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Red Sox, Cardinals rematch rejuvenates that special feeling

Posted by Adam Kaufman  October 23, 2013 06:21 AM

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It still gives me chills to write the words.

The Red Sox are four wins away from a third World Series championship in a decade.

Fans of the gang from the Fens haven’t been able to make that claim since the 1910s, when Boston won four titles in the span of just seven years. Of course, it’s worth noting that there were only 16 teams in the game at that point.

Fast-forward through seasons of anguish, heartbreak, futility, and expansion and you arrive in the late 1990s, when a place for hope was reasonably restored and ultimately rewarded in the unlikeliest of forms in 2004. Yankees fans still can’t believe what happened, a bigger base may never be stolen and, somewhere today, someone is wearing a “Why Not Us?” T-shirt.

Now, in 2013, that special feeling from nine years ago has been conjured up again for those old enough to remember, in a way that 2007 could not duplicate.

Maybe it’s because that second Series victory came so close to the first, perhaps it’s that the expectations for that club were so high and fans had the newly formed confidence that had never existed, or it could be that we as a fan base had to again experience the pain of a devastating collapse and a briefer-than-anticipated nosedive to rock-bottom.

Either way, a bearded bunch of veteran castoffs, a core of leaders who found full health, the breathlessly impressive and ageless fourth closer in the pipeline, young stars in the making, and a new manager with a spotty resume brought us all back. Bridge year, be damned.

The Red Sox aren’t that likeable team you rooted for in ’07. They’re that lovable bunch of guys from ’04 who, if your heart can take it, you wouldn’t mind seeing them play all seven stomach-turning games of this World Series simply to spend a few more days with them before some inevitably move on.

I could write all about how evenly matched the Sox and Cardinals are this season; Major League Baseball’s two best teams with mirror-like 97-65 records, home dominance, and road efficiency. Clubs on par with one another on nearly every level, from the pitching staffs to the relentless approach of the hitters. From the homegrown talent to the horde of fans in each city whose collective moods hang in the balance of each pitch.

I could detail how Boston has already dispatched the likes of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Price, and Matt Moore, and its bats will certainly have their hands full with another dazzling duo in Adam Wainwright and unfazed rookie Michael Wacha. Add to that the Red Sox were baseball’s best regular season team against righthanded pitching by a considerable margin, and the Cardinals have an exclusively righty rotation.

Time could be devoted to the bullpens, which have both demonstrated depth and the stoppage skills necessarily to win in the postseason before getting to their too-good-to-be-true, lights-out closers. Don’t expect another survive-the-starter, punish-the-pen series this time around.

Or, we could break down the lineups, each team with the advantage at one position or another but, in all, looking equally as good as the other side of the card. After all, these offenses were the best in their respective leagues.

We could discuss the veteran holdovers from their last Series meeting, David Ortiz and Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran’s seemingly never-ending pursuit of a ring, or how both managers have won titles, but never as the men leading their dugouts.

How about the base-running game? Surely the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, and Quintin Berry will have trouble running against Molina, one of the best defensive catchers in history. Yeah, there’s that too.

Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and Pedro Martinez. Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, and Albert Pujols. The next chapter is about to be written, and names must be inscribed on that World Series Cup.

I remember sitting nervously at a bar down the street from Fenway on Oct. 27, 2004 with a few friends. As if fate had intervened, I had just finished a job in New York prior to the postseason and returned to Boston for the month of October before shipping out again for nearly a year in Michigan.

The bar was packed to the gills, the Red Sox up 3-0 in their series with the Cardinals and, by the third inning, up 3-0 in that decisive Game 4. No matter how loud the televisions were, it was impossible to hear the game. If it wasn’t the volume of the people reacting to every throw or swing, it was those thoughts in your head that kept repeating, “They’re going to do it. I can’t believe they’re going to do it.

And then, what felt like days later, Keith Foulke underhanded the ball to Doug Mientkiewicz.

People decked in red and blue and drenched by champagne erupted into the streets by the thousands as police who may have preferred to celebrate waited in riot gear and gas masks. Some shook trees as others shook their fists, as if the accomplishment was their own. Chants of, “Thank you, Red Sox” were accompanied by tears of joy, Koji Uehara-like high-fives, and hugs from strangers. It was an ecstasy that could be imitated but not matched, even by the first-ever Patriots title in 2002, the Celtics’ first in 22 years in 2008, or the Bruins’ 39-year drought-ending party of 2011. Not for these people.

I was 22, plenty old enough to understand and cherish the moment after having experienced my fair share of disappointment, but I couldn’t possibly relate to what my dad must have felt, or his father before him had he lived to see it. I recall almost every detail from that night, from the anxious discussions at the bar to the blissful walk to the car.

Ironically and unfortunately, I don’t recollect a thing about that clinching night in 2007. Many folks like to say that first championship in 86 years was for everyone who had waited so long or died trying, while that next one was for the new generation of fans. Maybe. The emotion certainly wasn’t nearly the same.

What begins tonight and unfolds over the next nine days is going to return us to that feeling. You’ll always remember where you were when the Red Sox win this time around, whether that’s on Halloween night or sooner. This team has done that for us. What could be more Boston Strong than ending that journey in the city where the sentiment was born?

Enjoy every moment, Sox fans. If you’re lucky – inexplicably blessed, really – you’ll only get to experience this feeling once every 10 years.

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About this blog

Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.

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