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Cruising along in the playoffs

NEW YORK -- Picked up pieces from a World Series that should be returning to Fenway tonight for Game 6 (think we're having trouble letting go?) . . .

Anyone else amazed that the World Series is within a game of being won by a team that the Red Sox humiliated so badly, they apologized the next day? It was June 27 at Fenway and the Sox scored 14 runs in the first inning, 10 before Florida recorded an out. The final count was 25-8 and Sox manager Grady Little apologized to Jack McKeon the next day for running up the score. Now the Marlins are on the threshold of winning the Fall Classic.

There's still time to get in on the annual Red Sox Cruise, with Little scheduled to leave from Fort Lauderdale Jan. 18.

The cruise ad ran all season during Sox broadcasts: "Keep the baseball season going. Join manager Grady Little . . . for a week of fun and sun on the Boston Red Sox Cruise aboard Celebrity Line's The Millennium."

Cruise organizer Ken Nigro, who also runs the club's annual fantasy camp, says, "I've been getting calls asking if Grady is still going and what happens if he doesn't go. One guy called about dumping Grady overboard. We're still counting on him going and last year he was great."

Others who have committed to this year's cruise include Sox legend Luis Tiant, and current (as of press time) Sox coaches Dallas Williams and Ron Jackson, plus announcer Don Orsillo and former Orioles Earl Weaver and Scott McGregor. About 175 Sox fans have signed up for the seven-day tour, which makes stops in Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan, and the Dominican Republic.

According to Nigro, there is a cruise curse. Willie Banks and Frank Castillo cruised last year, then were let go by the team. When Nigro ran the cruise for the Orioles, he booked Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley, who ended up being traded two days before the cruise. Baltimore outfielder Mike Devereaux hurt his ankle playing basketball on the cruise.

Intrepid Nigro plans to leave the Lauderdale dock, with or without Grady.

"I'm going out there to the Bermuda Triangle," Nigro says. "I'll go down with the ship if I have to and take the curse with me."

To get on board, call 1-800-421-0650.

Postgame pattern at Yankee Stadium: When the Yankees win, we get Frank Sinatra belting "New York, New York" about seven times. When the Yanks lose, it's the Liza Minnelli version.

It violates our sensibilities to think of those "long-suffering" Marlins fans who haven't enjoyed a world championship in seven years. If Florida wins, it will have beaten three hardball institutions: the Giants, Cubs, and Yankees. So much for tradition.

Would it be a cheap shot to suggest that Mia Hamm is to the Red Sox what Yoko Ono was to the Beatles? Probably. So let's not do that.

Speaking of Sox stars who underachieved in the postseason, Pedro Martinez shouldn't be completely off the hook for Game 7. When your $17 million ace gets a 4-0 lead, the game should be over. Sure, he was toast by the seventh, but that's why it's "buyer beware" for whoever signs Pedro to his next contract. Martinez is a six-inning ace who wants to be paid like a nine-inning stud. The Sox are now 9-16 in his career starts against the Yankees.

Thirty-nine World Series here since 1921. That's just not fair.

Grady-backers are floating the theory that Scott Williamson didn't want the ball at the end of Game 7. Sounds like the same stuff we heard about Mel Parnell not wanting to pitch the one-game playoff in 1948.

Did Theo Epstein have dinner with Tom Kelly this week? "Not true," the general manager said yesterday. "I've never met Tom Kelly."

John W. Henry and Theo want more of a stat man in the corner office next year. Think Bill James would agree to manage?

When Grady goes, the Sox should hold on to hitting coach Jackson. Papa Jack did wonders for a number of Sox hitters, particularly David Ortiz.

Managerial candidate Glenn Hoffman was the Sox' starting shortstop at the beginning of the 1986 season. His dad, an usher at Angels games, used to sing the anthem in Anaheim, and his brother Trevor is the San Diego closer.

Two Red Sox teams, the 1946 edition (vs. St. Louis) and the '86ers (vs. the Mets), went to the enemy park with a 3-2 lead and lost the final two games of the World Series.

George Steinbrenner has to wonder where his $180 million is going when he sees Karim Garcia, Enrique Wilson, and Aaron Boone holding up the bottom of his batting order in a World Series game.

McKeon graduated from St. Mary's High School in South Amboy, N.J., in 1948 and went off to Holy Cross for a semester before his dad let him sign a professional baseball contract. Wonder if Trader Jack bumped into Bob Cousy during his time at HC?

After all the controversy about allegedly taking himself out of Game 6 in 1986, Roger Clemens has a chance to be a hero by raising his hand to pitch in relief tonight or tomorrow night in Game 6 or 7.

The announcement that Grady will not be back should be made Monday, Tuesday at the latest, but the Sox may not name Grady's replacement that soon.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

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