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ALEX BEAM

The Red Sox or the republic? You decide

Assume there is a Supreme Being. Assume that She is all-powerful and beneficent. But she is not indulgent. She will grant one, and only one, of your two most fervent wishes: Either John Kerry will be inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States.

Or the Boston Red Sox will win the World Series this fall.

What will it be?

I hung around Downtown Crossing yesterday for about an hour running this question by 52 Bostonians. (If only Butch Hobson were still managing the Sox, we could call this a true Hobson's choice.) Many respondents were torn, but ultimately the people spoke. Twenty people felt it was more important for their junior senator to take over the White House. Thirty-two implored the Deity to intervene and send World Series rings to the Olde Towne Team. If there was a common theme, it was skepticism that either event was likely to take place.

Of course, my survey lacked the laser-like, scientific accuracy of a famous national poll like the one run by John Zogby, who predicted this spring: "John Kerry will win the election." That's curious, because Kerry's newly assembled staff of prevaricators, fact fudgers, and spin doctors aren't acting like John Kerry will win the election.

But my survey did reveal that Bostonians -- who, to be fair, have seen quite a bit of Senator Kerry over the years -- have their priorities straight. Or else they have their priorities all bollixed up. See, it's easy to flip-flop, once you get the hang of it.

Suppose She came to me: How would I like my prayers to be answered? Well, I certainly have my beefs with the current occupant of the White House. But I am not an Anybody-But-Bush person. To paraphrase a famous quote by boxer Joe Louis ("There may be a whole lot wrong with America, but there's nothing that Hitler can fix"), there is a great deal wrong with the republic, but I am far from confident that John Kerry & Co. are the solution to our woes.

Furthermore, a Democratic presidency would hardly qualify as an end-of-time event for me. I've lived through four of them already, and if She allows it, I may live through several more. But a baseball world championship . . . what can you say? There can't be more than a handful of Bostonians who remember the heady days of 1918.

The ancillary benefits of a Red Sox victory are almost incalculable: astonishing one-day sales for the city's two daily newspapers. Several days off from work to attend the victory parade, the after-parties, the apres-after parties, and the inevitable drying-out period. Terry Francona could run for the Senate; Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz could assume the presidency of the Dominican Republic. The possibilities are endless.

There is only one possible conclusion to this fancy: Be careful what you wish for.

Hey! That's our stuff!
With heavy heart we peruse the glossy press releases emanating from the Chicago Botanic Garden's new exhibit, "Plants in Print: The Age of Botanical Discovery." Why? Because many of the rare gems now adorning the CBG's collection -- for instance, the 1483 Italian edition of "Historia plantarum" by Theophrastus, "the father of all botany" -- used to reside here, at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. In the grips of a well-publicized financial crisis, Mass Hort sold 2,219 rare books and 2,000 journals worth $3 million to Chicago in November 2002. Just a few weeks later, Mass Hort sold off an additional 125 rare books for $2.45 million, at Christie's auction house in New York.

Chicago Botanic spokeswoman Sue Markgraf says Bostonians are welcome to come ogle totems of their former glory at the Glencoe, Ill., exhibit, which will remain open until Oct. 16. If you can't get to Chicago, you can see some of Mass Hort's former treasures at the website plantsin print.org. The exhibit will start touring the country in late fall, but so far there are no plans to bring it to Boston. Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.

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