ST. LOUIS -- They did it for the old folks in Presque Isle, Maine, and White River Junction, Vt. They did it for the baby boomers in North Conway, N.H., and Groton, Mass. They did it for the kids in Central Falls, R.I., and Putnam, Conn.
While church bells rang in small New England towns and horns honked on the crowded streets of the Hub, the 2004 Red Sox last night won the World Series, completing a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with a 3-0 victory on the strength of seven innings of three-hit pitching by Derek Lowe. Playing 1,042 miles from Fenway Park, the Sox won it all for the first time in 86 long and frustrating seasons.
New England and a sprawling Nation of fans can finally exhale. The Red Sox are world champs. No more Curse of the Bambino. No more taunts of ``1918.'' The suffering souls of Bill Buckner, Grady Little, Mike Torrez, Johnny Pesky, Denny Galehouse, and the rest are released from Boston Baseball's Hall of Pain.
The Red Sox are champions because they engineered the greatest comeback in baseball history when they won four straight games against the hated Yankees in the American League Championship Series. It was a baseball epic, an event for the ages that put the Red Sox into a World Series that was profoundly anti-climactic.
En route to eight consecutive postseason wins, the Sons of Tito Francona simply destroyed a Cardinal team that won a major league-high 105 games in 2004. The Sox did not trail for a single inning of the four-game sweep. No Cardinal pitcher lasted more than six innings and St. Louis's vaunted row of sluggers was smothered by the likes of Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, closer Keith Foulke, and Lowe.
In the finale, a game played under a full moon/lunar eclipse on the date of Boston's Game 7 loss in the excruciating 1986 World Series, Johnny Damon led off with a home run and the Sox were never threatened. Trot Nixon added a pair of runs with a bases-loaded double in the third. Lowe mowed down the Cardinals for seven, then let relievers Bronson Arroyo, Alan Embree, and Keith Foulke finish the job. It ended at 11:41 EDT when Edgar Renteria hit a grounder back to Foulke.
Statues - to be placed near those of Samuel Adams and James Michael Curley, are already on order for Messrs. Schilling, Martinez, Lowe, Foulke, Damon, Manny Ramirez (Series MVP), David Ortiz, Mark Bellhon, Jason Varitek, Orlando Cabrera and the rest of members of the 2004 Red Sox. They did something that had not been done in 86 years.
So now it's time to toast to Ted Williams, Tom Yawkey, Sherm Feller, Dick O'Connell, Haywood Sullivan, Joe Cronin, Eddie Collins, Tony Conigliaro, Ned Martin, Helen Robinson, Jack Rogers, and thousands of others who toiled for the team, but died before seeing their Sox win a World Series.
It's time for smiles on the faces of Carl Yastrzemski, Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio, Charlie Wagner, Gene Conley, Bill Monbouquette, Chuck Schilling, John McNamara, Joe Morgan, Earl Wilson, Mike Andrews, Reggie Smith, and hundreds of other men who wore the Red Sox uniform, but never won in October. And don't forget Curt Gowdy, Lou Gorman, Dick Bresciani, Joe Mooney, and all the ushers and Sox employees who are as much a part of Fenway Park as the Green Monster and Pesky's Pole.
Time for the Nation to rejoice. Time to dance. Time to go to your window, open it wide, stick your head out and scream, ``The Red Sox won the World Series.'' No one's been able to do that in Boston since Woodrow Wilson was president.
There was an air of inevitability about the Sox prospects before the final game of the Fall Classic. The Sox knew they had the Cardinals on the mat and they knew that no team in hardball history ever came back from a 3-0 World Series deficit.
Busch Stadium was a friendly venue for swelling ranks of road-tripping Sox fans. Cardinal loyalists love their team, but hold no hatred for the Bostonians and one got the feeling that some St. Louis fans might have bailed and sold their seats after the disheartening loss to the Sox in Game 3. There were a lot of Sox fans in the stands Wednesday night they they lingered long after the final out.
The Sox got off to a strong start when Damon led off the game with a home run to right field on a 2-1 pitch from Jason Marquis. Boston added two more in the third when Nixon (three doubles), hitting with the bases loaded, swung at a 3-0 pitch and banged a double off the wall in right-center.
Lowe gave up a leadoff single in the first, then retired the next 13 Cardinals in order. St. Louis sluggers took a lot of bad-looking swings. The Cardinals did not put up much of a fight. After just three innings, it felt like it was already over, like the Red Sox were finally going to win the World Series. This is what it must have felt like in 1918.
While Lowe mowed down the Cards, fans back home in New England chilled champagne, slipped tapes into VCRs, and prepared to wake infants so they could someday tell them they'd witnessed a historic event.
After celebrating on the field and in the visitor's clubhouse, the World Champion Red Sox went back to their hotel, packed, and bused to the airport for a charter back to Boston.
``We'll be be arriving by dawn's early light,'' predicted club vice president, Dr. Charles Steinberg.
``We won't even need the airplane to fly home . . .'' added owner John Henry.
The largest celebration in Boston's 374-year history is expected tomorrow when the team is honored with a parade and championship ceremony.
If form holds, the Red Sox' gaudy, well-earned rings will be handed out in a ceremony April 11 when the 2004 World Series championship flag is raised above Fenway Park for the home opener.
The team in the third base dugout for that historic event? The New York Yankees.