ST. LOUIS - Arthur Rhodes is 41, a veteran of 20 seasons, a pitcher for nine different organizations. Lefthanded, he has become a pitching mercenary over the last five of those seasons, so maybe what occurred this year was bound to happen given the vagabond existence.

A coveted free agent, Rhodes signed a $3.9 million deal with Texas hoping to reach his first World Series. It worked, too, just not exactly the way he had it mapped out. Rhodes was a Texas Ranger for most of this summer; a decreasingly effective Texas Ranger, in fact. It went so bad for him that the defending American League champions ate what remained of his salary in early August and put him on waivers.

With his age, ineffectiveness and that gaudy salary, Rhodes cleared waivers. But he didn't forget how to be lefthanded. So when he cleared, his phone started ringing.

One call came from the Phillies, Rhodes' fifth major league stop back in 2006. They needed a situational lefty. They were a lock to provide additional revenue opportunity via a playoff share.

"It was close with Philly," Rhodes said. "But they wanted to send me down to Clearwater and get some work in. I had enough work in for 4 months. Why should I go down to Clearwater and wait and if I don't get called up, I'd be at home?"

Boston called, too. Another playoff lock. St. Louis called. The Cardinals were the opposite of a lock. They were $113,000 for 2 more months of work. "But," Rhodes said, "they said, 'We want you.' "

The rest, in Arthur's own words, is, "The craziest thing that's happened to me in [20] years." Rhodes signed with St. Louis, helped stabilize a bullpen that had sabotaged the Cardinals for much of the season. With a fresh start, and the narrower role that situational lefties have in the National League, Rhodes regained much of the effectiveness that had made him an All-Star with Cincinnati just the year before, and had lured Texas into signing him for that big deal in the offseason.

In 19 regular-season appearances after the Cardinals signed him on Aug. 12, Rhodes was scored on in just four of them. Then came the postseason, the first leg of the craziness. After Ryan Howard launched a three-run homer off Kyle Lohse in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, Rhodes was assigned the task of shutting down the Phillies' slugger. He did, starting with an eighth-inning strikeout in the Cardinals' 5-4, Game 2 victory.

The Cardinals' bullpen gave up just a hit over six innings of work in that game, allowing St. Louis to rally from an early 4-0 hole against Cliff Lee and flipping the tone of the series - and the Phillies' season - upside down. As so often happens in October, the shutdown performance of the Cardinals' piecemeal, castaway-filled bullpen became a recurring story, as was again the case in their 3-2 victory over Texas in Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night.

That's right, Texas. The Cardinals' bullpen pitched three scoreless innings in Game 1. Rhodes' assignment this time was Josh Hamilton, this time with two outs in the eighth inning. He retired him on a soft fly to center. Last night, in Game 2, Hamilton solved Rhodes' for a ninth-inning sacrifice fly that tied the game.

Twenty years. An exact 900 appearances. Four pitches, one out.

"It hit me when I took my first step out of the bullpen," Rhodes said. "And once I stepped on the mound I had to calm myself down."

Rhodes then spoke of his son, Jordan, who died in December 2008 of an undisclosed illness. There is a tattoo honoring the lost child on his calf. He has scratched the boy's initials behind the rubber before each of his appearances over the last four seasons. The death keeps him pitching, he said. Keeps him looking forward.

It's a "feel-good story," said his manager, Tony La Russa. Not the only one on the roster, for it is filled with veteran first-timers, guys like Ryan Theriot and Octavio Dotel, who has waited 13 seasons for this chance. But, said the manager, "[Twenty] years, that's a lot of dues.

"So very special," said La Russa. "Special as it gets."

And if it was Philly that said, "We want you"?

Rhodes laughed. "Then I'd be home right now," he said.