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History heals World Series wounds

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  October 26, 2013 10:14 AM

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20131024_194859_resized.jpgSOMEWHERE OVER THE EASTERN SEABOARD - This trip to the World Series was costly, probably more so for the Red Sox than me.

There's nothing to be gained here in either flaunting what was spent or soliciting sympathy for the cost to attend what turned out to the Red Sox first World Series loss since the Reagan Administration.

The Classic Falls of our youth - or the youth of your parents and grandparents - were a distant memory as this legitimate sellout jammed itself into Fenway Park on a chilly but comfortable Thursday night to listen to James Taylor, serenade Shane Victorino with Bob Marley lyrics and watch the Red Sox steamroll the Cardinals.

Whatever emotional comparison the Red Sox once had to our children died during Boston's baseball Nuclear Winter. The love turned to hate and, eventually, nothing. This year, the Red Sox are much more like an ex-wife or former girlfriend with whom you are falling in love with all over again.

And for fans, those World Series losses hurt a lot less than they once did.

We all know what happened on the field Thursday. Michael Wacha, who would not be born for four years following the Red Sox loss to the Mets in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, won it for St. Louis in 2013. The lanky, bearded, Texas-bred fireballer and a group of barely-old-enough-to-drink Cardinals relievers threw bird seed at the Red Sox all night.

That is how relevant history really is to those playing in these games.

Not very.

1382658151435_resized.jpgHistory does help immeasurably, however, when watching the Red Sox play for a world championship.

The first World Series loss is not the toughest, as those under 30 will soon realize if the Cardinals take three out of the next five. Each loss, if/when they come, gets progressively worse. The lone exception was 1986. Game 7, which occurred two days after Game 6 thanks to a rainout, was the emotional equivalent of euthanizing the cat after it had been run over twice by your neighbor's Buick.

Ask your grandparents or great-grandparents about Johnny Pesky holding the ball. My dad's lasting memory of the 1946 World Series was a chance meeting he had with Ted Williams after a game when he hitched a ride with his brother across the Massachusetts Avenue bridge into Cambridge.

When I met Ted Williams as a teen-aged boy at spring training in Winter Haven in 1979, I shared my dad's tale with him and asked Boston's Baseball Demi-God, the guy who went 39-0 against North Korea and the last major-leaguer to bat over .400, if he had remembered things in 1946 the same way my Dad did.

I was a wise-ass back then, too.

After signing my baseball right across the sweet spot [yes, I still have it] Williams turned to me with a squint and scowl, leaned into the blistering Central Florida sun and said: "If your father said it, then it's so."

I never remembered seeing my Dad smile so broadly before that moment or again until the day he died.

I was alive but too young to remember anything about 1967. My late mom once told me that she just went for a walk when it was over. I've taken similar walks with my son after Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.

The Boston Strong Globe Sox remain a lasting bond across generations, even without all the emotional baggage of the past. You might think I'm trying to suck up to the new boss by writing this. You're 22 percent correct.

My second World Series game at Fenway Park came 38 years and one day after my first. I watched Game 7 of the 1975 World Series in the bleachers with my mom 38 years and one day before John Henry completed his purchase of The Parent Company of This Blog.

So, I was here first.

20131026_093352_resized.jpgBleacher seats for that game were $4. I was 10. The highlight of the pre-game festivities was a fierce brawl that broke out about two rows behind us. Two men stood between the melee, and my mom and me. They vowed that neither one of us would get hurt. They instructed me to crouch underneath the seats "so that they'd just roll over me" if came to that.

That was once known as "chivalry." Today it's called "sexism."

The Red Sox lost that game 4-3 to the Big Red Machine. It included Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk, Yaz, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Pete Rose [who is a Hall of Famer as far as this space is concerned] and Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson. Jim Rice missed the playoffs that year thanks to the inaccuracy of Vern Ruhle.

The loss hit hard the next day. I stayed home from school and pretty much bawled my eyes out until lunchtime.

My grandstand ticket on Thursday was $200 [paid list price, family has season tickets]. You can do the math on my age. The highlights of Thursday's pre-game festivities were a tribute to first responders, the 2004 Red Sox throwing out the first pitch and James Taylor's rendition of the National Anthem. Taylor added a line to the "Star Spangled Banner" as he accidentally began singing "America The Beautiful."

If James Taylor wants to add a line to the National Anthem, he can add a line to the National Anthem. My wife traveled from "Stockbridge to Boston" hundreds of times over the years, eventually settling in Cambridge where we met one summer sometime during the Reagan Administration. Taylor is as Bay State as Steven Tyler, Matt Affelck or Ben Wahlberg.

Thursday, the Red Sox lost 4-2 to a Big Red Pitching Machine. The colors in the stands were much more vibrant than they were back in 1975. Nearly everyone wore some variation of Red Sox swag. I counted four Cardinals fans in our section. It was as if my memories from 1975 were set in hazy 25-inch color and the present was being displayed in 60-inch high-definition. They weren't "suits." They were more like the class of people who went from blue-collar to white-collar. Not "one-percenters," more like "21-percenters."

There were no sure-fire lock Hall of Famers playing in Game 2. David Ortiz and Carlos Beltran appear to have the best shot at Cooperstown, aside from Xander Bogaerts, who already has a plaque ready for his 2039 enshrinement.

It was a disappointing loss, and frustrating as hell to watch. Boston appeared headed for a starring role in "Fever Pitch II - Boston Strong - The Story of the 2013 Red Sox" after Ortiz's home run in the sixth.

Those plans were scrapped by the Cardinals.

In terms of emotional damage, baseball-inspired woe or overwrought lamentations, it packed all the wallop of Stephen Drew with runners in scoring position. Certainly, the youngest among us were surprised. But many of them were inoculated by the 2011 Patriots or 2013 Bruins. The rest have their elders to soothe them with the 2004 championship DVDs and hand-me-downs from 2007.

There were no cries of curses or generational damnation. No priests were summoned. No witch doctors were called. No one associated with the Red Sox bitched about Wacha having anything on the ball but Wacha.

Having seen a championship or two removes the edge from a World Series loss as much as any Red Sox Autumnal Crucible did for those of us in the last century.

After all, this is still only a game.

If anything, history has taught us that.

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Obnoxious Boston Fan offers a fun, unique and biting perspective on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and whatever else people are talking about in the world of sports. We More »
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