|Jason Varitek, shown stretching yesterday at Coors Field, and the Red Sox have the upper hand with a 2-0 lead in the World Series. (STAN GROSSFELD/GLOBE STAFF)|
Winning isn't the only thing
DENVER - It's different now.
There are people who claim to be members of Red Sox Nation who have no idea that Bucky Dent's middle name is Bleeping. There are people under pink hats wearing PEDROIA jerseys who think Big Papi, not Ted Williams, is the greatest hitter who ever lived. They don't know that there was a guy named Radatz who threw harder than Papelbon or that there was a time not long ago when a black cloud followed the Boston baseball club.
The Red Sox and their entitled traveling Nationalists who've been taking over other people's ballparks for three years have officially jumped the shark. They are Nouveau Nation - rich folks who'd demolish a 200-year-old colonial to make way for a hideous, horizon-blocking McMansion. You may have heard some of them talking after Thursday's scintillating Game 2 World Series win at Fenway:
"I hope we win the World Series again. I mean, it's been an eternity since we won. I've waited three long years for this. I just hope they lose a couple this weekend in Colorado so we can win it at home. That would be so much more fun."
Really. It has come to this. The Sox are so good and they've been clutch for so long (five straight postseason wins and six straight Series wins) that they've spawned a small legion of new fans who have no idea what rooting for the Red Sox was like. And so now we have some alleged "fans" who aren't satisfied with just another world championship. They want the cherry on top. They want all the Fenway trappings to go along with it: "Sweet Caroline," "Dirty Water," the Dropkicks, the Irish Step Dancers, and Papelbon Riverdancing on the Fenway lawn with a bottle of Korbel in his pitching hand and a Luis Tiant cigar in his mouth.
It's no longer about the contest. Now it's performance art with style points.
Peter Gammons, the greatest baseball writer of them all before he became Hardball Guru of ESPN, yesterday said, "Right after the game Thursday, I ran into a guy who said, 'I hope they lose a couple in Denver so they can come home and win it.' Wow. Now it's not just about getting a Mercedes. They want a blue Mercedes."
To be sure, the Newbies are a minority, but I'm betting most of you heard a version of this notion put forth yesterday. Certainly, there are plenty of Game 6 and 7 ticket-holders who want the Red Sox to win the World Series . . . but not until Wednesday or Thursday.
There was none of this in 2004 when the Sox used the St. Louis Cardinals as props in the final scene of the greatest sports story ever told. The Franconamen left Fenway ahead, 2-0, in that one, but there was zero disappointment back home when it ended so quickly under the lunar eclipse in Missouri. After 86 years and 1 million 96 tears, nobody quarreled with the location of the final game.
The Red Sox haven't clinched a World Series at Fenway since Sept. 11, 1918 (the Series was early that year because of World War I) when Carl Mays beat the Cubs, 2-1, in Game 6. There were only 15,238 in the stands (none in Monster Seats - there was no Monster) when Les Mann hit a grounder to second baseman Dave Shean for the final out.
Babe Ruth was standing in right field scanning the stands for chicks when Shean tossed to first baseman Stuffy McInnis as Joe Castiglione bellowed, "Can you believe it?"
Actually, I made some of that up. Joe Castig wasn't really there, no proof on the Babe, and McInnis did not have the baseball authenticated to set up a college tuition fund for his kids. There was a distinct absence of formal celebration. The Great War was winding down, it was the Sox' third title in four years, and fans were angry about a players' strike that delayed Game 5.
Opportunities to win at home were scarce after that. The Sox didn't make it to another World Series until 1946, when they lost Game 7 in St. Louis. They had a chance to win in Fenway in 1967, but Jim Lonborg couldn't complete the miracle on just two days' rest. There was another close call in '75, but Darrell Johnson took Jim Willoughby out of Game 7 and the Sox lost to the Reds by a run. Nineteen eighty-six presented an opportunity when the Sox came back from Shea up, 2-0, against the Mets, but Boston dropped Games 3 and 4 at Fenway.
Three years ago, the Sox left Fenway for the final time after Curt Schilling beat the Cardinals in Bloody Sock II. That ball club (eight straight postseason wins) was simply too hot, and the Series never returned from St. Louis.
Which is where it stands today. The Sox need only two wins in three games at Coors to win their second World Series in four autumns. The "real" fans know better, but I'm betting some of you are hoping they lose a couple so they can finally win it at home.
Careful what you wish for.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.