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Baseball: 2004 World Series

Red Sox bask in the afterglow of a special Series

Eighty-six years of misery vanish, as Boston tries to fathom ... winning.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published October 29, 2004

ST. LOUIS - When the celebrations die down, when the parades end, when the appearances dwindle to a few, the Red Sox may come to realize exactly what they accomplished with their first championship in 86 years.

Winning the World Series will change their world.

They no longer are the team haunted by a mythical curse. They no longer are the team that would somehow, someway find a way to fail. They no longer are the team that managed to bring out the pessimist in even the most optimistic fan.

"This changes the image of the franchise," team president Larry Lucchino said. "It doesn't diminish it, but it will transform into something much different from what it had been known for."

General manager Theo Epstein knows.

He grew up in Red Sox Nation, and was a rabid 12-year-old fan convinced that 1986 was the Sox's year. Even after they lost the epic Game 6 of the World Series, when Bob Stanley threw the wild pitch and Bill Buckner missed the ground ball, Epstein told classmates he was confident they would beat the Mets in Game 7 and win the championship.

One of his teachers overheard him and tried to offer counsel. "So young, so naive," he told Epstein. "They have no chance."

It was enough for Epstein to cross over, admitting that he too became a little more jaded after that, more in line with the fans who knew that no matter what good the Sox did, something bad was going to happen in the end.

So now that they've won?

"I think it will be different," Epstein said, "but I don't think it will be worse. We'll still be the special franchise that we've been."

When the Sox go to Yankee Stadium, they no longer will be tormented by their failed past, no longer greeted by those sing-song chants of "Nine-teen, eight-teen" and the accompanying signs.

"It's time to tear up those posters," first baseman Kevin Millar said.

Said Epstein: "1918 is now just another year that we won the World Series."

(And when the Yankees come to Fenway, Boston fans now can taunt them with chants of "Two-thousand ," marking the last time the New Yorkers won, which on the Steinbrennerian calendar is nearly as long a drought as the Sox had.)

People who haven't lived in New England, or who don't know someone who does, or at least haven't been there, can't grasp just how big a deal this is.

"Some people have told me this would be the biggest thing since the Revolutionary War," Sox owner John Henry said. "Our fans wanted this their entire lives."

"This is for anyone who ever played for the Red Sox, anyone who ever rooted for the Red Sox, anyone who has ever been to Fenway Park," Epstein said, drinking champagne he joked was vintage 1918. "This is bigger than the 25 players in this clubhouse. This is for all of Red Sox Nation past and present. ... A lot of people can live happy now, a lot of people can be happy now."

The Sox will bask in the glow for a while, starting with Saturday's victory march.

"Ever since I got to Boston, we've talked about what would happen if we won," pitcher Derek Lowe said. "We always said it would be the best parade ever. Now we get to experience it."

They will enjoy it at least until they face the realities of trying to keep their team together, of dealing with the pending free agency of catcher Jason Varitek, shortstop Orlando Cabrera and pitchers Pedro Martinez and Lowe.

They'll enjoy it when they report to Fort Myers in February. They'll enjoy it when they hear all the talk about how the Cubs - who haven't won since 1908 - must be cursed. They'll especially enjoy it April 11 when they get their rings and raise their championship banner in their home opener against the Yankees.

"We're world champions," pitcher Curt Schilling said. "There's no living player who can say what we can say today: We're the world champion Boston Red Sox."

That's something different.

[Last modified October 28, 2004, 23:50:16]


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