One fan at Busch Stadium holds up a sign during Game 3 of the National League… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)
Reporting from Dallas -- The information trickled in on smart phones and spread to the lips of the hundreds of baseball executives and reporters who held them. The area near the entrance of the grand ballroom at the Hilton Anatole hotel started to buzz.
From a makeshift studio nearby, former major league general manager Jim Bowden was screaming the news to a national radio audience: Albert Pujols was headed to the Angels.
The Miami Marlins' $200-million spending spree was no longer the news of these winter meetings. The Angels had stolen the spotlight on the final day by signing the generation's greatest hitter to the second-richest contract in baseball history.
"Wow," New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. "That's all. Wow."
There was more. Within the hour, confirmation came that the Angels had also reached an agreement with C.J. Wilson, the top pitcher on the free-agent market.
The Angels' pickup of Pujols astonished most of the baseball world, which didn't expect the three-time most valuable player to receive as large a contract as he did.
"I think every club that has signed a 10-year deal has regretted it," New York Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said.
Alderson was taking a not-so-veiled shot at the crosstown rival Yankees, whose 10-year, $275-million deal with downward-trending Alex Rodriguez is looking increasingly unfavorable to the team.
The reaction in St. Louis, where Pujols played for 11 seasons, was noticeably different. There, people mourned.
John Mozeliak, the general manager of Pujols' former team, left Dallas without speaking to reporters.
At a news conference back home later in the day, Mozeliak was noticeably downcast.
"It's a disappointing day, but it's a day we knew was possible," Mozeliak said.
Mozeliak talked about how the Cardinals did everything in their power to retain the All-Star first baseman.
Mozeliak was asked about how Pujols' legacy could have been that of the rare superstar to play his entire career with the same team, like Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.
"Musial," Mozeliak said, adding the name of Cardinals icon Stan Musial.
"From that regard," Mozeliak said, "It's no longer there."
Pujols had said in the past that he wanted to be a "Cardinal for life." He owns a restaurant in the St. Louis area and was involved in local charities. He supported the city's bid to land a Major League Soccer franchise.
That only made his departure more hurtful.
Sports apparel store owner Paul Russo was so incensed with Pujols' decision that he offered Pujols' shirts and jerseys to his customers at no cost. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that by 1:30 p.m., Russo's Pro Image Sports store in the Chesterfield Mall had given away almost its entire stock of 150 shirts and jerseys, which were priced between $14.99 and $129.99.
"It's not about the money, just like Albert said," Russo told the newspaper. "Except he lied, and we didn't."
The Angels' competitors acknowledged a shift in the balance of power.
"It makes it that much more difficult for everybody in our division," Seattle Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik said.
Cashman tried his hand at humor. Asked how the Yankees would respond, he said, "It made us take two guys in the Rule 5 draft."
In the Rule 5 draft, teams can buy mid- to lower-tier prospects from other clubs who meet certain qualifications. Few selections become everyday major leaguers.