Red Sox are a hit with all fans

It's hard to resist Boston's plucky team

Observation

October 22, 2004|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN COLUMNIST

Go ahead, Zogby and Gallup and Roper and the rest of you. Take a poll of baseball fans. Ask them who they'll be rooting for when the World Series begins tomorrow.

Go to the blue states and red states, ask conservatives and liberals, young and old, rich and poor, black and white.

Ask anyone you want - except possibly the fans in the New York metropolitan area, who are still in bed this morning, staring up at the ceiling and developing facial tics.

Oh, and don't bother polling the fans in St. Louis, either, since that city will represent the National League in the Series and their fans might be a little, you know, BIASED.

But everywhere else, you can be assured of this: Anyone with a heart is rooting for the Boston Red Sox.

Let's face it, who HASN'T fallen for this plucky team of lumpy misfits who, down three games to none, pulled off the greatest post-season comeback in baseball history to win the American League Championship Series?

Who doesn't want to see the end of the fabled curse that has held the Red Sox in its grip since 1918, when the team dealt the great Babe Ruth to the hated New York Yankees and a shadowy force in the netherworld stirred and decreed: No more World Series titles for you.

Who doesn't feel for Red Sox Nation, the legions of long-suffering New Englanders who have lived and died - OK, mostly died - with this team for so long, through so many seasons that began with such promise and ended with such despair come October?

No, if baseball fans had their way, they'd already be measuring the Red Sox for their World Series rings.

One reason the Red Sox have captivated so many is that they got to the Series by beating the powerful, arrogant Yankees, with their $183 million payroll and their Murderer's Row of hitters and their Captain Queeg of an owner and their boorish, thick-necked fans screaming: "Who's your daddy?" at Pedro Martinez.

(Poor Pedro. That throw-away quote about Yankee dominance that he fed to the media will be etched on his tombstone someday.)

And they did it with a "Dirty Dozen" roster of players who call themselves "Idiots" and wear scruffy beards that look like they belong on Amish farmers and the kind of hairstyles you'd find on people marooned on a desert island for five years.

(Note to Manny Ramirez: What exactly HAVE you done with your hair? It looks like a giant brown loofah.)

Baseball - especially post-season baseball - has always been about nerves and failure and redemption, and these Red Sox have personified all three themes.

Who didn't marvel at the courageous Curt Shilling, a bust in Game 1 against the Yankees, who went on to pitch so masterfully in Game 6 with a dislocated tendon that bled through his sock and gave his right ankle all the consistency of linguini?

Who wasn't inspired by outfielder Johnny Damon, Johnny of Nazareth with his long, flowing hair and beard and gentle demeanor, who came out of a horrendous slump in Game 7 and smacked two home runs into the night that turned Yankee Stadium into a hushed chapel?

Finally, who would have believed the clutch performance of right-hander Derek Lowe, who makes Red Sox fans reach for their rosary beads whenever he takes the mound, but who shut down the Yankees for six innings in Game 7 and looked like the answer to a prayer?

Now this gritty team goes on to baseball's premier showcase: the World Series.

And Red Sox Nation, so beaten down just three days ago, so hollow-eyed, so devoid of hope, is glowing.

The little baseball jewel that is Fenway Park has never looked more inviting.

The bars in Kenmore Square have never had more life.

It's October in Boston - maybe the best, brightest October since the sainted Ruth was sent packing to New York 84 years ago.

The Red Sox are still alive.

And the end of the curse is in sight.

Maybe.

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