Let’s dispense with the numbers first: The Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park 6-1 last night to win the franchise’s 8th World Series title.
David Ortiz, who hit 2 home runs, drove in 6 in the series and finished with a .688 batting average, was named the Most Valuable Player. He walked three times last night, two of those intentional passes by a Cardinals pitching squad that decided it was better to hand him first base than let him swing the bat and take several more. And it had been 95 years between championship celebrations held on that same field where Harry Hooper, Stuffy McInnis, and Babe Ruth once plied their trades.
But this particular win wasn’t about numbers, it was about an identity shift for this storied franchise and for its fans. For a city that endured the Marathon bombings in April this was a catharsis of sorts. No, sports does not and cannot erase that horror, but even some of the victims of that attack have spoken of how cheering for this team to win it all has helped them in their difficult road to recovery. And what of the fans who watched, whether in the electric confines of Fenway, a local tavern on Landsdowne Street or in any number of bars, homes and other venues throughout New England and around the world? I was fortunate enough to see Game 6 with some of my friends and colleagues here at VPR in a fine local establishment, and they can attest to this: even after Shane Victorino cleared the bases with a triple in the 3rd, even after Stephen Drew, who throughout the series had made the Mendoza line seem like an unattainable hitter’s nirvana, blasted a home run into the bullpen to make it 4-0, even after the score stood 6-1 in the 7th, my old Red Sox instincts crept in. The Cardinals had loaded the bases with two outs and my mind went immediately to 1978 and Bucky Dent, 1986 and Calvin Schiraldi, 2003 and Grady Little. Those ignominiaries—and yes, I know that’s not a word—had so conditioned my experience, not to mention the ugly collapse of 2011 and the lost year with Bobby Valentine, that the triumphs of ’04 and ’07, and most importantly, the integrity and accomplishments of this worst to first rag tag group of bearded Boston battlers did not calm my nerves. But then, Junichi Tazawa put out the fire, and 2 innings later the irrepressible Koji Uehara ended the game with, what else, a strikeout, and I whooped and cheered and high-fived my friends, took a phone call from my Dad, who grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and understands that inexplicable, irrational, emotional connection fans have with their baseball team. But it wasn’t until I fuzzily woke up this morning that it truly hit me, what Red Sox fans are experiencing now in the early years of the 21st Century—with 3 titles in the past 10 years—must be what it was like for fans in those early years of the 20th century, when the team won titles in 1915, 1916, and again in 1918, and the best part? Unlike what Harry Frazee did with Babe Ruth, it’s very unlikely the owners of these Boston Red Sox are going to sell Big Papi to the Yankees next year.