleased.
Now, when we talk about baseball, we’re talking about a sport, obviously, with a long history. Over 200,000 games have been played since Major League Baseball began. Seventeen thousand players have gone through the league. So this is a sport that has seen it all.
But every once in a while, something happens that we have never seen before — something unique. And that’s why it is my pleasure to stand here with the greatest comeback team in the history of baseball. (Applause.)
Last August, with just 31 games to play in the regular season, the Cardinals were 10 and a half games out of the playoff race. At one point, they had a less than 4 percent mathematical chance of making the playoffs. In Las Vegas, they were 500-to-1 longshots to win the World Series. And when Chris Carpenter pulled the team together for a meeting, his message was simple: Let’s not embarrass ourselves. (Laughter.) But through skills and guts, and I think the team would agree just a little bit of luck — just a touch — this team made the playoffs. And even though they trailed in each of the series that followed, they somehow had the spirit and the determination and the resolve to survive.
Of course, the most memorable moment was Game Six of the World Series. I’ve got to say, that has to be one of the best baseball games of all time. Unbelievable game. (Applause.) I will tell you guys, I had a bunch of early-morning stuff the next day, and you kept me up. (Laughter.) It was painful waking up the next morning. But what an incredible game. Five times, the Cardinals found themselves trailing; twice, they were down to the last strike. Then Mr. Freese here hits the first walk-off homer of his entire career, to send it into Game Seven. Then the Cardinals put the Rangers away for good.
This team essentially played two months of elimination games, both to get into the playoffs, and then to win it all. But in Tony La Russa’s words, “Sometimes you can’t be afraid to make a mistake. Sometimes you just roll the dice and you let it go.” That’s what the former teammate of these folks, Albert Pujols, did, when he joined Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only player to hit three home runs in a World Series game. That’s what the outstanding ace, Chris Carpenter, did when he pitched the lights out against the Phillies, and then came back to put the nail in the coffin against the Rangers. That’s what David Freese did in Game Six — not bad for a kid who grew up dreaming of playing for the Cardinals. And even though he can’t be here today, that’s what Tony La Russa did, winning his third title and then stepping down with the third most wins of any manager in history.
I will point out that he began as a White Sock, so — (laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: Let it go. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Everyone on this team follows the Cardinals’ way: They play all 27 outs; they never quit; they carry on the legacy of so many great Cardinals that have come before them.
Last year, I was honored to present Stan “The Man” Musial with one of the highest honors a President can bestow, the Medal of Freedom. And you could see Stan coming from about a mile away, because he was wearing that bright red blazer. There’s no question he will always be a Cardinal at heart. And now this team is part of that long line of heroes.
So I want to congratulate not only the players, the owners, all the managers and team officials, but also the fans, for a historic year. And I also want to thank them for visiting Walter Reed this morning, spending some time with our wounded warriors over there. That’s what this organization is all about; it represents baseball at its best. And I wish them all the best this season.
Congratulations. (Applause.) Fantastic. Tell me what I got here. Tell me what I got.
MR. DEWITT: Thank you for those warm remarks and nice hospitality here. We’ve got a couple of gifts for you and Mrs. Obama.
THE PRESIDENT: There you go.
MR. DEWITT: A World Series jersey with your name on the back, number 44.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s nice right there. (Laughter.) There we go.
MR. DEWITT: One for each. One for each. (Applause.) And a bat for each. And a World Series bat.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. I’m a little bit worried about giving my wife a bat, though. (Laughter.) If I mess up —
MRS. OBAMA: I’ll take my bat. (Laughter and applause.)
END 3:43 P.M. EST