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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Now wait just a minute: Series still must be won

Let's get one thing straight: the Curse of the Bambino has not been lifted. The job is not yet done.

What happened in Boston and New York in those magical four days may stand as the most satisfying moment in Red Sox history. Coming back to beat the Yankees four straight times -- putting the choke tag on the haughty New Yorkers -- may be the ultimate in satisfaction for Red Sox Nation. If the Sox never win a World Series again, citizens of the Nation will forever have an answer for pinstriped knuckleheads who make fun of the Red Sox.

Knock yourself out, Yankee fans. Taunt all you want. In the words of Bogey to Bergman, "We'll always have Paris."

However, it would be pathetic for Sox fans to be satisfied with merely making it to the World Series. The object of any team's baseball season is to win the World Series. Beating the Yankees should not be the only goal -- even if it's as pulsating and heartstopping as the event we just witnessed.

It was troubling yesterday to hear so many fans and some Sox personnel saying that the Curse is lifted. Headline writers and television teasers also seized the theme.

No, people. Beating the Yankees, great as it is, is not the ultimate goal. The Sox have finished ahead of the Yankees 18 times in the last 86 years. But they are still waiting for a World Series win.

Disclosure here. I wrote a book entitled "The Curse of the Bambino" in 1990. It was your basic dark history of the Red Sox, tracing the many frustrations and near misses after the Sox sold the greatest player of all time to the Yankees for cash. The title is catchy and the idea of the Curse became an easy theme every time things went wrong for the Red Sox. It spawned a cottage industry of musicals, board games, screenplays, ice cream flavors, cookies, and all forms of signage. But it was never exclusive to Red Sox-Yankees.

Understandably, the Curse has become a tired cliche in these parts. ESPN's Peter Gammons described it as "a silly mindless gimmick that is as stupid as The Wave."

Right. What we have here is the Cheers Bar Complex. The Bull & Finch Pub, a neighborhood bar we loved, became an annoying place to sell T-shirts after Sam and Diane went national. Locals fled the Bull & Finch while tourists filled the joint and took pictures. Same thing with the Curse. Sox fans are sick of it. It's something for out-of-towners.

John W. Henry and friends were ridiculed when they bought the team and said they wanted to break the Curse. Yet it remains part of the official club mission statement. On page 10 of the Red Sox press guide, under the heading of "A New Day, The Story of the New Red Sox," reads the following: "To end the Curse of the Bambino and win a world championship for Boston, New England, and Red Sox Nation."

There. Breaking the Curse officially is part of the Henry/Werner/Lucchino manifesto. And it involves winning a world championship. Not just beating the Yankees.

Sox CEO Larry Lucchino last night said, "Beating the Yankees damages the Curse considerably, but I think that we've always seen our task here as winning a World Series championship."

Asked if he feared the Sox might be content with just beating the Yankees, Lucchino said, "I think human nature being what it is, that is always a danger, but I don't think our players are guilty of that. And I hope our fans are not guilty of it. We recognize that we've got to keep our eyes on the prize and the prize is winning a world championship."

Hope so. But I get nervous when Werner tells the Herald, "The World Series is great, but we've done something historic."

The World Series is great, but . . . ???

Not the attitude you need to finish the job. Red Sox Nation does not serve its team well by indicating ultimate satisfaction with what the Sox have done thus far.

Late last night, Werner amended his position, saying, "In the end, we'll only be satisfied with a World Series win," but added, "whether we win a World Series or not, nobody can take away what this team just did. But obviously, the ultimate way to break the curse is to win the World Series, and that's our goal."

Sox manager Terry Francona certainly gets the message. While his ballplayers were pouring champagne over one another early yesterday morning, he had the presence of mind to say, "There's more baseball to be played."

That's it. The 1946 Red Sox were the best team in baseball, but did not win the World Series. The 1967 Red Sox gave New England a hardball summer like no other and there was not much disappointment and certainly no disgrace when they failed to win the World Series. Ditto for the 1975 gang. The 1986 team couldn't close the deal against the Mets and permanently planted the idea that the Sox might be operating under a black cloud.

Now the 2004 Sox have a chance to bring a World Series championship to New England for the first time since the doughboys were fighting World War I.

The Yankees series was great, perhaps the greatest baseball event in our town. Ever. But the Curse is not lifted. The job isn't done yet.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com. 

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