Poof! Blue Jays on verge of taking Red Sox's legend


September 24, 1991|By JOHN EISENBERG

Billy the Kid got killed in the end, you know.

Salieri thought he was the finest composer on earth -- until he heard this kid named Mozart.

That happens sometimes to people regarded as legends.

They go poof.

Someone bigger or better or possessing more something comes along, and that's the end of the legend.

The '68 Colts thought they were one of pro football's best teams ever -- until Joe Namath picked them to lose.

Pat Boone was the heartthrob of this country -- until Elvis Presley's albums started hitting the stores.

"Twins Peaks" was magazine-cover hot -- until it moved to Saturday night and became MIA.


End of legend.

It could be happening in the AL East right now.

The Red Sox are making a big comeback, which is not unlike saying man bites dog, or a Democrat was just elected president.

It's something that just doesn't happen. Not according to the legend, at least.

The Sox are supposed to be the cursed, tortured souls. The ones who surrender enormous leads in the standings, make larger-than-life errors, horrify their fatalistic fans.

The Dead Sox. The quintessential, legendary losers. Seventy-three years since a World Series win.

They may have met their match. Amazing, but true.

The Toronto Blue Jays are on the verge of replacing them as baseball's most dependable catastrophe.

The Jays are making the Sox look downright heroic, which some said couldn't be done.

On Aug. 7, the Jays led the Sox by 11 1/2 games. The Sox were in fourth place, seven games under .500, fading faster than Marla Maples' engagement. A Boston radio station staged a mock funeral on the air.

Since then, the Sox have been the best team in the majors, nothing short of splendid, playing .738 ball with consistent pitching, lineup-wide hitting and a big-play flair.

The Jays, meanwhile, have put on that familiar, panicky face. Their rotation is fraying, their bullpen is giving up leads, they're blaming the press and they got stuck with a West Coast trip at the worst possible time.

They lost 11 games in 44 days to the Sox, and their big Barcalounger of a lead was down to a half-game Sunday. It was 1 1/2 with two weeks left as the Sox began a three-game series at Memorial Stadium last night.

All those moaning, perpetually depressed Calvinists in New England don't know what to do. This is just not in the script.

Their beloved "Saux" are famous for seeding other team's successes with their spectacular cave-ins. This heroes-of-September, back-from-the-dead thing is a new gig entirely.

As unfamiliar in Boston as "howdy, ya'll." Or frozen cod.

Now the Jays are the ones on the cutting edge of calamity. They're working on their fourth disaster in seven years. As Butch said to Sundance when they couldn't shake the posse: "These guys are good."

They blew a 3-1 lead in the 1985 league playoffs. They lost their last seven games in 1987 to blow the division title to Detroit. They lost eight of their last 12 to let the Sox win the division last year.

Now it's coming around again at the end of a season in which they've been in first place since the early going, often appearing runaway winners with a lead near double digits.

These guys are good, all right. They're becoming baseball's final word on collapse. The cave-in chalk.

This one is particularly impressive because the Jays went to great lengths to avoid such a reoccurrence.

They traded the heart of their team, George Bell and Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez, replacing them with Joe Carter and Robbie Alomar, among others. A new era was proclaimed.

No more bad chemistry. No more poisoned Septembers. No memories of 1987.

And 1985.

And 1990.

Now it's coming around again. You can almost hear Toronto's loyal, numerous and increasingly fatalistic fans: "Darn, the Americans are going to beat us again."

Maybe it won't happen. The Sox's run is a bit of a mystery, with no one having a big year. The Jays finally come off the road at the end of the week. The Sox could stall out. They are who they are, after all.

But what if they don't stall out? What if they succeed in pulling it off? What should we do, call a press conference and announce the passing of the torch?

Ladies and gentlemen, the new No. 1 of no mas.

We may be getting to that.

Nothing can erase 73 years of futility, of course. The Sox will always be fabulously famous for their faux pas. They'll always be the volume champs.

But it'd be four division titles in six years for them if they catch the Jays this time, so no one'll feel sorry for them. They'd probably lose in the playoffs again, but no one could moan about the Bambino's curse after coming from 11 1/2 back to win a division.

The Red Sox, those noted comeback kids. . .


It would take some getting used to, eh?

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