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Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining season

Hey-0! Here's Arlington's very own version of Statler and Waldorf donned shades as part of a record-breaking crowd at Rangers Ballpark last summer.

If you use a little poetic license, though, they're also looking at the 2011 baseball season as Big League Stew saw it. This was our fourth full season directing our colorful carnival and we couldn't have had a better time bringing you all the features that makes baseball our favorite sport. From the hope of spring training to a memorable final night of the season to an unbelievable World Series that ultimately thrilled everyone not associated with the Texas Rangers, it was a very good season.

It has become an annual tradition for me to look through our archives in the final days of each year. After 52 weeks of the grind, it's incredibly gratifying to be able to step back and look at all the work that went in and all the fun that came out. What follows is a retrospective post on some of our more memorable posts. Thank you so much for your continued dips into the Stew and here's hoping you enjoyed reading our work as much as we enjoyed producing it. Have a happy and healthy new year. See you in 2012!

Other best of Big League Stew retrospectives: 2010, 2009, 2008

BLS story of the year: Game 6 of the World Series

Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining season

I've been privileged enough to personally witness some cool moments in my career, but Game 6 of the 2011 World Series will always be near the top of my "I was there" boasts. The classic contest in a classic series, the St. Louis Cardinals' wild 10-9 win on a cold Thursday night at Busch Stadium had so many memorable moments that we were able to compile a list of the 10 best and still have some plays left over.

Or, put it this way: Josh Hamilton claimed that God told him he'd hit a homer in the 10th inning and the story got lost in the shuffle of David Freese's heroics, a Rangers collapse keyed by Neftali Feliz and Nelson Cruz and what was to be the first World Series Game 7 in almost a decade.

For the Stew itself, it became a very memorable night after I tracked down the man who caught Freese's 11th-inning walkoff home run ball and captured the return of the precious souvenir. It was such a popular story that, in a very bizarre twist, it was plagiarized by Ryan Seacrest — or by one of his minion writers, anyway.

Other posts we'll rememberRyan Braun tests positive ... Albert absconds to Anaheim for $250 million ... Greg Halman murdered ... Jose Canseco demands $2K for interview ... How to douse Mark McGwire ... Man wins big bet on Cards ... Theo arrives on the North Side ... Boston's fried chicken and beer controversy ... Keeping up with Nyjer Morgan, Brewers go 'Beast Mode' ... Ta-ta, Tito ... Game 162 ... Ozzie takes his talents to South Beach ... Yankees fan serves Red Sox pitcher with papers ... Fan returns No. 3,000 to Derek Jeter ... Jim Riggleman takes his job and shoves it ... RIP Macho Man ... Fans chant "U-S-A" after bin Laden news ... Canseco twins pull the ol' switcheroo ... Talking baseball with Hank Aaron,

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BLS video of the year — Ron Washington's Flashdance mashup

One of the best things about the Rangers' rise in the American League has been the emergence as Ron Washington as one of baseball's most entertaining characters. With Ozzie Guillen off to Florida, he's now the dean of filling notebooks in the AL and he's still the undisputed best dancer. In this video, our own Dave Brown combines several of Washington's best moves to produce a work of conceptual art on the level of Knox Harrington.

Honorable mentions: Young White Sox fan gets Cubs present ... SNL's Moneyball parody ...If Moneyball were about the Yankees ... Sportswriter jinxes Red Sox season, Reggie Jackson on "The Jeffersons" ... Young Mariners fan dances to "Thriller" ... Giants release first "It Gets Better" ad ... Serviceman's surprise proposal ... Tim Lincecum's windup in 1,000 frames per second ... 'Ozzie Guillen' reviews 'Gatsby' ... A three-year-old's reaction to the Michael Young mess,

* * *

BLS song of the year: Jose Reyes' "No Hay Amigo"

The former New York Mets shortstop struck it rich on the free agent market, signing with the Miami Marlins for around $100 million. But judging from this Dominican rap video that became popular over the summer, it wasn't for his voice. Reyes' parts are heavily auto-tuned, though the video does show off a luxurious Big Pimpin' lifestyle that will put a 100 mildo to good use.

Honorable mentions: Texas Rangers & Party Rock ... Jeff Daniels and the Tigers fan blues ... Rapping Brewers fan ... "Oh Baby, Youk" ... Joe Mauer's birthday rap ... Remembering Dave Niehaus

* * *

BLS fan play of the year: Selfless young fan returns ball to upset boy

Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining season

There were some hardened cynics who questioned one boy selflessly returning a baseball to an upset young boy who initially dropped it. But the post also received over 74,000 shares on Facebook, indicating that many more people loved seeing such a great act of generosity unfold at a routine Arizona Diamondbacks game. Among those true believers: Jimmy Kimmel, who later hosted the two boys on his talk show.

Honorable mention: Woman's funny reaction to losing battle over bat ... Man in wedding dress interrupts Braves game ... Fan almost falls from stands during Home Run Derby ... A real life Henry Rowengartner ... Foul ball lands in fan's drink ... Tim Flannery saves bat from meddlesome fan ... Yankees fan gives Torii grief after homer,

* * *

BLS doppelganger of the year: Twin Lincecum

Brazilian Luis Lins looks so much like Tim Lincecum that the San Francisco Giants pitcher had to publicly deny that he wasn't playing a joke on all of us with this odd YouTube video that first surfaced on Big League Stew in March. His assertion was later confirmed when Lincecum and Linceclone came face-to-face at a public event.

Honorable mentions: Jason Giambi and Vincent Van Gogh ... A.J. Burnett and Dennis the Menace ... Mat Latos and Randy Jones ... Ben Walker and Michael Wolff ... Trevor Hoffman and Dustin Hoffman

* * *

BLS touching story of the year: Cooper Stone delivers first pitch

Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining season

Talk about a brave little boy. You probably already know Cooper's story. Back in July, he attended a Rangers game with his father, Shannon. Hamilton noticed the pair in the stands and tossed the father and son a ball. Shannon lost his balance and fell 20 feet to his death, making national headlines and leading Hamilton to pledge that he'd meet with Cooper at "an appropriate time."

That time turned out to be Friday, when Cooper strode out to the pitcher's mound with a determined look on his face. He was accompanied by his mother Jenny — who wore sunglasses to hide her tears — and Rangers team president Nolan Ryan.

Hamilton, Cooper's favorite player, knelt down in the grass to receive the pitch.

A no-doubt-about-it strike. — BLS, Sept. 30

Honorable mentions: Gavin Floyd buys student a new pair of legs ... Goldschmidt's minor league teammates cheer big league homer ... Indians pool money so teammate can see child's birth ... Josh Beckett gift brings young fan to tears ... Brian Wilson honors dad with record donation to Air Force ... Brandon Phillips shocks Twitter follower with appearance,

* * *

Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining seasonBest of Answer Man: Pete Rose

"I don't know what Bud's ... I don't want to say "problem" ... I like Bud. I had a couple of meetings with him, got along good with him. We have the same loves. We love the game. I just think I've loved it longer than he has. This is America. Most everybody gets a second chance. And I'm still waiting for it. It's been 22 years. And if I never get it, like I've said, I can't be bitter at you, or at Bud. I'm the one that messed up. I can't take that back. It's part of history."

Other Answer Men: Orel HershiserWill RhymesLogan MorrisonBilly Beane

* * *

BLS food post of the year: Did St. Louis BBQ slay veggie Prince Fielder?

Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining season

Over the past few years, the baseball world wondered if Prince Fielder was still following up on his 2008 vow of vegetarianism. During the World Series, we finally found our answer on a wall at Pappy's in St. Louis, one of the best barbecue joints in the country.

Honorable mentions: The top 10 new concessions ... Top 10 brews at ballparks ... Disgusting Rally Squirrel cake ... Napoli swallows chew during collision ... Johnny Cueto blames chicken wings for bad start ... Tim Lincecum's monster In-n-Out order ... The Racing Sausage kebab

* * *

BLS screen cap of the year: Fan's plan to propose to Ryan Braun backfires

Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining season

A note to all the marriage-minded Stewies out there: If you print your own phone number on a posterboard proposal, there's a good chance you're going to be called by all of Racine's least-eligible bachelors by the time you get in your car and head home.

Honorable mentions: What's the matter with Kansas? ... Racist Cards fan? ... Mike Napoli's supportive grandfather ... Young fan pouts over foul ball ... The Derek Jeter doc in 10 easy screencaps

* * *

BLS listicles of the year10 most memorable moments of the 2011 postseason ... 10 things to do with Mr. Met ... 10 outlandish facts from the Prince Fielder book ... 10 memorable moments from Pedro's career ... Eight photos of A-Rod striking out to end the ALDS ... 39 years of walkoff walks

* * *

BLS ouchie of the year: Jeremy Affeldt's hamburger injury

Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining season

Next time you're having a backyard cookout and run into trouble separating those frozen sirloin patties from Costco, beware the cautionary tale of Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt. Let them thaw for a bit first.

Honorable mentions: Matt Holliday gets a moth in his ear ... Jason Marquis takes at-bat with broken leg ... Cole Hamels falls victim to poison oak ... Phillie Phanatic heads to hospital ... Todd Coffey's ill-timed bloody nose ... Aaron Cook closes door on pitching hand

* * *

BLS photoshop of the year: Gardy's Sardines

Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining season

I don't really remember what this was all about. But I'm not sure that it matters.

Honorable mentions: Angry fans topple Pujols statue, Justin Verlander is the most interesting man in the worldWhat happens when you quick pitch Justin Upton, The Kevin Youkilis photoshop contest, Phat Joe and the Terror Squad,

* * *

BLS Fashion Ump post of the year: Coco Crisp brings back the Afro

Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining season

Unfortunately for Crisp, his resurrection of the baseball 'do that Oscar Gamble made famous was the highlight of his season. But what a highlight it was. It's our pick — pun clearly intended — for the best look of the 2011 season.

Honorable mentions: Cartoon bird flies back to Baltimore, Blue Jays go old school, Padres don't, Man gets Rangers title tattoo, Theo Epstein jerseys?, Return of L'il Ron Washington!, Cards' prosthetic leg, Ryan Roberts is "Tatman", Mr. Holland's mustache, Rockies hazing uses the force, Jim Leyland's dirty underpants, MLB prevents Mets from wearing 9/11 caps, Greinke's "Bierbrauer" jersey, Hunter Pence's cleat conundrum, Brian Wilson's spandex tuxedo,  Derek Jeter's ugly uniform, The Joe Mauer back hair jersey, Todd Coffey's floodpants, A's go for gold, Brian Wilson's sea captain costume

* * *

Finally, here's our selection for BLS photo of the year, a shot that perfectly encapsulates what Big League Stew stands for. Yes, it's all about reverence for the past and hope for the future around these parts. Let's do it all again in 2012.

Best of Big League Stew 2011: A big, bright shining season

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