Wednesday, October 30, 2013

1918! 1918! 1918! 1918! 1918! 1918! 1918! 1918!

It used to be Halloween haunting whenever any conversation about the Boston Red Sox ultimately came back to Babe Ruth. It was ghostly. It was gasping. It was gripping.

Now it’s funny. I’m smiling tonight because the mere mention of “1918” no longer brings a grimace to New England. It’s cause for celebration in the Red Sox Nation.

The so-called “Curse of the Bambino” may have been lifted when the Red Sox ended their 86-year World Series championship drought by staging the greatest comeback in the history of baseball by rallying from a three games-to-none deficit in the 2004 American League Championship Series to stun the hated/dreaded New York Yankees.  Think David, with a shot glass full of Jack Daniels, finally slinging Goliath in pinstripes carrying money clips. That catapulted the Red Sox to a four-game sweep of the Cardinals in the World Series ending in St. Louis and led to the greatest duck boat parade in the history of mankind in Boston’s dirty water down by the banks of the river Charles.

Now, by finally beating the Cardinals again tonight in the World Series nine years later – this time in historic Fenway Park – the Red Sox and their loyal fans can rejoice and relish a World Series championship ending on their home turf for the first time since 1918. That’s when Babe Ruth pitched for the Red Sox and they defeated the Chicago Cubs in six games, sending the Cubbies into a 95-year tailspin and Steve Bartman remorse.

Unfortunately, it also evolved into a gut-wrenching punch line for repeated Red Sox failures. Red Sox fans came to cringe at the cryptic sound of 1918 – especially when Yankees fans tauntingly chanted it, a mocking reminder that the Red Sox never, ever won the big one once they sold the Babe to the Yankees a year later for less than the price of a utility infielder – or bat boy -- these days. It was if the Yankees married the former girlfriend of the jilted Red Sox and never let them forget it as they were ball-and-chained to the altar. Alone with their thoughts and grief.

Hence, when Fox announcer Joe Buck noted at the conclusion of the Red Sox win in Game Five on Monday night in St. Louis that “the Red Sox have a chance to win a World Series at home for the first time since …”  well, I finished the sentence for him word for word. Nineteen eighteen. Oh, no.  There is that number again.

You see to be a Red Sox fan the face of skepticism always masks the heart of optimism. Inwardly, you hope and pray and almost expect they will win, but outwardly you fret that they won’t.  To be a Red Sox fan, you count on fate yet you brace for failure. You cheer from your seat with air bag in front of you.  You wait for the good times to come to a crashing halt, as sure as the leaves start falling in October.

It was that way in 1967 and in 1975 and in 1986 – and everything in between -- whenever the Red Sox came close to contending for or winning the World Series. So many long L.L. Bean winters of discontent.

Winning it all in 2004 – and gleefully shaming the Yankees and their fans in the process – brought needed relief as much as great satisfaction. My daughter bought me a “Now I Can Die” Red Sox T-shirt.

Well, after waiting for what seemed like a lifetime to see the Red Sox win just one World Series, I now have seen them win three in less than a decade. The first one will always be the most revered and treasured, but this one took me back to 1967, the “Impossible Dream” year when the Red Sox overcame odds longer than autumn’s shadows and unexpectedly won the American League pennant on the final day of the season. That changed all expectations surrounding the franchise forever. They were expected to deliver wins like Dunkin’ delivers donuts.

Nothing has been the same since, but this year’s team was different and it goes beyond the hair on their chinny-chin-chins and tugging beards like milking cows.  Red Sox fans, as is their inherit rite, were guardedly reveling this year as the Olde Towne Team kept reeling off improbable wins. Yet we were all waiting for the banana peel. The other shoe to drop. The proverbial rug being pulled out from beneath our feet. We all were waiting for Allen Funt to tell us we were on Candid Camera or Ashton Kutcher to tell us we were Punked or the Wizard coming out from behind the curtain to tell us this is not real.

They’re going to stop winning at some point, right?

The reality of being a Red Sox fan is the team will tease you and hurt you wicked hard before it rewards you. That’s why they have Craig Breslow in the bullpen. Nothing is given and nothing is ever easy. Nothing! Ever! Easy!

But that’s the beauty and joy of being a Red Sox fan – it’s a friggin’ roller coaster ride through thick as clam chowder and thin as the tentacles on a lobster. The journey, my friend, makes it all worth it in the Hub.

I’ve had my share of down Red Sox moments. Bucky Bleeping Dent. Ball between Buckner’s legs. Grady leaving Pedro in. My last lowest moment was on the night of Aug. 31, 2012 when I was sitting in a field level box at the Oakland Coliseum on the first base side that allowed me to see up close a 20-2 loss by the Red Sox – their worst in 12 years – and see Boston manager Bobby Valentine standing on the dugout steps, hands stuck in his jacket pockets, staring out at the field with that Bobby V grin/smirk on his face looking indifferent and oblivious to what was happening all around him.

F U Bobby V!

Now look. It’s wee time. Climb back to the top. See the Red Sox happy. See the Red Sox winning. See the Red Sox at last celebrating another World Series championship at Fenway Park, the most beloved ballpark in America in a city now known as Boston Strongest.

It was our destiny. The final out of the game tonight was recorded by Koji Uehara, whose Red Sox uniform number is 19. The biggest hit in tonight’s game was recorded by Shane Victorino, whose Red Sox uniform number is 18.

1918? It’s a mystical, magical number now. Hallelujah!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, your gift for putting any sporting event into the proper vernacular has never been short of astounding. From the days of “broadcasting” home events on the eraser of your pencil while it took a break from keeping stats, to your professional career of sports reporting, your review of Bo-Sox history brings back memories of ’67 while visiting Uncle Jim to help with chores, I got to Fenway for three of the ten in a row streak. Of course the first time you see the Monster, you never forget the impact on your emotions and spirit. ‘86 brings back a ruined Florida vacation when Buckner could not bend over, oh we were so close. The history of ups and downs is at an all time high and you, as always, capture it so eloquently. Hey with McCarver out of the booth, I know a great replacement. To ALBee STRONG and BOSTON STRONG, keep the articles coming! Regards, “Lems Green Hornets”

November 1, 2013 at 9:58 AM  

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