All day, Boston waited and hoped, fretted and wished that such a celebration was coming. Then, all night, as Shane Victorino blasted a three-run double off the Green Monster in the third inning, Stephen Drew homered into the Boston bullpen in the fourth, then Mike Napoli and Victorino struck again with RBI hits for a 6-0 lead, that anticipation turned into a raucous party, a pre-Duck-Boat-parade paddle down every avenue from Commonwealth to Boylston in one huge utterly unexpected tribute.
Suddenly, a team that, 25 months and 25 beards ago, was spurned as a symbol of everything wrong with rich modern pro sports, had become the epitome of everything that’s meant by team cohesion, unselfishness, synergy and baseball at its best.
On Wednesday night, the Red Sox reversed a curse of an entirely different sort than the one they snapped in ’04. Back then, they ended 86 years without a Series win, an evil eon that frequently focused on the club’s lack of poise under pressure. With their 6-1 win to capture their third title in the past 10 seasons, the Red Sox reversed the curse of bad character, selfishness and bad faith that rotted the franchise to its core just two years ago.
One moment captured the prickly mixture of forgiveness and athletic redemption with an entire ballpark saying, “We were wrong about you.” In the seventh inning, the packed house chanted “Lackey, Lackey, Lackey,” for their winning pitcher, John Lackey, who was in a jam. This is called irony or perhaps perversity cubed. In ’11, Lackey had a 6.11 ERA and was despised here. When he missed all of ’12 with elbow ligament replacement surgery, the only way 38,447 Red Sox fans would have chanted his name was if he had been driving to Logan Airport to leave town forever.
When Manager John Farrell came to the mound to offer a reliever, Lackey roared, “This is my guy,” meaning (old-old-old-school style), “I’m not leaving this mound.” Since this wasn’t a movie but an actual baseball game, Matt Holliday — yes, “my guy” was the Cardinals’ best home run hitter — drew a walk and a reliever was called to end the jam. But the crowd gave a standing ovation as Lackey-the-Loathed left the game.
And Lackey, who has refused ever to tip his cap to the Boston fans who’ve ridden him and resented his $82.5 million contract throughout his Red Sox years, waited and waited until he had almost reached the dugout, then slowly, deliberately doffed his hat.
“This team is full of players who were driven to rewrite their stories,” Farrell said. “There was a tremendous sense of embarrassment here at the beginning of the year.” Now there is, well after midnight, a sea of fans and players, awash in the joy of a title that almost no one imagined, played out on the same field where Red Sox teams, expected to win, failed for generations.