Friday, October 08, 2004

243 Outs to Go

So it's a slow morning at the office and the anticipation leading up to game 3 of the Red Sox/Angels series is killing me. 27 outs and more runs on the board than the Angels and it is on to the league championship series. That's the optimist in me, the part of me that wants to shout to the world that this is the year, this is the year I can finish the poem that has been in my head for 18 years, this is the year that 85 years of hearbreak ends.

Then there is the fan in me, the bittered Sox fan so use to heartbreak and tears that I await the wheels falling off the wagon as a regular right of fall. There are few things a native New Englander can be sure of this time of year, they are the leaves changing, the temperatures dropping, a sale on snow blowers where none are sold because who needs one when you have a shovel (until the first big winter storm and then you pay double the regular price and triple or more the sale price), and the Red Sox finding a way to rip out our hearts yet again. Like the changing of the seasons, it just is something to expect.

When Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees after 1919 season, the Babe said Boston would never win a championship again. So far, the Sox haven't. In that time the Yankees have won 26 World championships and Babe Ruth, the dominate left handed pitcher for the Red Sox, has become and American sports legend as one of the most prolific power hitters in the history of baseball (and Ruth made his name in the days of big parks and dead balls!). Such was the birth of the Curse of the Bambino.

To elaborate, in 1918 the Red Sox won their 5th World Series, the most by any club at that time. One of the stars of the Boston championship franchise was a young pitcher by the name of George Herman Ruth, aka The Babe or The Bambino. In 1920, however, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed money to finance his girlfriend's play, so he sold Babe Ruth's contract to Colonel Jacob Ruppert's New York Yankees for $100,000 (plus a loan collateralized by Fenway Park).
Since then, the Yankees, who had never won a World Championship before acquiring Ruth, have gone on to win 26, and are arguably one of the greatest success stories in the history of sport.
Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox have appeared in only four World Series since 1918, losing each one in game seven. In 1946, Enos Slaughter's mad dash home won it for the St. Louis Cardinals in game 7 while Johnny Pesky, the Red Sox shortstop, double clutched the ball trying to get it out his glove on a relay. In 1967, the St. Louis Cardinals again beat the Red Sox in game 7, effectively shutting down Hall of Famer Carl Yastremski (a distant relative of mine), aka. Yaz or Captain Carl. In 1975, in what many contend to be the greatest series of all time, the Sox lost game 7 to the Reds. Ironically, everyone remembers Carlton Fisk's homerun to win game 6 to force game 7 in the 1975 series. Finally, in the only World Series the Red Sox have been to in my lifetime, the Sox lost to the New York Mets in 7 games.

The 1986 series is perhaps the biggest heartbreaker of them all. The Red Sox had a 3 games to 2 lead going into game 6 at Shea Stadium in New York. The Sox were one strike away from winning the series, multiple times, and could not seal the deal. The game ended on the infamous bouncing ball going between Bill Buckner's legs at first. Buckner never should have been in the game at that time, as he had been replaced for defensive reasons all post season by the more sure handed Dave Stapelton. Sox manager John McNamara later revealed Buckner was in because he was a veteran and the manager wanted him to be on the field for the celebration. The game 6 loss crushed the Sox and effectively ended the series as game 7 was a mere formality. Ironically, the best pitcher that post season for Boston was not the young, flame thrower from Katy, TX named Roger Clemens, but a veteran lefty named Bruce Hurst. In a twist of fate, there had not been a better left handed starter in the post season since Babe Ruth for Boston. The dagger to the heart being, if you look at the name Bruce Hurst, you can rearrange the letters in his name to get B. Ruth Curse.

The idea of a curse goes deeper. Before Carlton Fisk's number 27 was retired and the numbers on the right field roof placed in numerical order, the numbers aligned in the form of 9 4 1 8. As a date that would be 9/4/18, September 4, 1918, the day before the start of the 1918 World Series, the last one won by Boston. An ominous reminder that it's always the day before you start the series you will win, always not getting the win, forever waiting.

I don't fully buy into the idea that a team is cursed, but it is quite odd. I'm sorry, I forgot to add the icing to the cake. The 1918 World Series was won by the Red Sox, however, the losers in that series, the Chicago Cubs.

So as the clock ticks down to game 3 with the Angels, I can not be confident and happy for the lead which the Sox have in the first round. I am full of nervous energy and can not sit still. I will miss most of the game while at work, but that is what yahoo live update is for, and much like game 1 I will be doing my best to to watch my tongue in the office. This time of year marks a radical shift in my personality for a few weeks, which is evident when the Sox are playing even more so than when they have an off day or the games are over or fixing to start. I can't help it, my name is Ed, and I am a Red Sox fan. There is only one cure, but I dare not think about it.

That in mind, I have concluded on thing for those who might have wondered about me and my well being this time of year. If I ever meet a woman who understand this side of me, who can put up with and tolerate it, first hand. I might be tempted to skip the entire dating/courting thing all together and propose there on the spot, because she would be a keeper and a rare find. However, I doubt such a woman exists.

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