The Greatest Sox

NOTE: we will be posting a selected column from Garry Brown’s Greatest Hits weekly.

Note: This column ran in The Springfield MA Republican on Oct. 28, the morning after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time since 1918.

Boston had its “Miracle Braves” in 1914. Now it has its “Miracle Red Sox,” writing a new and glorious page in baseball history.

Those Braves, featuring Springfield’s own Rabbit Maranville at shortstop, swept theWorld Series 90 years ago in a comeback that has marked them for the ages.

Now, though, the Miracle Braves have been topped. Boston and the rest of New England has never seen a team like the 2004 Red Sox – one of the best of all time, playing right before our very eyes, winning a World Series in four straight and finally putting an end to the so-called “Curse of the Bambino.”

It happened last night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Sweep. A quick path to baseball glory. A new era for Red Sox baseball, guaranteed to give their loyal fans catharsis from too many years of heartbreak.

The Curse of the Bambino is nonsense, of course, New England’s masochistic way of flagellating itself for 86 years of Red Sox failure to win the World Series. Babe Ruth – The Bambino – did not curse the Sox after they sold him to the Yankees in 1919, but it was a convenient way for us to blame losing on something more than the normal course of events in Red Sox history.

Well, no more of that. Take that Curse and stuff it. Instead, take 2004 and substitute it for 1918 – the last year the Red Sox won this thing. No need to hark back to that misty past and wish that the Sox could be now what they were then, winners of five of the first 14 World Series.

No need for any more of that, because this team simply is the greatest. Better than any of those five World Series winners? Absolutely. There simply is no comparison between baseball of the 2lst century and baseball of the early 20th. It was so much easier then. Win the pennant and go to the World Series. Simple as that.

Just think how hard it is to win the modern-day World Series. Eight teams qualify for the playoffs, which means that a team must win 11 games – three in the first round, four in the league championship round, four in the World Series – before it can claim the big prize. That’s a mini-season of pressure play, packed into three weeks. And all that after playing a longer schedule – 162 games – than those old-time teams had to deal with. They played 154 games, except for that 1918 team, which played a shortened version because of United States involvement in World War I.

Yes, it was easier back then, no matter what the old-timers might say. They didn’t play night games. They didn’t travel across the country to play Game 4 one night, Game 5 the next afternoon as sometimes happens in 21st century ball.

Boston’s sweet sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals leaves a longtime writer (and secret fan) wondering what we all should do now. How, for instance, does New England react to this? What do we have to complain about now? It was easy to moan about the Red Sox and pick on them when they kept letting us down. Now they have shown us the glory of winning a World Series, and it’s almost too much to bear.

We can take it, though. Just like New England Patriots fans, we will learn to deal with being champions. It’ll just take a little while, maybe after the big parade is over in Boston. Then it will settle in: Boston Red Sox, 2004 World Series winners.

Just think. When spring training comes, everyone will be referring to them as the “defending world champion Red Sox.” Can you believe it? Would you have believed it going into the third weekend of October, when they were three down to the New York Yankees and trying to recover from a 19-8 hammering in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series?

Boston’s comeback to win that series may be the greatest of all time. Sure, the Miracle Braves came from last place to win the pennant. Sure, Leo Durocher’s 1951 New York Giants erased a 131/2-game deficit to catch the Brooklyn Dodgers before beating them on Bobby Thomson’s “Shot heard ’round the world” in a National League playoff. Sure, the New York Yankees came from 14 out to break Boston hearts in 1978.

Great comebacks, but is there anything better than this one? One inning away from elimination by the Yankees – remember, the Sox trailed 4-3 going into the ninth of Game 4 – and now this? It just doesn’t get any better. Beating the Yankees, whom many Red Sox players refer to as “a great team,” was enough to stamp the Bostonians in our memories forever. Yet it was merely the first step to the greater glory they now celebrate with Red Sox fans across the land.

Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that every game with the Yankees this season “was like a World Series game.” The Sox wound up beating the Yankees 15 times from April to October. That should have told us all we needed to know about them.

No doubt about it – they are the greatest team in the history of the Red Sox franchise. Better than the first World Series winners of 1903. Better than the Smoky Joe Wood team of 1912. And yes, better than any Boston team of the Babe Ruth era.

We salute them. Now we have to learn how to feel like champions, because that day finally has arrived.
Go Sox.