What is it about Red Sox players hitting the foul pole late at night to win World Series games?
At 11:56 last night, Sox second baseman Mark Bellhorn clanged a two-run shot off Fenway's right-field foul pole to give the cartoon characters from Boston an unsightly, but effective 11-9 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of the 100th World Series.
Twenty-nine years ago it was Carlton Fisk hitting the left-field foul pole, and this time Bellhorn went to the yellow tower on the right side -- hitting the pole named after Johnny Pesky, a man who had something to do with a Red Sox-Cardinals World Series in 1946.
The Sox blew a 7-2 lead in the fourth. It went to 7-7 in the sixth, then the Sox took a 9-7 lead in the seventh, only to give it back on two circus-like errors by Manny Ramirez in the eighth.
Enter Bellhorn. With one on and one out in the bottom of the eighth, the score tied, 9-9, the oft-maligned second baseman drove a 1-and-2 Julian Tavarez pitch off Pesky's Pole to give Keith Foulke a two-run lead.
``Every little boy dreams of playing in Game 7 of the World Series and winning the game," said Bellhorn, who was booed with gusto at Fenway when he slumped during the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. ``I'm not here to try to be a hero, just trying to win four games."
Foulke fanned Roger Cedeno at 12:09 a.m. today to end it.
``That was not instructional video stuff," said Sox manager Terry Francona. ``We did some things wrong, but we persevered and we won . . . I didn't feel a lot of momentum until the game was over."
Nouveau Nation citizens are liable to think this thing is already over. Big mistake.
Face it: Local enthusiasm for this team has gone past ``unbridled." The Boston bandwagon is a Gold Coast-bound runaway train, moving faster than the speed of sound . . . Sox I, Sox II, all the way to Sox III. In the wake of the historic win over the Yankees, the local nine has just taken a 1-0 Series lead on a homer off the foul-pole. They have Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, and flying-high Derek Lowe slated for the next three games. It can only be destiny. Try to find a Sox fan who has any doubt that this is the year.
The Red Sox have already decided that they are the 1980 Olympic hockey team. The comeback win against the Yankees after losing the first three games was tantamount to Mike Eruzione and friends beating the USSR. But the Sox still have to conquer the Cardinals, a.k.a. ``Finland" to win the gold.
Game 1 was a long (four hours), cold (49 degrees and windy at the start) night featuring plenty of ugly baseball. There were 14 walks and five errors, four by the Red Sox. The Sox' error total was the most by a team in a World Series game since the Brewers committed four against the Cardinals in 1982.
After his team gave him a 7-2 lead, veteran Tim Wakefield couldn't throw the ball over the plate in the fourth and by the seventh, the score was tied, 7-7. Just after the Sox took a 9-7 lead in the seventh, Manny gave it back by bobbling one ball, then dropping another.
"We did a very good job early and kind of gave it back to them," said Francona. "We helped them.
We were maybe overexcited. We didn't catch the ball cleanly. We just made some errors, but I don't think there were letdowns or anything like that."
After almost three full days of post-Yankee exuberance, local band Dropkick Murphys launched pregame World Series ceremonies, performing "Tessie" in center field while cold fans were getting settled into their seats. Schilling was the recipient of the loudest cheers during introductions.
There was a moment of silence for Victoria Snelgrove, the 21-year-old Emerson College student who died after being shot by a police pepper-spray bullet during postgame rioting on Lansdowne Street in the hours after the Sox beat the Yankees.
Steven Tyler sang the national anthem, followed by a ceremonial first pitch tossed by Carl Yastrzemski.
More than any player, Yaz was the central figure of the Impossible Dream season of 1967, a year when the fortures of the franchise forever changed. Yaz won the Triple Crown and almost carried the Sox to World Series victory, but Boston was beaten by St. Louis in a seventh game at Fenway.
And now the indomitable Mr. Ortiz is hitting the ball and winning games the way Yaz did in '67.
Perhaps spent from their seven- game series with Houston, which did not end until late Thursday night, the Cardinals were flat in the early frames. Or maybe they were just cold. The Sox took advantage, hitting frozen ropes off St. Louis starter Woody Williams, who was gone before getting out of the third.
The Sox broke out with four runs in the bottom of the first. Ortiz (19 postseason RBIs) crushed a three-run homer deep into the seats down the right-field line. Ortiz became the 28th big leaguer to homer in his first World Series atbat.
A wall double by Kevin Millar and a single by Bill Mueller put the Cardinals behind by four.
After St. Louis cut it to 4-2, the Sox KO'd Williams and added three more runs to make it 7-2 after only three innings. Wakefield immediately gave most of it back, walking four runners in the bottom of the fourth. Three of them scored before Bronson Arroyo relieved the beleaguered knuckleballer.
It stayed that way until the sixth when three more Cardinal hits tied the game, 7-7.
Ramirez and Ortiz hit RBI singles in the seventh and it was 9-7 before Manny's troubles in the eighth. He first mishandled a single by Edgar Renteria, allowing a run to score. Walker was next and he hit a soft fly to shallow left. Ramirez ran in, got tangled up, then fell forward and jammed his foot into the ground as the ball bounced off his glove. It was 9-9.
Bellhorn saved Manny. The errors became a mere footnote.
"This team's got a lot of heart and character," said Bellhorn.
"Somehow we have the confidence to come back and we did."
One down. Three to go. And then no more talk about 1918.