A steady flow of Red Sox fans returning from a pilgrimage in St. Louis included many passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 2044 from Chicago to Boston yesterday morning.
Decked out in their Red Sox hats, jerseys, and T-shirts, the loyalists couldn't help but notice the front page of Thursday's USA Today that was taped to the cabin wall as they entered the airplane ("Sox Reverse Curse" screamed the headline). They were treated to heartfelt "congratulations" from flight attendants and upon touch-down at Logan Airport, they were told the local time, then instructed "to enjoy the parade."
It was a feel-good flight for many, though it was perhaps a two-hour trip of the bittersweet variety for one quiet passenger who sat well back in the coach section -- Nomar Garciaparra.
Once he was the cornerstone of this fabled franchise, but Garciaparra was traded to the Chicago Cubs July 31. From another league and quite a distance away, Garciaparra watched his former teammates storm into the playoffs with dynamic winning streaks in August and September, sweep the Angels in the Division Series, take an improbable victory in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, then capture the franchise's first World Series in 86 years. Now, on the eve of a parade that is expected to draw millions to an unprecedented salute to sports passion, Garciaparra was flying into Boston, trying to remain low-key and out of the spotlight.
"I'm not here to be interviewed," said Garciaparra as he walked toward baggage claim, though he did answer a few questions.
The five-time All-Star shortstop said he was thrilled for his former teammates, that he had talked to a few of them, and he confirmed a Globe report from earlier this week that he had been granted a full World Series share.
"That's what I heard," said Garciaparra. "That shows that those guys are the greatest. They're tremendous. That's why I'm happy for them."
Would he be taking part in the parade? Garciaparra smiled, but said, "No."
Instead, he was headed home "to rest up and get ready for next year."
Where he'll be next season remains to be seen, for Garciaparra officially filed for free agency yesterday and should attract enough interest to provide him a number of options. It's been reported that he is interested in a one-year deal so that he can prove he's healthy and worthy of a multiyear deal after the 2005 season.