In the end, these hairy, bearded men who played the game of baseball with the heart of 11-year-old boys did what legends like Ted Williams, Jimmy Foxx, Carl Yastrzemski, Luis Tiant, Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice could not accomplish.
The 2004 Boston Red Sox are World Champions, turning their city, New England and the entire country upside down in a euphoric delirium that adds new meaning to perseverance, possibilities and pandemonium.
Just three outs away from failing for the 86th straight season to embrace baseball's most coveted prize, the Red Sox found a way to battle back, shocking the world with an eight-game winning streak against their rival Yankees and the heralded Cardinals, two teams that combined for 219 victories this season.
Under a total lunar eclipse in the Gateway to the West, Manager Terry Francona's band of idiots told the Babe to kiss off, completing an improbable playoff run that has their fans giddy, weepy and sleepy.
It has been a magic carpet ride. For the last month, Boston has been the City That Never Sleeps. Bleary-eyed New Englanders have stayed up until midnight or beyond, dragging themselves to work, pinching themselves, walking around with goofy smiles.
Hell has frozen over but, unfortunately, Teddy Ballgame already knows this.
The Red Sox dispatched the Cardinals in a fashion predicted in April by the media and their fans. Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and Derek Lowe didn't allow an earned run in their three starts, shutting down the vaunted Cardinals lineup. With the off-season acquisition of Schilling and closer Keith Foulke, it was assumed the pitching would make the difference.
Newspaper editors better leave some extra space on the obit pages this week. Our good senior citizens, who have held on in hopes that this would finally be the year, can now go in peace.
The Red Sox have captured New England's imagination and dulled all other stories. The Massachusetts senator making a bid for the White House is below the fold. The Patriots and Jets -- two undefeated teams -- went at it last weekend and few people noticed. The Head of the Charles mimicked the tree falling in the woods theory.
All Red Sox, all the time. And what a parade this will be.
With a few innings to go in the clincher, the network, as it did in 1986, pulled out the historical tidbits like the price of bread and a gallon of milk in 1918. This time, Red Sox Nation did not flinch. New Englanders and their frenzied fans across the country would sleep well, once they fell asleep.
Go ahead and roll the grainy footage of Enos Slaughter running the bases and the bright green images of Bucky Dent's pop-fly home run. Bill Buckner's error and Aaron Boone's dinger are now ancient history, archives of a bygone era.
The Red Sox and their fan base can finally enjoy a winter of content, awaiting Opening Day just five months away. And it's the Yankees, appropriately, who will be in town, watching the Red Sox hoist their 2004 World Series Champion flag.
The Red Sox winning the World Series? The Impossible Dream? Nah. This is Reality TV in its finest hour.
The other guys in red are making the base-running blunders, choking in the clutch and making bad pitches. The other guys in red are giving up the two-out hits, looking shell-shocked, sleepwalking through the motions.
And the Red Sox (gulp) are one win away from a World Series title.
Doomsayers may say the Red Sox are setting up their fans for the ultimate heartbreak -- staging baseball's greatest comeback against their rival Yankees only to become victims of the same fate by dropping four straight to the vaunted Cardinals.
And it's ironic that these 2004 Red Sox are the ones who have opened the door to the possibility. Coming back from 3-0 can be done. Want proof? Look at the guys you're playing against. They just did it.
This is why the yahoos calling talk radio, hoping for the Sox to at least bring this back to Fenway for a Game 6 don't get it. For even the Cardinals to win tonight is a bad sign. Yes, the Red Sox are going to win this thing. Finally. But they need to go for the kill tonight and plunge the dagger deep into the hearts of the Cardinals, Buffy-style.
Traditionally, bad things happen to the Red Sox. Don't wake up those Cardinal bats. Go for the sweep. Keep them looking like the real idiots. Keep the world upside down.
Musings while the Red Sox Express rumbles toward St. Louis in pursuit of their first World Series title since 1918:
After two games, Mark Bellhorn is the World Series MVP. ...
How did the Red Sox win while making four errors in each game? The Cardinals simply couldn't capitalize. And their pitching is mediocre, at best. Get through their No. 2-5 hitters and it's an average lineup. The Sox have depth 1-9. ...
Too bad Bill Mueller tied a World Series record with three errors in one game. It's Mueller's play at the hot corner that has helped the Sox get to this point. It's a shame a world audience assumes he's a mess at third. He's been brilliant all season. ...
Manny Ramirez looks like he has his head tucked you know where. He's hitting .444 through two games, but it's a soft .444. He has yet to drive the ball and his play in left field has been atrocious. He didn't have one RBI in the Yankee series. ...
Curt Schilling's effort in his last two games will go down in history as two of the gutsiest performances in sports history, not just baseball history. The man is in pain and he's contributed two high-quality starts. His presence not only helps the Sox on the field -- it has to provide Knute Rockne-like inspiration to his teammates. ...
The Sox grabbed a 2-0 series lead over the Mets in '86, but had Oil Can Boyd and Al Nipper lined up for Games 3 and 4. You have to like their chances more this time around with Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe in the wings. ...
Nomar Garciaparra has to be bumming out. Part of the Sox for nearly a decade, he departs just as this team takes off. It's got to hurt not to be a part of this. ...
Think Martinez will come in high and tight to the Cardinal hitters since he has to bat himself?...
If the series comes back to Boston, the Sox would be wise to have Aimee Mann sing the national anthem or "God Bless America." Since they're primarily going with Boston-based talent, why not go with the best?...
Eighteen years ago today, Mookie Wilson's grounder trickled through Bill Buckner's legs. ...
Since the Sox got shellacked 19-8 at Fenway by the Pinstripers, they've won six straight.
New Englanders recognize the magnitude of the Red Sox erasing a 3-0 deficit to shock the New York Yankees in seven games to capture the American League pennant.
Here's how a sampling of New York-based sports writers chronicled the collapse in the Thursday morning papers:
"The darkest moment in Yankee history descended upon The Bronx last night when the plucky Red Sox climbed baseball's steepest and slipperiest postseason slope to cop the ALCS at Yankee Stadium. ... Nothing on the field compares to The Colossal Collapse. Twenty-six World Series victories? They might as well be Parkchester Tavern League titles."
-- George King, N.Y. Post
"It was actually happening. The nerd was kissing the homecoming queen. Paper was beating scissors; scissors were beating rock. Charlie Brown was kicking the football. The Red Sox were beating the Yankees for the American League pennant."
- Tyler Kepner, The New York Times
"There remains one final victory before The Curse of the Bambino is broken, but the Red Sox have destroyed the Evil Empire. The Olde Towne Team danced on Babe's grave last night at Yankee Stadium. Their former House of Horrors is now their house. The Red Sox are the Yankees' daddy as they beat them for the first time ever in the postseason."
-- Kevin Kernan, N.Y. Post
"After all these years in the big game, when the Red Sox's path to happiness was crossed too often by a black cat, they found a sure-fire way to avoid further heartache. They simply refused to put themselves in position to be victimized last night. They removed suspense and the Yankees right from the start. They turned Yankee Stadium so silent, you could hear 56,129 hopes drop."
"The City that Never Sleeps, weeps. The world is upside down today. Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone struck out. Bill Buckner caught the ground ball. The Curse is Reversed. Hell froze over and drowned New York in unimaginable sorrow. The Boston Bleeping Red Sox, who haven't won anything since 1918, who are the first team in Major League Baseball history to overcome a 3-0 deficit, are going to the World Series. The Yankees are supposed to make history, not be history. ... So The Hearse of the Bambino lies empty."
-- Steve Serby, N.Y. Post
"They finished up a baseball miracle last night, a Boston miracle at Yankee Stadium, a miracle that will be talked about with all curses back in Boston from now on. The Red Sox finished off their miracle and finished off the Yankees and officially became one of the best stories of all time, in any sport, in any ballpark or arena where a team is told that you are never supposed to give up, not even if that team is the Red Sox."
- Mike Lupica, N.Y. Daily News
"Red Sox fans had seen too many dismal reverses, too many bad bounces, since the last pennant in 1986, since Babe Ruth was sold in 1920, since the Sox last won a World Series in 1918. Jerry Coleman. Bucky Dent. Aaron Boone. Pick a generation. Pick a disaster. But you did not have to be steeped in the various myths and curses and legends that have accrued in this rivalry to know that something deep and genetic was going on. This went beyond the contemporary he-hate-me bravado of athletes. This was in the blood."
-- George Vecsey, The New York Times
"Outnumbered, surrounded and, as always, cursed, the Red Sox last night escaped the clutches of all those who would deny them. In no particular order, they scared off the ghosts, ran off the demons, beat the odds and fed the historians. Most of all, they asserted themselves and pummeled the Yankees."
The symbolism is that A-Rod was the face of a Yankee team not as tough as Boston. The Red Sox were Michael Corleone in the final scene of "The Godfather," settling all scores accumulated over 86 frustrating years. Rodriguez was supposed to make sure that never happened. He was supposed to be the new Ruth. ... Starting last night a new reality had swept baseball -- The Curse of A-Rod."
-- Joel Sherman, N.Y. Post
"Home to so many memorable moments, Yankee Stadium added a shocking page to its scrapbook last night: The greatest collapse in baseball history. It's going to be a long, long winter for George Steinbrenner's Yankees and their fans. The 2004 Yankees, kings of the comeback from April through early October, wound up as princes of the choke job."
- Ken Davidoff, Newsday
Gary Sheffield called them a "disorganized mess," they call themselves "the idiots," but what these Boston Red Sox can call themselves this morning are American League champions.
Red Sox fans were given a gift, another nine innings in another Game 7, same team, same place. But instead of keeping their loyal fans up late with another heartbreaking defeat, they put this historic defeat of the hallowed Yankees away early, turning the Fox telecast into a four-hour entertainment reel instead of a grinding, nail-biting, pitch-by-pitch drama.
The Red Sox' pennant-clinching series over the Yankees on Mickey Mantle's birthday is the greatest comeback in baseball history and, perhaps, in sports history. The Yankees, remember, were three outs away from a sweep with the imposing Mariano Rivera staring down the Sox.
No Major League baseball team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit until these 2004 Red Sox. Think about this. Forever more, when a baseball team is down 3-0 a television or radio announcer will mention the Red Sox as the only team to come back and turn it around. Against the Yankees. How sweet is that?
Through the first three games, the Red Sox led for a total of 23 minutes. Their "mo" was as irrelevant as Mo Vaughn. They were down. But no way was this script going to get past copy edit as a four-game sweep. Not the Red Sox-Yankees. Not after what happened last year.
The 19-8 clubbing in Game 3 on the Fenway lawn seemed to inspire the Sox. After two extra-inning wins, Curt Schilling pulled himself off a gurney, pitching a game for the ages while his displaced tendon bled through his sock. Game 6 alone will forever live in Red Sox lore. And it was the slumping Mark Bellhorn who provided the offense for Schilling, hitting a bloop three-run homer (a la Bucky Dent) that provided the difference.
Through the first five games, Bellhorn was like American Idol's Jon Peter Lewis. Every time you tuned in you expected him to be out of the spotlight, yet somehow he was still in there. Give Terry Francona credit. He stuck with him. And it worked.
This set up Game 7. If Dent throwing out the first pitch last night was supposed to be a hex, Johnny Damon was the omen, his second-inning grand slam a hint of big things to come for the Sox. It was Damon, the Yaz-like David Ortiz and the unlikely Bellhorn who would hit home runs last night, more than silencing the chants of "Red Sox suck" and "1918." Derek Lowe had something to do with that as well.
The Red Sox have held leads in each of their most recent heartbreaks. They led in both Games 6 and 7 against the Mets in the 1986 World Series, Game 7 last year and again last night. But this time, they hung on. Their was no phantom Clemens blister, no Calvin Schiraldi breakdown, no devastating E-3. And, curse be damned, no Aaron Boone home run.
It was ironic that the commercial just before Alan Embree came in to get the final out was an Afflack ad featuring former Yankee catcher Yogi Berra in a barbershop. The guy who said "it ain't over 'til it's over" was absolutely right.
At 12:01 on 10-21, the Red Sox reversed the curse.
Tonight is the real World Series. This is for everything.
If the Red Sox can somehow find the guile to beat the Yankees, they will officially exorcise the demons of the Babe, Bucky, Boone and all the pinstripe shenanigans of the last century.
Beating the Bombers in the Bronx after being dismissed as road kill would be the biggest moment in Major League Baseball history. No team has ever come back from 3-0, and for the long-suffering Red Sox to be able to pull off this feat against the rival Yankees in their own back yard would be the ultimate triumph.
Make no mistake: This is the game of games. Even if you're not a baseball fan, it's going to be impossible to look away. If televisions had been around in Biblical times, this would be like watching David slay Goliath. This is Jessica Lange tearing herself out of King Kong's grasp.
The Joe Torre era would have a permanent scar. And Terry Francona may just get a statue.