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Nixon's gamers end frustration

ST. LOUIS -- An uncorked champagne bottle in his right hand, held hip-high as if he were waiting to slip it into a toolbelt, Trot Nixon repeatedly slipped back to his first days in a Red Sox uniform.

"This was my dream when I first came to this organization in '93," said the right fielder, a freshly-minted World Series champion after Boston's 3-0 rubbing-out of the Cardinals last night. "When I first got here, people were talking about how long it had been since the Red Sox won, and right then, I said I wanted to be here when we did win it."

Just as the clock turned 11:40 p.m. in Boston, and Keith Foulke made his underhand flip to Doug Mientkiewicz to seal the deal, Nixon's wishes and hopes came true. Eighty-six years after their last win, the Sox again were on top of the world, in part thanks to Nixon's three-pack of doubles in Game 4 -- one a bases-loaded shot to deep center in the third that drove in two runs and boosted the Sox' lead to 3-0.

"I had the green light there," said Nixon, who teed up on a 3-0 delivery by Jason Marquis that came right into his wheelhouse. "I hadn't been hitting the ball the way I wanted [during the playoffs], and some of the guys, including [Jason Varitek], had been telling me to believe in myself, have confidence up there. The pitch came over the plate, and I got into it good."

Nixon ripped the first of his three two-baggers in the second inning, pulling the ball to right with one out and no one on base. After a Mark Bellhorn walk, Sox starter Derek Lowe pushed both runners ahead with a sacrifice bunt, but Nixon died at third and Bellhorn at second when leadoff hitter Johnny Damon sent a harmless roller to first.

But only one inning later, with the bases loaded and Marquis on the ropes, Nixon was left with a hitter's ideal situation -- bases juiced and the count at 3-0. Marquis's fourth pitch was a flat fastball and Nixon, given the nod to swing, wheeled around and drove a double to deep center. David Ortiz and Varitek came barreling around third base, and the Sox were in control with a 3-0 lead.

"I bet I've got a full-blown ulcer right now, the way I worry about each and every pitch, every time I get to the plate," said Nixon. "Every year I bet I lose 10-15 pounds worrying about our club going out there winning games."

Nixon, who flied to center to end the fifth, finished his night with his third double, which he tacked on after Bill Mueller led off the eighth with a single to right. After his third extra-base hit, Nixon was done for the night, surrendering his spot at second to pinch runner Gabe Kapler. The air in the clubhouse thick with the spray of champagne, the bubbly mist sprinkling down on Nixon's broad shoulders, the man with the most lengthy Red Sox pedigree officially declared the end of decades of frustration.

"It makes for a pretty good story, doesn't it?" he said. "This is for everyone . . . for the Red Sox organization, for the players, and definitely for the fans and the city of Boston. The Patriots have taken some of the thunder away the last couple of years with their success and this is kind of nice to share some of that.

"The curse? That's over now. The hex had to end some time, didn't it? Curse . . . that's nothing now, that's just a five-letter word."

In the hours leading up to the start of the postseason, Damon dubbed the club "idiots," a bunch of fun-loving, game-loving guys, slightly different than last year's Cowboy Up band.

"Hey, we're not idiots," said Nixon. "We're gamers. We bring our brown bags to work and go out there and get it."

It was reassuring all season, said Nixon, not to be part of a room of 25 individuals. Some clubhouses, he said, are safe harbor to 25 players who all wear headsets, listening to music, and focusing only on themselves.

"In here," said Nixon, who struggled with back and quadricep injuries this season, "we didn't allow headsets. If you had one on, guys would go around knocking 'em off."

Congratulations, one passerby told Nixon. Congratulations on being a world champion.

"You know, that probably won't sink in for a while," he said. "Falling short so many times, and hearing people talk about that all the time, all the time . . . well, that wears on players. But that's done now. It's everything I wanted to do from the first day I got here, and now we're going to do it -- hang a championship banner."

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