Fans declare end to Curse

Liberation: A seventh-game win in the ALCS lifts 86 years of frustration for Red Sox Nation.

October 21, 2004|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - Every Red Sox run last night felt like another spike in the coffin of the curse that has haunted this city for the better part of a century.

The home runs that helped give Boston a 10-3 victory over the New York Yankees in the decisive Game 7 of the American League Championship Series were cheered wildly last night in bars and homes across the vast Red Sox Nation. The faithful screamed and danced - as if by screaming and dancing enough they could shake off the collective weight of 86 years of frustration, of being second-best.

Improbably, they did. The curse, they said, the one that has hung around the city's neck since the Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, is history. Bury it. Drown it in Boston Harbor. Erase it from memory. It's all over now. Red Sox Nation is liberated. It has never felt so good.

"This is more important than winning the World Series," said Anne McLaughlin, a 25-year-old law student and lifelong Sox fan who joined a hundred others in Cornwall's pub near Fenway Park last night. "This is bigger than the World Series because we hate the Yankees. They have so much money. They always win. Not this time."

Sox fans did all they could last night to help the team along. They drank the same beer and ate the same food as during previous wins. They wore the same clothes. In homes and bars across New England, they sat in the same chairs or on the same stools as the night before.

This once, it was enough. The Red Sox won last night and will appear in their first World Series since 1986, with the chance to win their first Series since 1918. And they did it by beating the Yankees - the rich, reviled and arrogant New York Yankees who crushed their spirit with a Game 7 victory last year and sent the Sox faithful wailing into the streets.

The final out was recorded at midnight. Outside of Cornwall's, a police officer said: "All right, the craziness begins."

Right he was.

Thousands of fans poured out of the Kenmore Square bars and marched down Brookline Avenue toward Fenway Park, as if drawn by a magnetic force. They threw streamers, chanted, "Let's go, Red Sox!" and lit cigars.

The revelers stood on railings and took pictures with their camera phones. Women climbed atop men's shoulders. Men climbed light poles.

Police on horseback monitored the crowd, and dozens of officers in riot gear stood two deep in front of banks on the square.

The mood in Boston and New England, many say, rises and falls with the standings in the American League East. The cabbies listen to sports talk radio in their taxis and the office workers, in weeks like this one, ride the T bleary-eyed to their jobs, late once again. The first six games of this series took a combined 25 hours to play. Many here say they watched every minute.

It seemed destined to come to this - New York vs. Boston, with one final game to decide who goes to the World Series. The Sox trailed the Yankees in the standings for most of this season, a position that, some say, reinforced the shadow New York casts over Boston, in arts and business and culture. Sports, too?

"This is really a town with an inferiority complex to New York," said James O. Freedman, president emeritus of Dartmouth College, who lives in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston. Speaking before the game, he said of a win: "This would just be a tremendous boost for the collective ego of this city."

Just last weekend, it seemed utterly hopeless. The Yankees pounded the Red Sox in Game 3 Saturday, 19-8, to take a 3-0 lead in the series, and they did it in the cozy confines of Boston's Fenway Park. No team in baseball history had ever rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game postseason series.

Saturday's drubbing sent Freedman to his bookshelf, where he pulled down a book by the poet Robert Frost, who wrote about attributing success to "an arbitrary God."

If God is arbitrary, Freedman said, then the Red Sox would just have to win some of the time. And then the Sox won the next three, and Freedman was reminded of Ernest Hemingway's famous line - "Courage is grace under pressure."

"I don't know if it's grace, but spunk and grit," Freedman said yesterday. "This is not a team that's pretty. This is a group of scrappers and fighters. They're terriers. They're not Great Danes."

People here speak glowingly of how Curt Schilling pitched Tuesday night with a torn tendon in his right ankle, his sock covered in blood. They style their hair in the mohawk worn by right fielder Trot Nixon this summer. They don't shave during the playoffs, and they grow their hair long like, well, like just about every Red Sox player.

One of those who hadn't shaved was Ryan Denham, 25, from the suburb of Haverhill. He drove into Boston last night to watch the game at Cornwall's, a pub on Beacon Street, a long fly ball from the Green Monster at Fenway. Denham was wearing a T-shirt he made himself, with a profane reference to 1918 on the front and the same reference to the Yankees on the back.

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