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1 The Moon and the Stars
Finally, the planets were aligned. Truly.
A lunar eclipse, the first ever during a World Series game, gave the moon a bloody hue. And while the Boston ball club seemed to be comfortably leading in the fourth and final game of the World Series, Sox fans in Dunstable, Massachusetts, and White River Junction, Vermont, wandered out of their homes to take a peek at the big red ball in the black sky.
Finally, the Boston uniforms were not too heavy. Larger forces ran the base paths with the Olde Towne Team. The Red Sox were going to win the World Series. It had only been eighty-six years.
Eighteens and eighty-sixes were all over the place. It was Wednesday, October 27, 2004, the eighteenth anniversary of the last time the Red Sox lost a World Series in a seventh game. It was also the eighty- sixth anniversary of the last time the Sox won a World Series, when they beat the Cubs in six games in 1918 with the help of a stout left-handed pitcher named Babe Ruth. Now, eighteen years after the ’86 Series and eighty-six years after winning in ’18, the Sox were going to eighty-six the Curse of the Bambino. And a giant full moon was bleeding red as it rose in the sky above Presque Isle, Maine, and North Conway, New Hampshire.
More than a thousand miles to the southwest, where the Sox were writing history, the scarlet moon was hidden by a cloud cover over Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Sox were far from home but never alone, and the voices of the Nation could be heard in the National League park as the Bostons took their 3–0 lead into the late innings of Game 4. The game had been decided on the fourth pitch, when Johnny Damon, the Jesus action figure who played center field for the Sox, led off the night with a home run over the right field fence. Trot Nixon added two more runs with a bases- loaded double in the third, and pitchers Derek Lowe, Bronson Arroyo, Alan Embree, and closer Keith Foulke were nailing down Boston’s fourth consecutive win against the overwhelmed Cardinals. In the end, the poor Redbirds, who had defeated the Sox in the 1946 and 1967 World Series, were mere props in the runaway Red Sox story of 2004.
As the inevitable and wonderful final out neared, folks were still cynical in Great Falls, Rhode Island, and Putnam, Connecticut, and any other place where Sox fans were gathered. They’d been duped before by Boston teams who seemed to have it sewed up, only to compound decades of misery with yet another colossal fold. But this time it truly seemed different. This time the Sox were going to finish the job. After all, they’d already passed the toughest test of all. They had done what no team in the history of baseball had ever done—they had won four straight games after losing the first three games of a seven-game series. And they had done it against the hated New York Yankees, the bane of Boston’s baseball existence since 1920, when Ruth was shipped to the Big Apple for one hundred thousand pieces of silver. The Sox and their fans had been paying a price ever since. Some called it the Curse of the Bambino. This was the night it was all going to end.
In Marshfield, Massachusetts, Paul and Marilee Comerford woke up their young daughters and put them in front of the television so they would always be able to say that they witnessed the event. It was the same scene in Medford, where Hank Morse roused eight-year-old Abbey with one out in the ninth. This was history, and Hank had to hold her small face in his giant hands so that the little girl’s sleepy head wouldn’t drop while Foulke wound up for each pitch.
Vacationing in Ireland, Steve and Karin Sheppard of Nantucket prepared a second wedding. They’d married in April of 1986 and concluded their wedding vows with “Till death do us part, or until the Red Sox win the World Series.” The full moon had dropped from the sky in Iraq. It was already Thursday morning in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit when Captain Mike Tilton of Laconia, New Hampshire, sat in a morale welfare center watching the game on television with about forty-five other soldiers, all Red Sox fans, most from New England. All members of the First Infantry Division, they had gathered in the dark at 4 a.m. to watch Game 4. It connected them with home.
It was almost dawn in Spain, where Harvard softball player Pilar Adams and dozens of other American students gathered in a bar in Seville. A well-known local matador was buying drinks for the young Americans every time the Red Sox rallied, and when victory seemed assured, a couple of students from New Hampshire and central Massachusetts made plans to swim naked across the Guadalquivir River. They would have time. Classes didn’t start until 8 a.m., aand the Sox were playing more quickly than usual.
At 11:40, just twenty minutes before midnight back in Boston, with one on and two out, Caaaaardinal shortstop Edgar Renteria hit a hard one- hopper straight back to the pitcher’s mound. The ball seemed headed for center field, which would have raised anxiety levels throughout the Nation (tying run at the plate? Here we go again!). However, Foulke, who had been purchased in the previous off-season for exactly this kind of moment, leaped and gloved the ball over his head. He took seven or eight steps toward first— was he going to run all the way over there and make us wait even longer?— then underhanded a short toss to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, and the Red Sox were World Series Champions.
Finally. The seemingly interminable wait was finally over. The Curse had been reversed.
Catcher Jason Varitek jumped into the arms of Foulke—that would be the cover shot on Time magazine the week the leader of the free world was reelected. Mientkiewicz joined the happy huddle, followed by Arroyo, who had come out of the dugout. Then more teammates streamed from the bench, the bullpen, and their positions on the field. It was a giant pile of happiness and hair. Overcome, catcher-leader Varitek collapsed facedown on the infield grass while his teammates hugged and hopped around him. Within minutes, close to five thousand Red Sox road-trippers were congregated around the third base dugout, chanting “Let’s Go, Red Sox!” while the players doused one another with Mount Pleasant, 2003 Brut Imperial (green bottles with orange labels). Around the globe, bottles were uncorked, church bells pealed, and car horns honked.
And in the small New England towns where the October skies are blackest, the crimson moon shone brightest. If you looked at it long enough, and maybe had some Brut Imperial coursing through your veins, the smiling image of Babe Ruth started to appear on the full face of the scarlet sphere— like a Bambino version of Jackie Gleason’s fat face on The Honeymooners.
How sweet it was. New England’s midnight moon dance, beneath the cover of October skies.
Red Sox fans needed no more signs. The man in the moon was Babe Ruth.
The 2004 Red Sox were the Laughing Gashouse Gang, a band of rogues who let their hair down, drove motorcycles, drank shots of Jack Daniel’s before games, wore their shirts untucked, and smeared pine tar all over their helmets. They grew beards, shaved their heads, and braided their hair into blond cornrows. Pedro Martinez looked like he had black broccoli under his hat, and Manny Ramirez’s barbershop explosion could not be contained by any cap or batting helmet. They were raggedy men who proudly called themselves “idiots,” but when it mattered most, they did two things no team had ever done: They did not merely lift the Curse of the Bambino, they demolished the eighty-six- year-old pox on the House of F
|1||The Moon and the Stars||1|
|2||Damn Yankees Again||14|
|4||Spring Break for Young Theo||51|
|5||Pieces of April||78|
|6||Pedro and Johnny||103|
|8||No, No, Nomar||135|
|9||Light in August||152|
|10||Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves||161|
|12||When the Yankees Really Did Suck||186|
|14||No More Curse||212|
Posted June 10, 2014
Posted June 23, 2012