Big, hairy deal: Red Sox scoff at The Curse

October 08, 2003|By LAURA VECSEY

NEW YORK -- Their first goal should be to take this American League Championship Series all the way to a seventh game, for the sheer drama and to reverse that abrupt 1999 ALCS loss to the Yankees.

Five games and out isn't going to cut it this time for a Red Sox team that narrowly lost the season series to the "hated" Yankees, 10-9.

Their second goal should be to win it.

Otherwise, when will it ever end for Red Sox Nation?

Oh, the light and lively Red Sox of 2003 will make you seriously doubt they feel the slightest burden of history, The Curse and all the bad karma directed their way from George Steinbrenner's Evil Empire.

"I'm evil sometimes," Derek Jeter said with a smile yesterday as the Yankees greeted their greatest rival at the, uh hum, House That Ruth Built.

On the eve of this anticipated showdown, the cool Jeter could not help but admit he does not play scared in October. Like Reggie Jackson before him, Jeter said you hear enough people talking about what a winner you are in the postseason, you tend to believe it.

The Sox and October? Please, must we bring that subject up again?

Some pundits and historians and keepers of the Red Sox crypt of heartbreak like to go all the way back to Babe Ruth, that Red Sox pitcher who won the last World Series for Boston in 1918 before being traded away to the Yankees for Broadway production money.

Some still harp on poor Billy Buckner, as if he should have been out there against Ray Knight and Mookie Wilson and those 1986 Amazin' Mets.

There's really no need for that kind of stretch. Remember, it was only back in '99 that the Sox fell victim to Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch's phantom tag on Jose Offerman. It was a crushing out that killed a Red Sox rally and was later admitted to be a blown call by umpire Tim Tschida.

Who needs the curse of the Bambino when you've got the curse of Knoblauch to more immediately exorcise?

Maybe it is the cumulative effect of all those barren World Series years and all those cold, rocky miles of New England self-doubt that have given rise to this year's goofy version of the BoSox.

They are the anti-cursed -- or at least they are acting the part. I mean, look at them! They're buzzed or bald, including junior general manager Theo Epstein and manager Grady Little. Grown men wielding razors inducted the top brass into their Ugly Army, shaving down the GM and field general after clinching their ALCS berth.

"Hence the cap," said Epstein, who decided he hasn't been this bald since in utero. "I had more hair when I was born," he said.

That's the point, apparently.

"We're the ugliest team going to take the field. We're idiots. It's a good thing I'm married, otherwise I don't know where I'd go from here," said major league instigator Kevin Millar.

When they're not shaving each other -- except for Johnny Damon and Nomar Garciaparra, who has to stay pretty for his wedding next month to soccer star Mia Hamm -- the Red Sox are bouncing at home plate like a gelatinous mass after every David Ortiz or Todd Walker homer.

"We're a team. No offense to our wives or kids, but we don't want to go home. These guys really like hanging out together," Derek Lowe said.

They're gesturing so wildly in Little League-like euphoria that the Oakland "Who's Jinxed Now" Athletics accused the Sox of showboating and obscenity. But tell us, Miguel Tejada, who vowed that Lowe will pay for those alleged obscene antics: How else were Lowe and the anti-cursed Sox supposed to celebrate that stunning pair of freeze-frame sliders that Chris Singleton and Terrence Long stared at, sealing Boston's Game 5 win and sending them off to prove they can finally beat the Yankees?

"It was a fist pump. It wasn't a flip-off. I hope it was just their frustration coming out. I apologized. It wasn't directed at anyone," Lowe said.

Of course, despite a cross-country plane ride that Epstein called "the best red-eye" ever flown, Lowe was more than happy to stand at his locker in the bowels of Yankee Stadium for an hour.

"This is what you work so hard for in the offseason. We're going on adrenaline," said Lowe, who had every right to enjoy the spoils of his sterling relief performance in the Red Sox's Division Series victory.

But how long will they feel like the anti-cursed? The A's were hampered after ace Mark Mulder went down and then Tim Hudson had to leave Game 4 after one inning. The Red Sox were able to call on Lowe to do what the suspect Boston bullpen couldn't do: close out the clinching victory.

Even this crew of Boston Merry Pranksters knows what it's up against with the Yankees, who have four aces in Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells, not to mention Jose Contreras and Mariano Rivera in the bullpen.

As Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said yesterday, with an ominous note, he hasn't seen a pitching staff this deep and strong in the League Championship Series since the '86 Mets.

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