BOSTON — Track down someone who was here in 1918, at this old ballpark, and find out whether the energy was replicated or exceeded Wednesday night. Babe Ruth was there back then, but he was a reserve for the home-standing Boston Red Sox, not yet traded away, not yet a curse. Surely the town celebrated, but it was, too, the tail end of World War I. Beat the Chicago Cubs at Fenway Park? Sure, fine. How about wrapping up that win over the German Empire?
So there was, in current times, nothing to which to compare the events of Wednesday night. Fenway Park is 101 years old, home to baseball history that has been celebrated but has also scarred. And here was the final bit of salve, a thorough, let-it-all-hang-out 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6, a World Series-clinching victory on home soil, with home fans witnessing nothing they had seen before — the Fenway lawn strewn with celebrating Red Sox for the first time in 95 years.
Fenway cheered each walk from David Ortiz, the lone tie to the burst-the-curse crew from 2004, who didn’t have a hit Wednesday but didn’t need one to earn Series MVP honors, so dominant a force was he. Fenway cheered Shane Victorino, one of the shaggy, low-profile grinders who came here to turn around a franchise that had skidded to 69 wins a year ago, because Victorino hit the three-run double that got the Red Sox going and drove in another to boot.
And get this. Fenway cheered right-hander John Lackey — not just cheered but chanted his name — more loudly than any of them.
“I don’t know how you explain it,” Lackey said. “An atmosphere, a vibe that was pretty special.”
Lackey, at one point, was a symbol of this franchise’s bloat after it won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, an $82.5 million sack of wasted space. Yet here he was, yelling at Manager John Farrell when he came out to get him in the seventh. The crowd loved it.
“This is my guy,” Lackey barked, and though he walked Matt Holliday to load the bases — his only walk of the night — the symbol of this franchise’s peace with all of New England followed. Three championships in a decade will do that.
Lackey walked to the dugout, and three strides from the top step, he did something he hadn’t in his 93 previous starts with the Red Sox: tip his hat to the home crowd. The fans roared, and when reliever Junichi Tazawa induced a groundball to end the inning, Lackey had not just a final line of 62 / 3 innings and one run but something more important: a place alongside Derek Lowe and Jon Lester as the only pitchers to clinch a Boston championship since that afternoon in 1918, when Carl Mays three-hit the Cubs.
“When you think about the ovation that he got coming off the mound, I think people have seen the turnaround in him,” Farrell said. “They’ve seen the turnaround in us. . . . Very fitting.”
Tazawa’s work eased 38,447 minds, on edge for a moment. But no one had an impact on the entire series that matched that of Ortiz. Forget that he went 0 for 1 in the clincher. He scored twice and walked four times because St. Louis had no earthly idea what to do with him. For the series, he reached base in 19 of 24 plate appearances, a staggering on-base percentage of .792.
“I’m fortunate just to be a part of seeing that,” Victorino said. “That’s unbelievable.”
In the third, for instance, a classic conundrum. Ortiz came up with one out and a man on second. With first base open, Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny called for four straight balls. But an out later, St. Louis right-hander Michael Wacha let a fastball get away, and it hit Jonny Gomes.
That loaded the bases for Victorino. His moment in the postseason, to this point, was the grand slam that provided the winning runs against Detroit in the American League Championship Series. Maybe he has one to replace it because he drilled a 2-1 fastball off the Green Monster, a classic Fenway double that scored three runs, the last on Gomes’s artful slide around the tag of catcher Yadier Molina. Fenway — tense with anticipation to that point — burst.
“Shane Victorino,” Farrell said, “has got a little bit of a flair for the dramatic.”
Yet the drama was nearly sucked from the night. Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew, a frigid 4 for 51 (.078) in the postseason, led off the fourth. He made the adjustment many Red Sox did: Jump on the first-pitch fastball, and he sent it into the Boston bullpen. That was, essentially, the beginning of a coronation that lasted the rest of the evening. The Cardinals, so proud, all but succumbed, failing to put a runner on after Tazawa ended the seventh.
In the bedlam that ensued on the field, Ortiz clutched his MVP trophy and said into a waiting microphone, “This is for you, Boston!” The crowd, almost all of them standing in their seats, roared in approval.
“This ain’t an easy trip to get here,” catcher David Ross said. “What a special night. What a special place.”
Ninety-five years ago, there were no Monster Seats. No one sang “Sweet Caroline.” There were no flickers of digital cameras in the crowd waiting for closer Koji Uehara to strike out Matt Carpenter to end it, no players waving enormous flags when he did.
What must the place have felt like then? Now, New England knows. It took nearly a century, but New England knows again.