Thursday, October 28, 2004

ST. LOUIS. — The year 1918 is known for a number of different events.

Congress established time zones and approved daylight-saving time.

The movie “Tarzan of the Apes” was released.

And Howard Cosell was born.

It is not, however, the last year the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. Not any more.

The Red Sox clinched the 2004 World Series last night with a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals behind a brilliant seven-inning, three-hit performance by pitcher Derek Lowe and backed up by Johnny Damon’s solo home run to open the game and Trot Nixon’s two-run double in the third inning.

Stunned Cardinals fans left sold-out Busch Stadium wondering why they had to be the sacrificial lamb to break the Curse of the Bambino. Their team didn’t have anything to do with Babe Ruth or the Red Sox or the trade that sent the Bambino to the Yankees in 1920.

And why so brutally, in four straight games? These are good, Midwestern people, the nation’s heartland. What did they do to deserve this, Cards fans were asking themselves as they left to go home to their farms and kick their cows.

Sure, the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in the 1946 World Series, and in 1967 as well, but so did the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and the New York Mets in 1986. Heck, everybody who played the Red Sox in the World Series beat them. That was just the order of things since 1918.

Not any more.

On a night when the moon — an October “Blood Moon” — passed through Earth’s shadow for a total lunar eclipse, the Red Sox won a World Series. Cue the credits. Curtain down. We saw one of the best stories in sports reach its climax last night. The Red Sox are no longer cursed. Their fans are no longer in pain.

A large-market team with a $127million payroll, the Red Sox are now the New York Yankees, minus 20 World Series championships (Boston now has won six World Series championships, five of them coming between 1903 and 1918).

The Chicago Cubs now stand alone as America’s suffering team, a club promoted on its fans’ pain. The Curse of the Bambino has been replaced by the Curse of the Billy Goat. One is in the Hall of Fame. The other you can find at your local petting zoo.

Not quite the same tale of baseball tradition, is it?

There was some fear that the Red Sox would suffer the same fate as their rivals did the year before, when the Yankees, emotionally and physically exhausted after a historic seven-game American League Championship Series against Boston, lost to the Florida Marlins in the World Series in six games.

But after the Red Sox emerged from an even more historic ALCS this year against the Yankees, pulling off an unprecedented feat of coming back to win after being down 3-0 in the series, it was as if all the psychic aura surrounding the Red Sox had disappeared. They had to win the World Series to eliminate talk of the curse, but for all intents and purposes it died in Yankee Stadium the night of Oct.20, when Boston beat New York in Game7.

It all came down to baseball this time, and if that was the case, the Red Sox were going to win. The Cardinals had their “Murderer’s Row” — Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds — but the Boston’s row was longer, from Johnny Damon at the top of the lineup and Mark Bellhorn at the bottom, with sluggers like David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez mixed in. Everyone who came up to the plate for the Red Sox could beat you, and you certainly didn’t have that feeling about St. Louis, particularly last night, with Edgar Renteria, John Mabry and Yadier Molina at the bottom of the Cardinals lineup.

When you combine the Red Sox’s offensive edge with a comparison of pitching, it’s a wonder Boston didn’t win it in three games. Boston threw two Cy Young Award winners, Curt Schilling (who, with his bloody ankle, pitched himself into the annals of New England royalty, right there with Paul Revere and Larry Bird) and Pedro Martinez against the Cardinals, plus a hot former 20-game winner in Lowe. Who did the Cardinals put their hopes in to get out the Boston hitters? Woody Williams, Matt Morris, Jeff Suppan and last night’s losing starter, Jason Marquis — all fourth starters in the Red Sox rotation.

This Boston championship team was put together by a 30-year-old named Theo Epstein, who was interning in the Baltimore Orioles offices 11 years ago. So what do you do when you are 30-years-old and you’ve won a World Series championship for the Red Sox? What else is left? It’s like Steve Winwood writing, “Gimme Some Lovin’” when he was 16- years-old. You can write other hit songs, but none of them will ever be as good as this one.

There will be other lunar eclipses as well, but none will ever look as good as the moon did in a cloudy sky last night in New England, the night the Boston Red Sox won the World Series.

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