- The Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 last night at delirious Wrigley Field to win their first National League pennant since 1945, a time that dates to the Greatest Generation. Now the northsiders will take on American League champion Cleveland Indians in the Fall Classic beginning next Tuesday.
Towns goes crazy! Historic Series awaits!
The Cubbies haven’t won the World Series itself in 108 years (1908), the Indians in 68 years (1948). It all reminds me of that night back in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino to end their own 86 years of World Series frustration.
My Chicago friends have always argued that the Cubs’ World Series drought was worse than the Red Sox because it was longer in duration (108 years to a mere 86). But since their last appearance in the Series in 1945 the Cubs have been perennial losers, never really coming close, almost always out of the pennant race by mid-summer.
Oh, there was the Steve Bartman incident in 2003 when the Cubs were up 3-2 in the NLCS against the Florida Marlins, but the Red Sox have starred in any number of Shakespearean baseball tragedies. Line them up: 1946 and 1967 against the Cards in seven-game series, 1975 against Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, also in seven, and most horrically in 1986 against the N.Y. Mets. Agonizingly just one out away, congratulations already up on the Mets’ scoreboard, then the grounder dribbles through Buckner’s legs and the champagne gets wheeled away.
And that doesn’t even take into consideration the one-game playoff loss to the Yankees in 1978 for the AL East title on Bucky “effing” Dent’s home run off Mike Torres over the Green Monster.
So heartache and pain have long been etched more deeply into the soul of the New England fans than that of the hapless though hopeful Cubby faithful.
So let’s go back to the fateful night of October 27, 2004 when the Red Sox finally won it all against my hometown St. Louis Cardinals. Because this is what it might finally feel like in Chicago in a very short time.
I was out in San Diego alone. A hard rain had begun falling around 2 a.m., 2 to 3 inches in fact, very unusual for that part of the country. But that evening as I sat in my living room, I looked out and saw that we were heading toward a full lunar eclipse, the moon a bone pale platter held high over the corner of a cloud bank limned in a silver hue. How could the Red Sox lose now, I wondered? It was an omen for sure. The curse no more after 86 years. Yes, the last World Series title had come when Babe Ruth still played for the Sox before being traded to the Yankees for a Broadway show opening.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Johnny Damon’s lead-off home run, the fourth straight game the Sox had scored in the first. By the fourth they had tallied two more to build a 3-0 lead. I called my niece Maria back in St. Louis asking her if she was at the game. I knew the family had season tickets and were long time Cardinal fans. She told me not to gloat, knowing I was now a Sox fan.
“You shouldn’t worry yet,” I said, “because if the Red Sox don’t win this game and sweep the series, they’ll never be able to regather the momentum.” After all, they had won four straight against the Yankees in the ALCS after being down 0-3. Now they were up 3–0 against the surprisingly listless Cardinals. If they didn’t finish it off here, all the momentum would shift, and once the Cardinals found their game…
At the end of seven it was still 3 – zip Sox. It was happening. The mighty Redbirds couldn’t put anything together, rutted in a low-pressure zone of offense of vacuity.
“Will the real St. Louis Cardinals please come tonight,” pleaded one fan’s sign in Busch Stadium. This was not the team that won a major league leading 105 regular-season games. While the Red Sox, this band of self-proclaimed Idiots, were in spring training mode, hitting with three balls no strikes, playing as if nothing were at stake.
8th inning underway with Mueller, Nixon, and Belhorn up for the Sox, leading 3–0 since the third when they got a two on, two out, two-run double by Trot Nixon.
Bill Mueller now with a hit to right, which has been his MO all season. Nixon follows with another double into the right-field corner, his the third double of the night.
Oh, my God, it’s going to happen! But it is almost too fast. We just got over the historic Yankee series comeback from 0–3 down. Now they’ve sprinted to this World Series lead. The fans haven’t had a chance to digest or feel panic. It’s all a whirl.
Going to the bottom of the ninth of the 2004 season, three outs from the unimaginable. Cards slugging first-baseman Albert Pujols leads off the bottom of the ninth. Keith Foulk to try to close it for the Sox. Strike one, with a 90 per hour heater. Pujols, Role, and Edmunds,the Cardinals’ Murderer’s Row, but hitless tonight. The crowd urging their Redbirds to ignite.
Pujols grounds a single to center giving hope its last chance. But Scott Rolen goes down on a harmless fly to right. Jim Edmunds, the Card’s center fielder stands in.
Foulke isn’t overpowering, but his bread-and-butter change-up was thrown with the same arm action as his fastball, keeping the hitters guessing. And he gets Edmonds on strikes. Two down! Red Sox one out away, he swung right through it. In steps Edgar Renteria the shortstop, two for three tonight.
Only one out away. But they been there before in ’86 against the Mets, and couldn’t close it out.
“Let’s go Red Sox” begins to spill out from the Busch Stadium crowd. Even the St. Louis fans, considered the best in the country, understand the history that confronts them.
Inside, ball one. Pujols takes second without a play. Then a one-hopper back to Foulkes. He under hands it over to Mintkiewcz at first. And it’s over! It’s over! Can you believe it?!! 86 years and it’s over!!! At last, at long, long last the Boston Red Sox are World Series champions!
They brought in Curt Schilling from Arizona to do it, and he and they did it! With Keith Foulke and all the rest, “The Idiots”, idiotic no more. The Red Sox in a dead clean sweep and eight straight overall, another major-league record.
Bring back Bill Buckner New England, salute Mike Torres, all is forgiven! Send Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee to the moon and back, unfreeze Teddy Ballgame and “light it up, Yaz”!
I’m almost tearful for the experience, sitting here in San Diego on a stormy night while the streets of Boston are clogged with celebration. Not since Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary to Gerard Phelan in 1984’s Boston College versus the Miami Hurricanes football game has the city risen as one like this. But nothing will top this gathering, nothing. And I realize, too, that nothing that can ever happen in San Diego could match this. There’s your difference between the coasts.
The Red Sox have ended The Curse, let the Bambino rest in peace once and for all. Kiss the Yankees and hug the Mets. It’s Lindbergh flying the Atlantic, Sisyphus rolling his boulder over the crest of the hill, the Beatles on Ed Sullivan all balled into one.
How to write the Second Coming? How to do it justice? To love these Red Sox over all these years you had to love the New England winters in all their bitter forlorn and gray specter. And find comfort, too, with those who embraced misery and defeat with arms of flung wide, all the while awaiting another arctic blast of disappointment.
In 1975 John Kiley, legendary organ player at Fenway Park, played Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus on the wings of Carlton Fisk’s 12th inning, game six walk off home run against the Cincinnati Reds. Today, the bells ring out from every church steeple of New England – except for those in Yankee-loving towns in south Connecticut. Old men weep and young boys roll on the ground like dogs rolling on the smelly old fish heads. Rub the smell of it in. It’ll never wash off!!
The Red Sox, for Godsakes, are World Series winners, not losers, winners, winners, winners. It’s almost too much to take. Shake me, wake me, I must be dreaming. But we will survive, and in so doing we celebrate for the four generations of Sox loyalists who never lived to witness this glory, this miracle, this ascension.
That, my Chicago friends, is what lies ahead. Not even the glory of the Cleveland Cavaliers win in the NBA Finals this June, or a win by your Indians against the Cubbies will match it.
So collect yourselves, proud Lake-siders, for history awaits like never before. For these are the emotions that a baseball team can elicit. In these times when nothing is permanent, only something as inconsequential, yet as meaningful as a baseball victory can lift us into a realm where even the coming election can’t spoil our sense of being one, being blessed, being American.