EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 1, 2013

Series clincher at Fenway seals 'best year' for this Boston fan

By Mark E. Vogler

---- — BOSTON — Devout Red Sox fans from across the country came here to their baseball mecca in hopes of seeing history made.

Those who were lucky enough to get tickets began lining up at Gate A outside of Fenway Park Wednesday, some four hours before the opening pitch of Boston’s 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. They got to witness the first time the Red Sox clinched the World Series at home since 1918.

I did too when a friend emailed me the day before the game to invite me as his guest. I got to experience the passion of Red Sox fandom as I never have.

A man in his 70s came from Atlanta. He was hoping to see the Sox beat the Braves in Atlanta. But the L.A. Dodgers ruined those plans by beating Atlanta in the National League division round series.

An L.A. man who went to law school here in the early 1990s and fell in love with Boston and its team, would have preferred to see Boston play the Dodgers in a West Coast series game. But Fenway was just fine after St. Louis beat the Dodgers.

A young woman from Utah who made going to this year’s World Series a “bucket list” item paid close to $3,000 a month ago, not knowing she would be going to St. Louis and then to Boston to watch her “favorite team.” She has a crush on Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury

There were even some Canadians who came to root the Red Sox on, along with a friend who wore his Toronto Blue Jays cap.

They all came to be part of a memorable night and a fitting finish to a Red Sox season that goes as the most remarkable one I’ve ever witnessed since my dad first took me to Fenway Park to watch the Sox play a season-ending doubleheader 50 years ago when I was just 9.

That’s not to take away from the two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. Sure the “Idiots” of 2004 pulled off the great series comeback over the hated Yankees after being down 3-0 and within an out of elimination to come roaring back to win the American League pennant. And it was their first series championship since 1918.

The 2007 Sox team had a dramatic comeback too, after being down 3-1 against Cleveland in the ALCS.

But both title teams were blessed with several super stars and easily swept their opponents in the World Series. Both teams were expected to compete for the World Series even before the season began.

Not so for the 2013 Red Sox which underwent a major shake-up after an embarrassing 69-93 record last year.

This year’s bearded bunch did the seemingly impossible going from the worst to first in their division and scoring the most runs in the Major Leagues under new manager John Farrell.

Jon Lester, with a 15-8 record, was the team’s best pitcher. David Ortiz had a very good year (30 homeruns, 103 runs batted in and a .309 average. Good seasons, but not great.

But there was something special that put the team above any other Sox squad in the hearts of the fans, who came to Game 6.

Helium-filled balloons with beards painted on them floated outside Fenway as more than 40,000 crammed into the park. There weren’t enough standing room spaces to accommodate fans, who had to keep moving to other spaces during the game. I watched the game from five spots.

The Red Sox organization did its best to whip the crowd into a frenzied, cheering mood.

A wonderful film collage of all-time great Red Sox moments and heart-breaking ones weaved together from photos, movies and newspaper headlines from Sox olden days to modern times played on the big scoreboard behind the right field bleachers.

Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jim Rice, Yaz were featured.

Most fans in my section were very mindful of the “Boston Strong” rallying cry that fueled this year’s team as a result of the tragic Boston Marathon bombing on Patriots Day. They pointed to the B strong logo painted in red on Navy blue on the Green Monster and also the huge logo cut in the outfield grass.

The Dropkick Murphys gave a raucous rendition of the National Anthem that really revved up the crowd.

The Sox brought out two old-timers to throw out the ceremonial first pitch — Carlton Fisk, who hit the dramatic 12th inning homer to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series against the Reds, was joined by teammate and pitching ace Luis Tiant. Fisk came out to the pitcher’s mound sporting a large, fake beard, to the delight of the crowd.

In the bottom of the third, the crowd went bonkers as Shane Victorinio came to the plate as Bob Marley song “Three Little Birds” played. The crowd joined into singing “Don’t worry, about a thing, ‘cause every little thing, gonna be all right.”

The crowd erupted in deafening cheers as Victorino cracked a bases-clearing double off the wall to give the Sox a 3-0 lead. The loud cheers, high fives and hugs intensified as the Sox took control of the game.

During the top of the ninth inning I got caught up in the moment, high-fiving away on every out at anyone within hand reach who looked my way. The good karma that encircled the Sox was clearly evident and contagious.

After running along the standing room space at the top of the grandstand seats in sections 7 and 8, I easily slapped 100 palms by the time Red Sox closer Koji Uehara recorded the final out to nail down the World Series.

All through the stands, fans screamed and cried with joy, hugging and high-fiving each other — in many cases, total strangers joining in an emotional embrace — as the Sox players rushed out onto the field for their own celebration.

As I left Fenway early yesterday, I knew I had just witnessed Boston’s team of destiny making history.