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Producing a major league hit

Sox co-owner Werner on building a winner

Before the World Series, Tom Werner was probably better known for producing sitcoms such as "Cosby," "Roseanne," and "That '70s Show" than for his role as a Red Sox owner. But his personal history with the team goes back as far as 1967 when Werner, then a Harvard student, watched the Red Sox lose to the Cardinals in Game 1 of the World Series at Fenway Park. He spoke with Globe reporter Naomi Aoki.

What's the business impact of being World Series champs?

We sold out all our games this year, so it's not as if we have a capacity issue. But I'm sure there are ways we can increase the reach of Red Sox Nation. We're thinking about how to expand the fan base not just in New England but outside New England and how to build a stronger relationship with our fans.

Given how many players will be free agents, what will next year's team look like?

We think there will be a lot of desire on the part of players to come back and defend the championship. These players truly enjoy each other's company. You can see that in the way they play. And this win is a good argument for why they should come back next year.

What was the key to the Red Sox's success this season?

What made me successful in the television business is respect for the audience. And what's made this franchise successful is respect for its customers. One of the first ideas we had when we bought the franchise was to encourage the players on the second day of the first season to greet fans at the turnstiles.

How does the Red Sox's on-field success translate to NESN, the cable sports channel also owned by the franchise? (The New York Times Co., which owns The Boston Globe, owns 17 percent of the Red Sox parent company.)

They are two different enterprises. The business of NESN is to create value as a regional sports network. It's more than just the Red Sox and Bruins. We televise Boston College games and Harvard football. We're always thinking about ways to enhance programming. We ran the movie "Still, We Believe." We're working on a poker show that pits people in Boston against people in New York. The winner goes to the World Series of poker. We're having fun with the Boston-New York rivalry.

Are new seats in store for Fenway?

Perhaps for 2006. We'll need the approval of various agencies to increase the capacity of the park. But what we want to do is very modest. We want to increase it by less than 10 percent.

We've come to the conclusion that it is important for us to be the smallest ballpark in the majors. Fenway's intimacy is part of its specialness. Parents bring their children here because they remember the first time they walked up the ramp and saw the green of Fenway Park.

Any dramatic change to its character would not be in our best interest -- from an emotional standpoint or business one. It's a cathedral of sorts, and you don't fool around with Notre Dame.

As a native New Yorker, why did you want to buy the Sox?

I've been a lifelong fan. My dad took me to games. I listened to games on the radio as I fell asleep at night. I was the Pokey Reese of my school -- a good fielder but not a particularly good hitter.

In my previous incarnation as a baseball owner, I was the general managing partner of the San Diego Padres. I was on baseball's executive council, and I fought hard for changes, including the Wild Card idea. I got out of the game in 1995. But I got back in the derby to acquire the Red Sox because this franchise is the jewel of baseball. It has a peerless history. People talk about the Yankees. But if you go to any bookstore, not just in Boston but anywhere, there are five times more books on the Red Sox than the Yankees.

Were you ever a Yankees fan?

I was a Yankees fan until the Mets came into existence in 1962, and I immediately switched my allegiance to the Mets. But as I've said before, we all make mistakes when we're young.

There was a lot of animosity toward this ownership team when you came to town. People viewed you as outsiders and feared you would tear down Fenway. Do you feel vindicated now?

Tom Yawkey wasn't born in New England, neither was Ted Williams. My own feeling was that we were the best group to buy the team. We had the best interest of the fans at heart.

What are the Red Sox without the curse?

I've been friendly with Babe Ruth's granddaughter Linda Ruth Tosetti, who is a die-hard Red Sox fan. She sent me a note after the win. In it, she wrote: "My grandfather is certainly smiling tonight. People have been asking what will happen if Boston wins the World Series. Guess we now have the pleasure of finding out."

Naomi Aoki can be reached at

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