Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Updated: April 6, 4:37 PM ET
Red Sox Nation rejoice
By Jim Caple
ST. LOUIS -- How does it feel Red Sox fans?
After all those decades, after all those agonizing last minute failures, after all those "1918" taunts from Yankees fans, how does it feel? After Johnny Pesky and Ed Armbrister and Bill Buckner, how does it feel? After the crushing Game 7 losses in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986, after the final bitter disappointments in 1949 and 1978 and 2003, after those many more seasons where there never were even hopes in September to crush, how does it feel?
After calling them everything from chokers to just plain idiots, how does it feel to finally be able to call your team World Series champions?
The moment for which Boston waited 86 years finally occurred Wednesday night when the Red Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. On the night of a total lunar eclipse, the Red Sox eclipsed nearly a century of misery and failure by blanking St. Louis 3-0 in Game 4 of the World Series to win their first title since 1918 and send their fans dancing into the streets more wildly than Carlton Fisk twisting down the first-base line.
Yes, the unthinkable came true. The sun rose in the west, hell froze over and the Red Sox won the World Series. Go ahead. Pinch yourself. You're not dreaming.
"There are only 25 of us," pitcher Curt Schilling said. "We're the only living players who can all say we're part of the world champion Boston Red Sox team."
Think about that. It's such a simple sentence but no one has been able to say those words since Babe Ruth still played for the Red Sox, World War I still was raging and George Steinbrenner hadn't signed a single free agent. But now guys named Schilling, Pedro, Manny and Damon can. The team that crushed hopes more surely than any club outside of Chicago, the team synonymous with postseason failure, the team that was three outs from being swept by the Yankees just over a week ago ... is now officially the World Series champion.
Better recall those copies of "Curse of the Bambino." There's a sequel on the way.
Unlike so many previous Red Sox teams, this club never gave their fans a reason to kick in their TV screens. Continuing the ride that began when they roared back in the American League Championship Series to become the first team to rally from a 3-0 deficit in the postseason, the Red Sox dominated the series as few champions have. They not only never trailed in the series, they held a lead at some point in every inning, the first team to do so in World Series history. In fact, Boston never trailed this postseason after tying Game 5 against the Yankees in the eighth inning.
"The best part of this is all those Red Sox fans don't have anything to be upset about anymore," first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said. "They don't have to be depressed and wait for something bad to happen. They can smile and be happy."
Johnny Pesky holding the ball, Bob Gibson shutting them down, Bill Lee throwing the Eephus pitch, the ball rolling between Buckner's legs ... those moments will never be forgotten -- in fact, they're hard-wired into the memories of everyone within the 617 area code -- but thanks to this team, they'll be overshadowed now by far more pleasant memories.
David Ortiz showing the Yankees who was their Papi. Curt Schilling literally symbolizing the Red Sox by pitching with a blood-soaked sock. Mark Bellhorn homering off the Pesky Pole. Pedro summoning up one last great start. And finally, Johnny Damon leading off Game 4 with a home run to provide all the runs Derek Lowe needed to erase all the ghosts and curses of the past.
|Red Sox fans celebrate at Busch.|
Lowe saved Boston's season last week with his Game 4 start, won the clincher against the Yankees in Game 7 and in what was probably his last start in a Red Sox uniform, shut out the Cardinals on three hits for seven innings before handing it over the bullpen. After allowing nine runs in the series opener, Boston pitchers held the National League's most productive offense to four runs and 13 hits the final three games. The heart of the Cardinals offense -- Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds -- had six hits and one RBI in 45 at-bats while Rolen and Edmonds managed only an infield single in their 30 combined at-bats.
The offense was so quiet -- Larry Walker was reduced to bunting in the first inning -- that the famous Cardinals fans joined right in, cheering so little and so unenthusiastically that they often were drowned out by Red Sox fans. Which isn't that surprising, Red Sox Nation was so loud and supportive that it deserves a seat on the UN Security Council.
"This is such an emotional lift for people in New England and all over the world," Boston general manager Theo Epstein said "I hope they enjoy it. I hope they do something good with it. I hope they go vote Tuesday and make the world a better place."
"There's a lot of negativity (in Boston), a lot of people waiting for bad things to happen," Mientkiewicz said. "But we had the perfect people to not let that happen again. We've got lunatics like Kevin Millar coming in and saying things. We kept saying to ourselves, 'We aren't going to accept that (attitude). We kept saying, 'It's our time. It's our time.'"
So many times, over so many years, the Red Sox were just innings or outs away from reaching or winning the World Series, only to lose in the end. Not this time. This time, there was no ball rolling through the first baseman's legs. This time, with two out in the ninth, Edgar Renteria slapped a one-hopper back to the mound and closer Keith Foulke stabbed it with his glove. He turned toward first base, took a couple steps and then flipped the ball to Mientkiewicz for the final out. And as the Red Sox piled atop each other until they were higher than the Green Monster, Mientkiewicz grabbed the baseball as tightly as he could.
"I put the Polish death grip on it," he said. "When we beat the Yankees I gave the ball to Derek but this one I'm keeping. This one is staying with me."
How about that? After 86 years, this time the World Series championship baseball is firmly in the grip of the Red Sox and for Boston fans the sweetest of possible words are these:
"The Boston Red Sox haven't won the World Series since 11:40 p.m. EDT last night."
|Albert Pujols, left, and Tony Womack watch and wonder.|
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.