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Last Saturday, 3.2 million Boston Red Sox fans lined the banks of the river Charles and downtown streets, waiting for hours in the on-again, off-again rain to celebrate Boston’s first World Series victory in 86 years. As people in the crowd held up their signs, the overwhelming theme was not “congratulations” but something else: “Thank you.”
No sentiment could be more appropriate for what the Red Sox have accomplished. With one final out last Wednesday, Boston eliminated the persistent pain that plagued Red Sox Nation, from the fans who have been there from day one to the more recent Harvard undergrad converts. Even many of the less-baseball-inclined across the country found themselves rooting for the perennial “underdog.”
Of course, underdog has been a misnomer for the Red Sox of late, but when you are dealing with the weight of 86 unfulfilled years and missed opportunity after missed opportunity, the “curse” begins to feel very real. However, this year’s team proved that it had what it took to get around the mental block with a little bit of serendipity and a whole lot of redemption. Sandwiched in between the forceful sweeping of the Anaheim Angels, 3-0, and the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-0, the Red Sox showed their mettle in being the first team in history to come back from 0-3 in the postseason in the perfect destruction of the Yankees.
Some might call The Staff prophetic in its prediction for the outcome of the American League Championship Series (ALCS), but it didn’t take an oracle to know that victory would require a lot of heart from Curt Schilling and a renewed performance from Johnny Damon to get the win. Like all great cinematic stories, the best moments were the comebacks.
So like the fans at the parade, we must say thank you—and not only because by sweeping, Harvard students could get back to work and back to sleep a little sooner.
Manny Ramirez may have been named Most Valuable Player, but there was no true star in this series, as equal contribution was necessary to get the stars to align.
One key factor in the 2004 curse reverse was Red Sox pitching. Following an uneven beginning, pitcher after pitcher handled the Yankees’ “superstars” and the Cardinals’ sluggers. Pedro Martinez was finally able to step away from his New York fear, while Tim Wakefield’s knuckleballs proved too much even for his own catcher Jason Varitek and, improbably, Derek Lowe was just as strong as the other aces.
Even these performances couldn’t match the play of Curt Schilling. While a specially-made ankle boot was expected to aid the ailing Schilling in Game 6 of the ALCS, the blood soaking through Schilling’s sock as he threw told a different story. In an unprecedented procedure, his doctors stitched his skin to his bone—keeping the tendon in his ankle in place. Amazingly, Schilling performed his usual magic in pain, and he remarkably repeated this feat during Game 2 against St. Louis.
Red Sox batting also came through as David Ortiz—who proved a designated hitter could play first base, and even steal bases (yes, he did steal that base)—hit homers to win game 4 and tie game 5 (which he later won with an RBI) of the ALCS. The whole lineup hit expertly, but nowhere was the sign of redemption more clear than in the play of Ramirez and Damon. Ramirez put up a consistently beautiful batting performance to offset some unfortunate errors in the outfield, resulting in the MVP award. Damon, who could not get out of his rut for most of the ALCS, found the swing of things in Game 7 of the ALCS, with back to back homers—including a grand slam—that gave the Red Sox a lead they would never relinquish and paved the way for his unyielding series performance.
Winning eight games in a row, more than ever before in the playoffs, the Red Sox performed penance for every “sin” they committed over the last 86 years. From Johnny Pesky’s hesitated throw in 1946 to Carlton Fisk’s much debated throwing error in 1975 to the ball through Bill Buckner’s legs in 1986, fans can move to remembering the Sox legacy, not the mistakes. Also, victory sooths the heartache caused by the Yankees—from Bucky Dent’s three-run homer in 1978 to last year’s extra-inning home run by Aaron Boone.
Baseball was a different game when the Red Sox last won a World Series. Even between the glory years of 1915 and 1916 championships, the Red Sox lost to the Harvard baseball team 1-0 at Fenway Park. By winning in 2004, the Red Sox have banished the jeers of “1918”, stopped the tears—at least the sad ones—of millions of fans and proved that they can be a force in the game of baseball today. The inevitable movie will be made down the road, but it will never be able to capture that feeling of finally reversing the curse, the moment when Red Sox fans didn’t know up from down, right from left.
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