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Idiots Deluxe: Impact of 2004 Red Sox Will Never Be Surpassed

manny runs

Damon,

Pedro.

Millar.

Trot.

Schilling.

Manny.

Ortiz.

How about Manny Ortez?

Idiots DeLuxe.

Idiots? Yes. But they were nobody's stooges.

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The Red Sox hailed the 2004 World Series champions at Fenway Park Wednesday night before John Lackey delivered another solid start [6.1 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 9Ks, 0 BB] en route to a 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

That's three straight for the defending champs. 23-29.

Get the Duck Boats ready . . . for Gronk, Edelman and the Legion of Belichick.

"Fever Pitch" or just a case of the sniffles? We'll know a lot more when the Tampa Bay Rays come to Fenway Park this weekend.

Not everyone from the Curse Busters was there Wednesday night. There was no Tito. No Nomar. No Bellhorn. No Theo. All eighty-sixed for the evening. All the other key players showed up, including Curt Schilling. He walked in from left field with his son in what was believed to be Schilling's first public appearance of note since he was diagnosed with cancer.

His financial woes not withstanding, Schilling has never been short when it comes to "grit and balls." He paired with co-World Series MVP Randy Johnson to beat the Yankees in the 2001 Fall Classic with the Diamondbacks. He came to Boston from Arizona with dreams of making "55,000 people in Yankee Stadium shut up" and eventually backed it up in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, bloody sock and all.

Manny Ramirez strolled out of the Green Monster as if he had been on a six-year bathroom break. Before the game, Manny spoke to the media that helped run him out of town back in the day. Manny said he's found God and that he realizes the mistakes he made in his past.

"Now that I've been in church for almost for four years now, me and my wife and now I realize that I behaved bad in Boston and the fans they were great and I played great when I was here but now I realize that I behaved bad and I apologize for that, but I'm a new man, that's what Jesus said and that's what I believe," he said.

"I behaved bad and I regret it turned out the way it ends, but I know a lot of people say, 'Manny didn't like to play, blah blah blah,' but what did my numbers say when I left here?"

Athletes, especially those with a past like Ramirez's [including the record three PED positive tests], open themselves to scorn and ridicule in the press and across social media when they talk about finding a new path through religion. Or at least it seems that way when their faith happens to be based in Christianity.

What prompted Manny's change? "When I went to jail with a problem with my wife, they didn't let me see my kids for maybe two or three months ... One day, I wake up and I look myself in the mirror and I said 'I needed a change.' I started going to Bible studies and saw that it was good. I kept going and God helped me to change my life."

Manny met with and apologized to Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick, as well, six years after that ugly shove.

Good for him, all the way around.

Manny has deserved better from the Red Sox, State Run Media and Boston fans since his ignominious departure in 2008. His unsolicited contrition and new-found faith is a good first step in that direction.

Manny's now a player-coach with the Class AAA Iowa Cubs. He's convinced David Ortiz and Theo Epstein that he's changed for the better.

Who are we to argue? The Red Sox think so much of Ortiz they've signed him through 2067, or so it seems. And remember, Theo is a friggin' genius. He went to Yale, just like Craig Breslow. He played the guitar in a rock band with Peter Gammons. He was responsible for building a sizable portion of the 2004 club. He also brought Eric Gagne, Dice-K, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo to Boston.

No, we haven't forgotten about Dan Duquette, either.

Speaking of Jesus, his 2004 doppelganger was at Fenway Park Wednesday. Johnny Damon went so far as to re-create in reverse a piece of Manny's infamous Red Sox history when he cut-off Manny's ceremonial first pitch.

Just like old times, almost.

Here's 175 seconds of Manny forever being Manny.

Good luck at work the rest of the day.

Trot Nixon? Now more than ever in this outfield.

Pedro Martinez? The best right-handed pitcher not listed in the Mitchell Report since Nolan Ryan.

Kevin Millar? He had one walk in 30 post-season plate appearances in 2004. One.

Ten years out, the impact of the 2004 Red Sox on the cultural and sports psyche of New England as a whole and Bostonians everywhere still cannot be measured and will never be surpassed.

Even though Patriots had already begun the Decade-Plus of Dominance with a pair of Super Bowl titles before the 2004 season, these Red Sox forever shifted the gravitational pull in Boston. The Calvinistic fatalism and Damoclean sense of sports doom embedded into millions of us and our ancestors was forever shattered. Pessimism, cynicism and negativity remain. But anyone who has ever inhabited Red Sox Nation is now able to live and die in peace thanks to 2004, '07 and the gift and civic salve that was the beloved '13 World Series Cup.

The Red Sox may have come for our grandparents, parents and some of us. But our younger siblings, cousins, children and/or grand-children have not only been spared, but they've been spoiled.

And it all began in 2004. The previous anniversary celebrations for this team were a bit over-the-top, but 10 is a nice round number. Frankly, not enough has been made of the 2004 Red Sox this year. Much of that is because of the 2013 Red Sox and the awkward start this season.

My parents were both members of that Lost Era of Red Sox Fans who lived and died between 1918 and 2004. Like so many others who grew up in Greater Boston, I became a Red Sox fan as a birthright, or at times, wrong. There were no options. This was pre-internet and pre-just-about-everything-else. Rooting for any team not from Boston was simply unheard of in my childhood circles. There were no professional contrarians in our ranks. There were no written rules, but Yankees hats or Canadiens jerseys would not have lasted through the first recess at Brackett School back in the early 1970s. They would have been disposed of long before the teachers ever knew what happened.

I cannot remember a time in my life when the Red Sox were not a paramount interest, either personally, professionally, or both. My father was mostly responsible for this. He died in 1992, so 1986 was his last great shot at witnessing a championship. He often told us about the time he and his brother convinced Ted Williams to give them a ride across the Mass. Ave to Cambridge in 1946. While he warned us never to get too optimistic about any Red Sox team, he always did his best to make sure we could get tickets to the biggest games.

He waited in line outside Fenway Park for six hours in 1975 along with several thousand other fans to procure bleacher and/or standing-room playoff tickets. That's how they did it back then. There was nothing virtual about this waiting room. It stretched all the way down Landsdowne Street to what is now Gate C. I ended up watching Game 7 in 1975 sitting with my mother in the bleachers. My father and two brothers had the "standing-room" tickets and ended-up watching the Reds win it all from somewhere on the first-base side.

What is now a wonderful and cherished childhood memory was at the time a 10-year-old boy's worst sports nightmare.

The closest thing my son experienced to that moment was Super Bowl XLII and 18-1 through the television. That's his generation's "1986" and it didn't even involve the Red Sox. How's that for progress?

My family was visiting Massachusetts a month after the Red Sox swept St. Louis. One of our earliest stops was at the cemetery. The Red Sox cap was still resting on my parents' gravestone. A Red Sox pennant had been taped across the front by my uncle who openly defied the cemetery's caretakers by putting it there. There were Red Sox flags, hats and other memorabilia dotted throughout each row of gravesites.

A surreal experience that was all-too-real for those of us who experienced it. There will be no other championship moment in my lifetime with that type of personal emotional throw-weight, not even when Jonny Gomes placed the World Series Trophy/Cup at the Boston Marathon finish line last Nov. 2.

In a sense, the 2004 Red Sox completed a worst-to-first journey of their own. Game 7 in 2003 [Grady, Pedro, Aaron F. Boone] was one of those historic low-points that has marked each generation of Red Sox fans. The Red Sox would win by losing out on Alex Rodriguez during that Baseball Nuclear Winter.

Boston trailed New York 9-4 on July 24 before winning that game 11-10 on Bill Mueller's home run. Jason Varitek b-slapping A-Rod that same day even made it onto the Fenway video board during his introduction Wednesday night. More signs of progress.

The Red Sox would trade Nomar Garciaparra a week later and fall as many as 10.5 games out of first place on Aug. 15 before climbing back into the A.L. East race and eventually winning the wildcard.

Nomar had a good excuse for not being there Wednesday, he had to work the Dodgers' telecast.

All of this predated Boston's historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees. Boston would be demolished 19-8 in Game 3 before the baseball heroics by Millar, Dave Roberts and Mueller in the ninth inning off Mariano Rivera in Game 4.

That's when the fun really began.

Eight straight postseason victories.

Four straight wins against the Yankees. Biggest baseball choke eva.

Four more coming against St. Louis. The mother of all Duck Boat Parades.

"We were like a family," Martinez said.

It's gotten so absurd that fans and media types are left trying to sort Boston's eight major pro-sports titles since Bill Clinton left office. The city came thisclose to three more.

Nos. 2 through 8 will be debated for decades.

But No. 1 remains etched in stone at a cemetery near you.

The OBF Column is written by award-winning journalist, Bay State native and Boston.Com columnist Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or hit him on at his
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