Cursed To First

Red Sox cap sweep of Cards, take first crown since 1918

World Series -- BOSTON DEFEATS ST. LOUIS, 4 - 0

October 28, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ST. LOUIS - There, Red Sox Nation, was that so hard?

Apparently, all it took to win your first World Series title since 1918 was a lunar eclipse, a few million references to The Curse of the Bambino, and a whole lot of Metamucil.

The St. Louis Cardinals led baseball with 105 wins this year, but they played the perfect foils through the final out last night, as Boston completed its four-game sweep with a 3-0 victory before 52,037 at Busch Stadium.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Sports section stated incorrectly that the St. Louis Cardinals won Game 7 of the 1967 World Series in St. Louis. In fact, the Cardinals won Game 7 in Boston. The Sun regrets the error.

The Red Sox, who got a home run from Johnny Damon to start Game 4, became the fourth team to win the World Series without ever trailing in a game, joining the 1989 Oakland Athletics, 1966 Orioles and the 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers.

So an entire region shed its inferiority complex. Asked what the end of the 86-year drought would mean to New England, Red Sox owner John Henry said, "Some people have told me it's the biggest thing since the Revolutionary War."

Yes, Paul Revere would have had another reason for a Midnight Ride last night, and the great goats of Red Sox past - Johnny Pesky, Bill Buckner and Grady Little - could rest a little easier. The Red Sox finally won their sixth title, after losing the World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986.

Two of those had come against the Cardinals - in 1946 and 1967 - whose proud history includes nine world championships, but none since 1982.

Boston hadn't won the world title since it sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920 - touching off the infamous curse. But Game 4 coincided with the first lunar eclipse in World Series history, and just as the Earth's shadow was creeping across the moon, the Red Sox were smothering the Cardinals.

"They outplayed us," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said, "in every category."

Derek Lowe, who got the win in last week's clincher against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, was terrific again last night, holding the Cardinals to three hits and one walk over seven sensational innings.

Trot Nixon padded Boston's cushion with a two-run double in the third inning off St. Louis starter Jason Marquis.

But the full-scale collapse never came. The Cardinals continued to play spectacular defense, and survived a bases-loaded, no-out scare in the seventh behind closer Jason Isringhausen.

For once in this series, their loyal, red-sweatered fans finally had reason to roar.

But after using Bronson Arroyo and Alan Embree to get through the eighth, the Red Sox turned to closer Keith Foulke in the ninth.

At 11:40 p.m. EDT, the curse officially ended with Foulke catching a bouncer from Edgar Renteria and tossing underhand to first base, touching off a wild celebration in the infield.

"I'm sure there are a lot of people in New England that are dancing in the streets right now," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I can't wait to go back and join them."

The Red Sox became the first team in major league history to rattle off eight straight wins in one postseason. To think, it was just 10 days earlier that Boston was staring at a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS.

Before that game at Fenway Park, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein was in the manager's office, hoping for a miracle. Francona keeps a bottle of Metamucil near his desk to combat occasional stomach problems.

"I always tease him because it seems like something a 70-year-old woman would drink," Epstein said. "But that day, I said, `We've got to change our luck.' So I took a swig, and I've been doing it every game since. I've had seven [now eight] glasses of Metamucil, and I've paid the price."

It was the new impossible dream, to borrow a line from Boston's 1967 season that fell short against Bob Gibson and the Cardinals in this same stadium in Game 7. That first night, the Yankees had a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning with the incomparable Mariano Rivera on the mound.

But the Red Sox tied the game on Bill Mueller's RBI single, and won it in the 14th, when David Ortiz hit a two-run homer into the Boston night.

Counting this World Series, 27 major league teams have fallen behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven set. The Red Sox are the only team to come back and win, and the Cardinals joined the 20 others that were swept.

To finish the quest and break the most infamous title drought in sports history, Boston knew where to go. Over the years, St. Louis has welcomed Beantown's struggling sports franchises like so many tourists who have passed through the Gateway Arch.

To win their first NBA title in 1957, the Boston Celtics defeated the St. Louis Hawks. In hockey, the Boston Bruins had a 29-year title dry spell before they defeated the St. Louis Blues in 1970.

And when the New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl in February 2002, the St. Louis Rams were the ones with broken hearts as Adam Vinatieri's kick sailed through the uprights.

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