For sheer relief of agony, feat's in a league of its own

October 28, 2004|By LAURA VECSEY

ST. LOUIS - The cheering went on and on inside Busch Stadium until thousands of Red Sox fans found the perfect cheer to propel their team back home to Boston:

"Thank you, Red Sox! Thank you, Red Sox!"

On the field, near the dugout, Pedro Martinez jumped and bobbed like a bantamweight boxer, king of the world. His legacy is secure now. A World Series title will do that for a major league baseball player.

On the field, David Ortiz was being hailed as the big-bopping Papi. Kevin Millar sprayed champagne high as a geyser, soaking any and all in his path.

The ink from the famed, time-honored signs ran: 1918 Is History. The Curse is Reversed.

Somewhere in Tampa, a baseball team owner took note.

Here in the heartland, the St. Louis Cardinals do not need to worry much about their absence from the 100th World Series. Few will remember their awful World Series performance, the way they couldn't do anything to slow the momentum or deter the will of the winners.

Winners? Champions? These words seem wildly inadequate to describe what the Red Sox became last night under the lunar eclipse in the Midwestern sky.

How about "Curse-less."

How about "Free." How about "Delivered from evil," or at least the Evil Empire.

Eight consecutive victories these Red Sox notched after they trailed the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. They were down 3-0, down to their final three outs, with Mariano Rivera on the mound, and look at where they wound up last night.

Dancing. Screaming. Crying. Singing. That's because it's over now. The longest, most angst-ridden drought in sports is done. Deep, primal thirst has been slaked in Red Sox Nation.

"I think we learned a lot when we played against the Yankees because we lost the first three games," World Series MVP Manny Ramirez said.

"Today, I was talking to some of the guys and I said, `Hey, let's go. Don't let those guys breathe.' We know what happened against New York. We came back. And in baseball, anything can happen out there."

Boy, have the Red Sox borne out that truth over the last 86 years, falling short in 1946, '67, '75 and, the last time, in '86. Anything did happen, which propelled the Red Sox into another 18 years of misery.

Last night, their celebratory champagne and joyful tears spilled across the rest of the nation, too. This was history - or the shedding of a lot of bad history.

When the Red Sox suffered - and whined and moaned and winced and yearned for better baseball times to come - it was the kind of pain that any sports fan could feel, even if the depth of Red Sox angst could not be fathomed.

The Red Sox epitomized tortured pursuit. It was an art form, a way of life, a mind-set that burrowed deep into the craniums and psyches of all who dared to root, root, root for the team that sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, then lived to regret it.

But finally the Red Sox shook off the curse after they achieved their greatest, stated goal.

Boston was right. Its obsession with beating the Yankees, as masochistic as it had been, was worthy of their undivided attention.

Beating them was like parting the Red Sea. So what if it had been the Cardinals who beat the Red Sox in 1946 and '67; that it was the Mets in 1986 who were within one out of elimination when the infamous dribbler made poor Billy Buckner bend when his aching knees could not perform.

A curse is a curse, which is why Bucky Dent's homer at Fenway in that 1978 playoff between the Yankees and Red Sox was the cause of far more angst than anything the Cardinals or Mets or Reds ever did in the World Series.

Eighty-six years of futility, all because of the Yankees.

Beating New York in the American League Championship Series was as big as the U.S. Olympic hockey team beating the Russians in the semifinals of the 1980 Winter Games.

What came next, the gold medal game, was a formality. No one much remembers that the U.S. had to win one more game to win the Olympic title. That it was Finland the Americans beat is almost immaterial.

Did the Red Sox believe in miracles?

For 84 years, their better judgment told them do not dare.

Then they became Cowboys, and the Red Sox came within five outs of accomplishing their goal, except that Pedro Martinez was hit hard and the Yankees tied Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS and later won it on Aaron Boone's extra-inning's homer. It was just another sign of the Curse.

But the Boston Cowboys found out they were better equipped to kill the curse as Idiots. So Curt Schilling was brought in and he asked his new teammates again: `Do you believe in miracles?' And the answer was yes.

This is how this October is going to be remembered.

All the energy, all the meaning, all the memories will be of what the Red Sox did to the Yankees, finally. The Cardinals were but the Finland of this World Series.

The lore and luster was already established back in the cauldron of the East Coast, at Yankee Stadium, where the Red Sox' celebration was long and hard and long overdue.

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