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Series of classic matchups

Long before the words "dynasty" and "Yankees" became synonymous, the epicenter of the baseball universe was located right here in the Hub, where five of the first 15 World Series flags flew for a fandom swollen with pride for its local team.The passion periodically waned into the next century, but it was eventually joined by pessimism and cynicism, the residual effect of a once-perennial championship quest devolving into a once-a-decade shot in the dark.

1903 -- Pilgrims 5, Pirates 3
In the inaugural World Series, the respective owners of the American and National League teams had settled on a best-of-nine series to crown one true champion. Pittsburgh, which was coming off its third straight pennant, was hindered by injuries to star shortstop Honus Wagner and ace pitcher Sam Leever. But the Pirates managed to take two of the first three games at Boston's Huntington Avenue Grounds on the strength of two Deacon Phillippe starts. A rainout pushed Game 4 in Pittsburgh back a day, allowing Phillippe to outlast the Pilgrims' Bill Dinneen and stake the Pirates to a 3-1 series lead. The Boston bats finally erupted in Game 5 (11-3 win), and Dinneen followed with his second Series victory over Leever. With the Series all square, the Pilgrims finally beat Phillippe in Game 7 and Dineen capped the first Fall Classic with a 3-0 shutout back in Boston.

1912 -- Red Sox 4, Giants 3 (1 tie)
Eight years earlier, fiery skipper John McGraw had refused to recognize the American Leaguers from Boston as a worthy adversary for his New Yorkers. With tradition entrenched, there was no dodging the Sox this time. Not that McGraw wanted to, either, not with the incomparable Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard ready to take the mound. Boston had its own stopper in Smoky Joe Wood, who held down a balanced Giants offense in Game 1. Game 2 resulted in a tie (called for darkness after 11 innings), and New York evened the series the next day behind a brilliant Marquard. Wood and rookie Hugh Bedient each held the Giants to a single run to win Games 4 and 5, but Marquard was strong again back in New York. Boston's first chance to close out the series at Fenway Park fell to Wood, who was racked for six runs in the first in an 11-4 rout. Down to a decisive Game 8, McGraw sent a rested -- but winless -- Mathewson to match up with Bedient. It was the right choice. The game entered extra innings in a 1-1 deadlock. With Wood in his third inning of relief, the Giants pulled ahead on a Fred Merkle RBI single in the 10th. The glory was fleeting. Pinch hitter Clyde Engle's fly ball leading off was dropped by New York center fielder Fred Snodgrass, an infamous error that paved the way for a two-run rally and 3-2 series-clinching victory.

1915 -- Red Sox 4, Phillies 1
One of the most tightly contested World Series ever was a weeklong pitching clinic, starting with the legendary Pete Alexander, who outdueled the Sox' Ernie Shore, 3-1, in the opener by holding Boston to eight harmless singles. Rube Foster was the story in the series equalizer, firing a three-hitter and driving in the deciding run in the 2-1 victory with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Back in Boston, Dutch Leonard spun another three-hit gem, against Alexander no less, in a bookend 2-1 win, and the next day the Sox made it three straight wins by an identical score. Game 5 in Philadelphia would qualify as a slugfest. Staked to a 4-2 lead, Eppa Rixey served up a two-run shot to the Sox' Duffy Lewis in the eighth, and Harry Hooper struck for a solo blast in the ninth. After his rough start, Foster settled down to skunk the Phillies over the final five innings, cementing Boston's third Series title.

1916 -- Red Sox 4, Robins 1
Facing an upstart Brooklyn squad coming off its first pennant since 1900, the Sox were recognized as Series favorites. And it took all their postseason experience to pull out the first two games. With Ernie Shore coasting with a 6-1 lead in the opener, the Robins had a four-run outburst in the ninth, prompting Sox mananger Bill Carrigan to summon Carl Mays from the bullpen to snuff out a bases-loaded threat. Brooklyn's momentum briefly carried over into Game 2, when Hy Myers touched young lefthander Babe Ruth for a first-inning inside-the-park homer. Ruth got the run back in the third, and settled into a pitchers' duel with Sherry Smith that lasted into the 14th, when pinch hitter Del Gainor ended the epic with an RBI single. Brooklyn's tenacity finally paid off at home in Game 3 as Jack Coombs and Jeff Pfeffer combined for a 4-3 win. After Dutch Leonard paced the Sox to a 6-2 triumph in Game 4, the title was only a formality the way Shore was dealing in Game 6, shackling Brooklyn on three hits in a 4-1 decision.

1918 -- Red Sox 4, Cubs 2
The 15th Fall Classic was overshadowed by the country's involvement in World War I. In hindsight, it also spiked Babe Ruth's continued climb from curiosity to legend. Ruth willed the Sox to a 1-0 series-opening victory in Chicago, blanking the Cubs on six singles. Lefty Tyler pulled Chicago even the next day with his own six-hit beauty, and the Sox' Carl Mays kept up the pitching theme with a 2-1 victory in Game 3, sending Cubs ace Hippo Vaughn to his second tough-luck loss of the series. Game 4 belonged to Ruth. Not only did he extend his Series scoreless-innings streak to 29 2/3 (a record that still stands), he belted a two-run triple in the fourth in the 3-2 win. It took a Game 5 shutout in Boston for Vaughn to earn his first win of the series, but he wouldn't get another start thanks to Mays, who allowed just three hits in a 2-1 clincher, both Sox runs being unearned. Little did anyone know it would be the last celebration of any kind in Boston for a long, long time.

1946 -- Cardinals 4, Red Sox 3
Feared and revered, the Sox slugged their way to their first American League pennant in 28 years. It was their offense that ultimately let them down, though, as Ted Williams, appearing in his only World Series, was relegated to mortal by an elbow injury suffered just before the playoffs. Rudy York's winning homer in the 10th in the opener was a misleading omen, for the Cardinals' Harry Brecheen followed with a four-hit shutout, the first of three series victories. However, Dave Ferriss returned the skunking back home in Game 3 for a 2-1 series lead. St. Louis jumped all over Tex Hughson the following day, a 12-3 thrashing in which Enos Slaughter homered and had four of the Cardinals' 20 hits. The Sox bounced back again, though, behind Joe Dobson's complete game (four hits, three unearned runs). On the brink of a long-awaited championship, the Sox again failed to solve Brecheen in a 4-1 loss. That left it up to Ferriss in Game 7, but he departed in the fifth trailing, 3-1. Dom DiMaggio drew the Sox even with a two-out, two-run double in the eighth off Brecheen, who had relieved Murry Dickson with nobody out. The bottom of the eighth was stuff of St. Louis folklore. Slaughter opened with a single, but was stuck at first until Harry Walker lined a two-out shot over the head of shortstop Johnny Pesky. As Slaughter rounded third, Pesky double-clutched the relay throw, giving Slaughter the headstart needed to plate the series-deciding run.

1967 -- Cardinals 4, Red Sox 3
Exhausted from a season-long grind to the playoffs, the Sox, much like their counterparts 21 seasons earlier, ran into a red-hot Cardinals pitcher. Bob Gibson was a fitting foil, too, striking out 10 in a Game 1 six-hitter. Boston relied on its own ace, Jim Lonborg, to square the series, 5-0, with an assist from Carl Yastrzemski (two homers, four RBIs). St. Louis didn't even need its bullpen in Games 3 and 4, with Nelson Briles and Gibson effectively going the distance, Gibson meting out a mere five hits. Lonborg staved off elimination for another day with a Game 5 masterpiece, taking a two-hit shutout into the ninth and settling for a 3-1 victory. Boston's big bats erupted back in Boston in Game 6, with Rico Petrocelli (twice), Yastrzemski, and Reggie Smith clubbing solo homers. Sox manager Dick Williams opted for Lonborg on two days' rest to start the final game, and the righthander's exhaustion began to show by the middle innings -- Gibson rocked a solo homer in the fifth and slight second baseman Julian Javier popped a three-run blast in the sixth. The hole was too deep against Gibson.

1975 -- Reds 4, Red Sox 3
A blend of young superstars and veteran pitchers was sufficient cause for optimism in Boston. And when Luis Tiant sparkled in Game 1 at Fenway, humbling the vaunted Big Red Machine with a five-hit shutout, hope spread like a virus. The first sign of trouble came in the ninth inning of Game 2, when reliever Dick Drago coughed up two runs in a 3-2 defeat. Even when the Sox rallied on a two-run homer by Dwight Evans in the ninth to knot up Game 3, Cincinnati managed to escape via Joe Morgan's RBI single in the 10th. Boston bounced back the next game behind Tiant, who sweated out a 5-4 victory, before enduring a deluge that pushed Game 6 back for three days. No one could have anticipated the drama when play resumed at Fenway, a roller-coaster affair that saw the teams trade late-inning heroics, including Bernie Carbo's pinch-hit three-run homer to forge a 6-6 tie in the eighth. Boston's bullpen then held up to allow Carlton Fisk one of baseball's most enduring memories, a leadoff walkoff homer in the 12th off Pat Darcy. Staked to a 3-0 lead in Game 7, Sox starter Bill Lee surrendered a two-run homer to Tony Perez in the sixth and a Pete Rose RBI single an inning later. A trio of Reds relievers blanked Boston the rest of the way, and Morgan provided the difference with a run-scoring single in the ninth.

1986 -- Mets 4, Red Sox 3
So perilously close, so painfully far. A dramatic American League Championship Series comeback segued into a 2-0 series lead, with Bruce Hurst stuffing host New York on four hits in eight innings in a 1-0 opener, and the Sox bashing 18 hits and a pair of homers (by Dwight Evans and Dave Henderson) in a 9-3 romp. No sooner had the teams returned to Fenway than the Sox' fortunes changed. Lenny Dykstra led off Game 3 with a homer, sparking a four-run first against Oil Can Boyd. The 7-1 loss preceded a 6-2 setback, with Dykstra homering again and Gary Carter going deep twice. Hurst offered home redemption in Game 5, nearly spinning another shutout but satisfied with a 4-2 victory. Roger Clemens followed with a solid outing in Game 6, leaving in the eighth with a 3-2 lead, only to see Calvin Schiraldi blow the save and force extras. Boston scratched for two runs in the 10th, courtesy of a Dave Henderson solo homer and Marty Barrett RBI single. Schiraldi retired the first two Mets in the 10th before yielding singles to Carter, Kevin Mitchell, and Ray Knight. Enter Bob Stanley, whose wild pitch to Mookie Wilson plated the tying run. Three pitches later, Wilson sent a grounder between first baseman Bill Buckner's legs, and the Mets were alive for Game 7. The Sox built an early 3-0 lead, until homers by Knight and Darryl Strawberry ignited the New York offense in an 8-5 win.

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