|Terry Francona performs his version of the wave as he acknowledges the cheers of the lingering Fenway crowd. (BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF)|
The drought is over - and Francona, Epstein soak it all in
Terry Francona sat back in a desk chair, just outside his office, a cigar in hand, surveying a clubhouse full of champagne spray. He was dry, for the moment. His players surrounded him, drinking beer, splashing each other. He had a few seconds. Not much more.
Curt Schilling and medical operations coordinator Jim Rowe doused him. Got him good. And it didn't hurt -- or perhaps it did -- when Jonathan Papelbon took two beers, one in each hand, and dumped them. Let all the beer drain out, cackling all the while.
"So much for wearing these clothes home," Francona cracked, the beer-and-champagne mix dripping down his bald head, into his eyes, past his chin, and onto the red underclothes that he still wore.
But that was nothing compared to the double dose of champagne Theo Epstein took from Schilling and Papelbon, an explosion of the sticky liquid sending him shooting across the clubhouse floor, with Schilling whispering a warning to reporters standing close to watch out.
"I don't think I've ever been a part of something like that," Francona said. "That was the most surreal . . . Sitting with Theo and John Farrell and John Henry and Tom Werner, we were like a bunch of 13-years-olds. I've never seen so many old men, myself included, cheer for a bunt. It's pretty cool. Getting to watch these guys do this is as gratifying as it can get."
It was just moments after Melvin Mora had bunted the Red Sox into their first American League East crown since 1995, and already, those in power -- the general manager and manager -- had seen the team they created and steered explode in a delirious stream of alcoholic exhilaration.
Not that the brass had watched the final moments of the Yankees-Orioles game with the team. It wasn't that they didn't want to. They were just glued to their seats. Something in common with the common fan.
"We could hear the guys out here watching, but I was afraid to move," said Francona, who was sitting in his office during the final moments of the Yankees' 10-inning loss that, coupled with Boston's 5-2 win over the Twins, gave the Sox the title. "I don't know if I believe in karma, but I don't believe against it. I wasn't going to move. Now I've got to go find my phone. My phone's lost somewhere. It took a heave."
So one phone down. One division title down. Three potential champagne baths to go.
"This isn't how you envision it when you envision doing it at home," Epstein said. "You think of getting the last out and everyone rushing onto the field. This one is special in its own way and maybe is appropriate for the crazy season that this was."
A season in which, despite leading the division since April, the Sox had to sweat until the final three games.
"We knew [the Yankees] weren't going anywhere," Epstein said. "They're just too good of a team. They kind of never go away. It almost feels like you have a stalker when they're in your division."
But the stalker is gone, at least as far as the division is concerned. As for the playoffs, they might still be waiting.
So, even as the powers that be experienced the celebration - with Epstein heading out onto the field to high-five fans and Francona getting an extra shower in the infield before embracing Tim Wakefield - both kept the ultimate goal in mind.
Epstein talked about compartmentalizing. Francona talked about sleep deprivation.
"No less than since April 1," he answered when asked if he would get some rest last night. "Probably not. There's time for that. We have things to do, but there's no getting around how excited we are.
"We really did want to win the East. For our fans, for the ownership, for the organization, this is really something special that the city can hang their hat on. We don't want to be done, but it means a lot."