CINCINNATI, OCT. 13 -- The ghosts are gone, exorcised by a spray of sparkling cider and a new anthem on the chalkboard: "JUST WIN."
The Cincinnati Reds did that Friday night, beating Pittsburgh, 2-1, to win the National League pennant and end a decade of underachievement, scandal and self-doubt.
"I'm proud of this team," said third baseman Chris Sabo. "People kept saying how bad we are. They said we were going to lose it in September. We proved them wrong."
They did it in the same setting of their darkest hours. There was Bob Quinn getting a cider shower in the same spot where Bill Bergesch and Murray Cook -- previous general managers -- shifted uncomfortably and asked for patience.
There was owner Marge Schott venturing uneasily into the male domain she had only visited on somber occasions. Instead of a pep talk to try to shake the team out of a slump, she was accepting a trophy.
And there was Manager Lou Piniella, standing tall behind the same desk where Pete Rose had stood defiantly. He was grinning at the same picture of Ty Cobb that used to scowl down at Rose like a ghost.
"I'm proud of this club," he said.
And finally the city was proud of them. Fans were dancing in the streets on Pete Rose Way near the stadium. They held a pep rally on Fountain Square, where Rose had predicted he'd share a victory celebration with Schott one day.
A 14-year spectre of failure had vanished.
"We've had a lot of critics in this city," Sabo said. "But we've won this fair and square. We didn't back into it. It's no fluke. We've done it all year."
Starting in spring training, when a team ground down by last year's fifth-place finish and the Rose gambling scandal, assembled around yet another general manager.
Quinn recalls stepping in front of the team in the clubhouse at Plant City, Fla., that day for the only time he would address the team. He wanted to introduce Piniella and give them words of advice.
They'd better win.
"I said, 'Let me pass along this observation: This man hates to lose, and I hope you never have to experience Lou Piniella after a losing effort,' " Quinn recalled. "He's not a happy camper. I think they picked up on that. Now they don't like to lose."
"He's brought to us a feeling that you have to play hard at every pitch, every inning and every game," pitcher Danny Jackson said. "Lou hates to lose and he's transmitted that to our club."