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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

There's been no reign after delays

Rain and the Red Sox have not been good partners in October. In the three most dramatic and disappointing Boston baseball finishes of the last 30 years, a rain delay halted action just when things started to get interesting.

Let's go back to the epic 1975 World Series when New England rains changed Darrell Johnson's pitching rotation and threatened to suck all the life out of a true Fall Classic.

With the Reds leading, three games to two, the series returned to Boston and Game 6 was scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 18. But it rained. And rained. And rained some more.

Game 6 was rained out Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. On the third straight day of downpours, a frustrated official from Bowie Kuhn's office hopefully offered, ``The commissioner would like to announce that it has stopped raining in New Jersey.''

No go. Another rainout. In need of a batting cage, the Cincinnati Reds made arrangements to hit at Tufts' Cousens Gym on College Avenue in Medford. The Reds' bus driver got lost twice and some folks around Medford Square still remember manager Sparky Anderson getting off the bus in uniform and spikes, clacking around a local gas station and bakery in search of directions.

Bill Lee was slated to start the sixth game, but with the three extra days of rest, Johnson went back to Luis Tiant, who had already beaten the Reds twice. El Tiante took a string of 40 consecutive Fenway scoreless innings into the game, but gave up six runs and was knocked out in the eighth, with the Reds leading, 6-3. We won't insult you by telling you what happened next.

Eleven years later, a few hours after a grounder bounded between the legs of Bill Buckner and into history, torrential rains in New York washed out the seventh game of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 26. The game was postponed early in the day and few players even made it to Shea Stadium. The delay put Game 7 up against ``Monday Night Football'' and took the most important start of any pitcher's life from ``Oil Can'' Boyd.

John McNamara bumped the Can and gave the ball to Bruce Hurst for the seventh game. Hurst had mastered the Mets in Games 1 and 5. Unfortunately, he was mentally done for the season after winning Game 5 at Fenway and didn't even bring all of his equipment to New York. Hurst blew a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning and the Sox lost, 8-5. Boyd, meanwhile, was never the same after the snub and it still pains him to talk about it.

The rain in 1986 did more than change the identity of the Sox' starting pitcher. The delay gave the American sports media a full day to dissect and analyze the cataclysmic events of Game 6. Buckner, for one, would have been better off had the Sox and Mets played the next day. Game 6 took place very late on Saturday and did not end until well after midnight (the game lasted 4 hours 2 minutes). Sunday's deadlines prohibited coverage of the event in many metropolitan newspapers. It was the Sunday rainout that allowed a true autopsy of the Red Sox hideous collapse.

In that same spirit we had the Game 4 rainout during the American League Championship Series last year, one day after the Red Sox and Yankees engaged in one of the most bizarre days in the history of Fenway Park. Game 3 had the bench-clearing episodes, plus Pedro Martinez hitting Karim Garcia, pointing at his head while jawing with Jorge Posada, then shucking Don Zimmer to the ground. There was also the fight in the visitor's bullpen involving a Sox groundskeeper and three Yankees.

When Game 4 was rained out the following day there was ample time to reflect. The Sox did not do well with the extra time. After the postponement was announced, Red Sox bosses defied a commissioner's order and conducted a ridiculous press conference that inflamed the hard feelings and made them a pinata for the national media. On the plus side, the rain enabled the Sox to go with Tim Wakefield instead of John Burkett in the fourth game and Wakefield beat the Yanks, 3-2, to even the series.

Which brings us to last night and today. Some will say the rain helps the Red Sox because Pedro Martinez could pitch the fifth game. Or even Curt Schilling (anybody else notice Schilling's specially-made, high-top, black boot looks remarkably like the shoe Buckner was wearing in '86?).

I say the Sox would have been better off playing last night just to get back on their game. One of the beauties of baseball is that they play every day. There's no need to carry a slump on your back for more than a few hours. The Sox needed to get back in the batter's box and make up for their tepid play in Games 1 and 2. Instead, they have another day to dwell on the negativity of the two games in New York.

Too bad the Sox couldn't have put the Yankees on a bus to Tufts last night. Imagine George Steinbrenner and Joe Torre seeking directions in Modern Pastry or the Getty station in Medford Square.

The good folks in Medford no doubt would tell the Yankees where to go.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist.

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