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The Red Sox, Cursed No More

Boston Celebrates First Championship Since Babe Ruth

By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2004; Page A01

BOSTON, Oct. 27 -- Standing in the cold in Kenmore Square just before midnight, Ashwin Duggal knew the end was near only because of a phone call from his girlfriend. "One out away," he shouted to the crowd assembled beside Fenway Park moments before the Red Sox, who were playing the St. Louis Cardinals halfway across the country, closed out a 3-0 victory to win their first World Series since 1918.

Flush with a feeling that has eluded fans here for 86 years, tens of thousands of Bostonians -- who can no longer be described as "long-suffering," as they were in news articles and television reports this week -- streamed into the streets. They bellowed at the sky and embraced total strangers, reveling in their victory.

Boston first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, left, and catcher Jason Varitek, right, leap into pitcher Keith Foulke's arms after the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals 3-0 in St. Louis to complete a four-game World Series sweep. (Sue Ogrocki -- AP)

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"Aside from having kids and getting married, this will be the greatest moment of my life," Duggal, 20, a lifelong Bostonian, said as he lighted a victory cigar.

Mike McLaughlin, 23, of Wilton, Conn., fell to his knees and kissed the pavement as dozens of riot police looked on.

The celebration began early, when center fielder Johnny Damon gave the Red Sox a lead they would not relinquish by leading off the game with a home run.

It was a night when children across New England stayed up past their bedtimes to see something rarer than a glimpse of Halley's comet. Senior citizens, most of whom were too young to remember the last Red Sox championship, camped out hours early for prime couch seats in retirement-home living rooms. And as the celebration began, this city seemed at long last to shed an unwanted, but undeniable, component of its identity.

"I really don't think there's anything quite like the relationship between this city and this team," said former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, who attended his first game as a 4-year-old at Fenway Park in 1938 and watched Wednesday night's game at his home in Brookline, Mass. "It penetrates the fabric of the place -- you start early. You get addicted and stay addicted. And even with all of the losing, we are united by it."

The Red Sox had played in four previous World Series since 1918 and lost them all, often in painful fashion. Fans here can rattle off the dates with the precision of historians: 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986, when they were one strike away from victory before falling to the New York Mets.

A cottage industry -- including books, T-shirts and flavors of ice cream -- had sprung up around the notion that the team was cursed by selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920.

This year's team's accomplishment was even sweeter, fans said, because less than two weeks ago it had been left for dead by all but the most devoted and delusional. Trailing three games to none to their arch rival Yankees in the American League Championship Series, the Sox reeled off an unprecedented four consecutive games while facing elimination, including two in which they snatched victory in their final at-bat.

They then blitzed the Cardinals in a four-game sweep.

"I may be a little bit biased," said Chuck Wilson, 40, who watched the game in a bar called the Clubhouse, just down Beacon Street from Fenway. "But the way they have done this, is the biggest thing that could happen in sports. I mean, we were the butt of everyone's jokes, and now we are on top."

The last time the Red Sox won the World Series, Woodrow Wilson was president and Florence Pizzano was 1 month old. "1918 was a pretty good year," she said, watching the game along with more than a dozen white-haired residents of a Boston area assisted-living facility called Spring House. The group has gathered for every playoff game, and conversation during the action is strictly frowned upon.

"We want to see them do it once," said Pizzano, who is known for rising from her seat during tight games to tell the players on the television screen what to do. "After a while, you get tired of watching them lose."

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