The history of the Boston Red Sox can be summarized in two words: “But then ...”
With two wins in St. Louis, the Red Sox have now taken a 3-2 lead in the World Series. All they need to do now is win one of two games in Fenway Park — win tonight or tomorrow night — and the World Series title is theirs.
Red Sox fans are soaring. Confidence, at a low ebb when the hometown team went down 2-1, is high. It’s a lock, a virtual guarantee. Put the champagne on ice.
Not so fast, Red Sox fans. Remember your history.
The Red Sox were the dominant team of the first part of the 20th century, winning World Series titles in 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918. But then, owner Harry Frazee sold off the team’s stars — including the immortal Babe Ruth. Some 28 years would pass before the Red Sox had another chance at a World Series.
In 1946, the Red Sox returned to the World Series to face the St. Louis Cardinals. But then, Ted Williams, the greatest hitter in baseball, inexplicably tallied just five singles and the Sox lost in seven games.
In 1967, the Red Sox put together the “Impossible Dream” team that included Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Conigliaro and Jim Lonborg. But then, Conligiaro was hit by a pitch in August, suffering a dreadful injury. And in the World Series, again against the Cardinals, the Sox ran into a buzzsaw named Bob Gibson, a pitcher so dominant that baseball eventually lowered the pitcher’s mound and tightened the strike zone to take away his “unfair advantage.”
In 1975, Carlton Fisk’s 12th inning home run, one of the most dramatic moments in baseball history, led the Red Sox to victory in Game 6 of the World Series. But then, Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” was too much for the Sox in Game 7 and another series was lost.
In 1986, the Red Sox were winning Game 6 of the World Series and were one strike away from their first championship since 1918. The television announcers had reported that Sox pitcher Bruce Hurst had been named the series’ Most Valuable Player. The champagne was indeed on ice. But then, the Mets’ Mookie Wilson hit a slow roller toward first base ...
Indeed, these moments and more like them define what it means to be a Red Sox fan. The feeling that doom lurks around every corner meshes well with both our Yankee Calvinist and Catholic immigrant roots. It colors the way we look at everything the Red Sox do. Somewhere in New England, it is guaranteed someone is worried that, 80 years from now, future fans will be talking about “the Curse of Jose Iglesias.”
So here we are in 2013, with World Series titles from 2004 and 2007 in our pockets and another being served up on a silver platter. And in the back of every fan’s mind is the gnawing fear that it surely will be snatched away.
The ancient Greeks turned this fear into a goddess, Nemesis, who stopped by every now and then to collect the wages of hubris.
So Red Sox fans, hold on tight. It’s sure to be a wild ride.