It has certainly taken some time for this magical Red Sox World Series win to sink in. Not surprising for fans who have lived through the beautiful losers of past years even though the fairy-tale victory of 2004 and validating triumph of 2007 have tempered it a bit. This victory, however, was more than a baseball game, more than a sporting event, more than a one-for-ages team success. It signifies the triumph of spirit—the spirit of a gritty, rag-tag group of ballplayers who knew that they playing for more than a trophy and a duck boat parade. They were playing for the chance for a city to say loud and clear, “We won’t be kept down, our courage wins the day, our sense of self-worth will emerge victorious over anything anyone can throw at us.”
April 15, 2013 was Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts. A holiday in the Bay State, natives and residents have a certain protective attitude toward the day. Wisconsin and Maine also observe it but we own it (Wisconsin?). It’s special. It’s Marathon Day and the Red Sox always play at 11 a.m. so folks can get to the marathon finish line (whether they were at Fenway or not) and not miss any of the game. It’s one of the more charming things about Boston.
This past Patriots’ Day started out in great fashion. Mike Napoli’s RBI double in the bottom of the ninth scored Dustin Pedroia with the winning run for a walk-off, 3-2 win. Fans don’t have to look it up, it’s ingrained in our minds. The rest of that day is tragic history. It was also the beginning of the Red Sox mission to reclaim the city for the people who love it.
The Sox were already at the airport and leaving for Cleveland when they got word of the bombings. A scramble ensued and the team procured a team jersey with the number 617 on it (the area code for Boston) and hung it in the dugout. It remained in every dugout everywhere the Sox went for the rest of the year.
Each time the Red Sox seemed to work another miracle during the season, prognosticators and talking heads point out their shortcomings: they can’t beat good pitching, their offense is unimpressive, they had no superstars (save David Ortiz). Yet they didn’t seem to care what other people were saying, they were on a mission.From a strictly baseball standpoint, it was impressive—walk-off wins, come-from-behind-victories, never a losing streak of more than 3 games.
I was fortunate to have gone to a half dozen games this year including Game Two of the American League Divisional Series against Tampa. We sat in the bleachers and Big Papi hit a home run to the right of us and then a homer to the left of us. It was nothing short of amazing.
I remember the first Red Sox game my parents ever took us to (against the Seattle Pilots). I was five. I remember it mostly because of the unbelievable color of green I saw as we walked up the runway to the field. To this day I am mesmerized by that green.
But this year, I was fascinated and nearly hypnotized by the resiliency of this bunch: Pedroira who seemed to be covered in dirt before he even hit the field; Ortiz who apparently was seeing a beach ball-sized baseball in the postseason; Jonny Gomes who, if you saw him in a store, would make you grab the kids and flee; Mike Napoli whose wife must have been waiting for him after the final game with a pair of scissors, some Edge and a razor (or maybe a hatchet); the cool and calm manager John Farrell who made us forget the clown-like Bobby Valentine. All the pieces were there.
There was a scary feeling of uncertainty and doubt in all of our minds in the days that followed the bombings. The day before the terrifying shoot out on Memorial Drive, Cambridge police post a sign on the door of my building. “Shelter in place” became a phrase we quickly learned. Eventually the scene was over but it seemed tough to get back to our “normal” lives. It was as if we were still damaged.
The Boston Bruins did their best to win a championship later in the spring. They came close, losing to Chicago in the closing minutes of Game Six of the finals. But the Bruins were already a good, talented team. They won the Stanley Cup in 2011.
It was this group of has-been, never-was and rookie baseball players who came together for us, for the people of Boston and the people of Massachusetts. For the first time I can remember, there is little talk of whether a championship team can repeat next year. There will be no dynasty with this group of Red Sox nor should there be. This was a special team that was needed at a special time. We will always remember what they did.
Boston strong, indeed.