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New Englanders greet the day with wings on their heels

By Brian MacQuarrie
Globe Staff / October 29, 2004

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In a Framingham coffee shop yesterday morning, an elderly man softly asked a customer if he could see her newspaper. When the woman held up the front page, emblazoned with news of the Red Sox victory, the man stared in silence, touched his eyes, and began to cry.

"A grown man in the middle of a coffee shop on an October morning," said Dan Primack, a financial newsletter editor who watched the exchange. "Cynicism has finally taken a holiday."

New Englanders awoke yesterday to the dawn of a glorious new day in which they could utter a sentence that hasn't been heard since ice was delivered in horse-drawn wagons. The Boston Red Sox are world champions.

The effect was at once euphoric and surreal. Like slap-happy prizefighters who had just won a championship bout, woozy Bostonians yesterday smiled at strangers, donned their Red Sox apparel, and shed tears at the magnitude of seizing their long-sought sporting grail.

"We've all waited for this our entire lives, and I think we're all just trying to grasp the situation,'' said Joseph Tennan, 28, of Marblehead. ``We're all walking around in this drunken trance.''

``I'm still numb,'' said Mary Jane Kelliher, 35, from Roslindale. ``I keep saying Super Bowl champs because I just can't believe we can actually say World Series champions.''

Wedding vows were renewed. Copies of yesterday's newspapers fetched $9 on eBay. And even button-down corporate meetings kicked off with emotional tributes to the local nine.

For most people with any history in the region, yesterday was Opening Day for a new, feel-good era when anything - even a World Series championship - is possible.

``It's like Christmas Day. Everyone is happy,'' exulted investment banker Brian Salloway, 46, of Worcester, as he walked away from Macy's at Downtown Crossing in Boston.

Exhilaration was everywhere, and everyone from politicians to street vendors bounced giddily along the uncharted path.

``Good morning, everyone,'' said William Swanson, CEO of Raytheon Corp., as he began a conference call to announce the company's third-quarter earnings - usually a dry, numbers-laden affair. ``Let me start off by congratulating the Red Sox . . . according to calculations it has been 31,458 days since the last World Series [win]. But we are not counting that here in Boston, in case anybody wondered.''

T. Barton Carter, 55, professor of communications and law at Boston University, came to work in a full Red Sox uniform, including cleats. ``It will take a couple of days to sink in,'' he said. ``Is it real? Has it happened?''

MBTA bus driver Tony Rhea, 44, in his bus on Massachusetts Avenue, said he had high-fived all his passengers yesterday. ``It was the only thing on people's minds,'' he said. ``It don't matter who you are. If you love the Red Sox, this is going to be the best day of your life. No matter what.''

On Beacon Hill, the House of Representatives Committee on Health Care issued an advisory that red-eyed Red Sox Nation can finally resume normal sleep patterns. And at a Storrow Drive overpass, Governor Mitt Romney took a blowtorch to the ``Reverse Curve'' sign that had been impishly defaced months ago to read ``Reverse the Curse.''

The sense of history was palpable throughout a region that takes its history seriously. Penny Carroll stopped yesterday morning to pick up a newspaper in Quincy, where she heard that Derek Lowe of the Red Sox, the winning pitcher Wednesday night, was eating breakfast at a restaurant next door with his family.

Carroll rushed to the restaurant and asked Lowe to sign the paper on his photograph. A tired-looking but very accommodating Lowe obliged. By the end of the afternoon, she had already had the paper preserved in plastic for her husband, Norwood town manager John Carroll, who was thrilled.

``I'm old enough to have met Babe Ruth,'' said John Carroll, who saw the Bambino when he played for the Boston Braves at the end of his career in the mid-1930s.

Earlier in the day, a stir was set off after Maria Czyzewski, the owner of Inizio's Spa in Lowell, received a telephone call at 7 a.m. from Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon, who had just landed at Logan International Airport and asked if he and his fiancee could drive there for a trim.

``They hadn't slept at all,'' Czyzewski said. ``He's very, very excited. He was saying, `I can't believe it's over.' ''

Word of mouth spread through the neighborhood, and, about an hour later, when her stylist was trimming Damon's beard, a crowd of 100 people gathered on the sidewalk outside the salon. After the trim (the outfielder's famous long locks remain intact), Damon went out to the sidewalk and talked with the fans and graciously signed autographs.

``He looks great,'' Czyzewski said.

``It's weird,'' she said of the championship. ``It has sunk in, and it hasn't. We won't know what to do with ourselves now.''

At Winter and Washington streets in Downtown Crossing, Scott Goodwin sold newspapers nonstop starting at 7:30 a.m. ``It's been, `Give me three, three, and three . . . give me 10, give me a bundle,' '' said Goodwin, who has been a vendor for 15 years. ``They're so focused on getting those souvenirs to send around the country.''

Typically, Goodwin said, he sells 1,200 papers between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. By 3 p.m. yesterday, Goodwin estimated that he had sold 7,000 to 8,000 papers, breaking his previous record of 6,000 on Sept. 11 and 12, 2001.

The celebration spread far beyond Boston. From Eastport to Block Island, New Englanders made plans to travel to Boston tomorrow to watch their hardball heroes roll through the city in a parade unlike any ever seen here.

Disbelief still pervaded the Hub, however. Keith Fisher, 45, of Revere, said newspaper headlines were being hung around his office as staff at the communications company where he works tried to make sense of the victory. ``It's going to take a good parade and maybe a couple of beers,'' Fisher said.

For Ken Liss of Brookline, the championship is akin to a life-altering event he doubted he would witness. He met his wife at a Red Sox-Yankees game in 1989 at Fenway Park. He was cheering on New York, and she rooted for the Red Sox. Later, at their wedding, they vowed to love each other forever ``or until the Red Sox win the World Series.''

Last night, as the Red Sox victory neared, Liss became nervous and composed new vows. They call for the wedding to last ``until the Red Sox win the World Series [again],'' which he joked should gain him another 86 years.

Outside Andrew Square Auto Glass in South Boston, Steven O'Sullivan chatted with his friend, shop owner Bob McCarthy, about the significance of the win, debating back and forth and cutting each other off with enthusiasm.

``You're talking a lot of history here, what they did,'' McCarthy said. ``You've got to sit down and gather all your thoughts about what has taken place. It's unbelievable.''

O'Sullivan agreed. ``It really hasn't sunk in yet,'' he said. ``I've been waiting for so many years. Maybe you've got to pinch me.''

Then, trying to summarize what had been the unthinkable, O'Sullivan spoke for many long-frustrated fans. ``We're the world champs,'' he said, ``something that can never be taken away.''

Globe correspondents Jack Encarnacao, Elise Castelli, and Laura Levis contributed to this report.

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