October 31, 2013
A Boston Strong World Championship
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
2004 was for the old folks. 2007 was for the now folks.
2013 was for Boston, plain and simple.
A championship could not have been any better timed than this 2013 World Series win by the Boston Red Sox. You had a team with a new manager and very low expectations, thanks to the collapse of the 2011 team and the stench of the 2012 team, which finished last in the AL East. Halfway through April, the Boston Marathon tragedy occurred, which shook Boston to its core and carved out a new image of David Ortiz. Six months later, Big Papi and his (expletive) city are now World Champions of MLB.
This will go down as one of the most favorite championships, and stories, in area history.
Most people are using the word "unexpected" to describe this World Series win by the Red Sox. This is how most people describe the first Patriots Super Bowl win, the 20-17 shocker in Super Bowl XXXVI over a St. Louis Rams team that was a two-touchdown favorite. The Patriots had never won a Super Bowl in their history, and the Rams were expected to steamroller over the Patriots.
But the Patriots, who at one point were 5-5, won their last nine games to claim the NFL championship and shock the world. To this day, this championship remains way up there on the "amazing" scale.
Has this Red Sox title eclipsed that first Patriot Super Bowl win?
Perhaps. But in the bigger picture, "amazing" isn't really an issue.
Instead, this title is more along the lines of "richly satisfying", "badge of honor" and "source of pride". This win is still amazing. But in the end, it is much more than that.
It was the first World Series won by the Red Sox at Fenway Park since 1918, and the third ever (the 1912 series was also won at Fenway). That's terrific historical sentiment, and it was wonderful to see the Commissioner's Trophy held aloft by John Farrell with the Green Monster in the background. Sentiment and Fenway Park go hand in hand, and they have for quite some time.
But the bigger story is the Boston Strong theme, and winning the title for those people who were injured in the bombings, for the families of the three people who lost their lives.
"B Strong" was emblazoned in the Fenway outfield. The patch the players wear is emblazoned out in left-center field on the Monster. While making his call of the final out, radio broadcaster Dave O'Brien emphatically used the words "Boston Strong!" as part of his call. Ortiz addressed the crowd after picking up his World Series MVP award, made fun of his April F-bomb, then sincerely dedicated his award to the victims of the Marathon bombing.
Though not to the degree of the horrific events of September 11th in New York, Boston was severely injured as a city when the bombs went off. One of the perps died, the other awaits trial and might be facing the death penalty. But the biggest element of the aftermath of the tragedy was how Boston would react as a city, and how everyone would move forward. President Obama praised Boston for being a strong and resilient city as the entire nation stood up and took notice.
The healing began with a ceremony at Fenway Park on Saturday, April 20. During a very moving pregame ceremony, prior to a game against Kansas City where the Red Sox wore jerseys that said "Boston", Ortiz took the mike and addressed the crowd. In a speech that lasted about a minute and a half, he began with "These jerseys that we wear today, it doesn't say Red Sox, it says Boston!" After thanking Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick and the Boston Police Department, he exclaimed "This is our (expletive) city! And nobody gonna take away our freedom! Stay strong!" The Fenway crowd roared in approval, and Ortiz never heard word one from NESN or the FCC for his use of colorful language.
Everyone agreed that Papi nailed it. But what nobody could have known at the time was that in addition to the emphatic speech giving the crowd the inspiration it needed, the Red Sox would give the crowd more inspiration over the next six months than they ever bargained for.
The Red Sox hung home and road jerseys in their dugout which said "Boston 617 Strong" on the back side. They wore "B Strong" patches on their sleeves. Galvanized further by the return of former pitching coach Farrell as manager, the Red Sox took off and became a winning team again.
They were either tied or in first place from the get-go until May 11th. At worst. they trailed the Yankees by three games on May 14. They regained a tie for the division lead on May 26th and never trailed by more than a half-game for the rest of the year.
The Bruins tried to inject some goodwill into the Boston community with a nifty Stanley Cup run. They looked to send the Finals to Game 7, but in Game 6 at the TD Garden they gave up two late goals to the Chicago Black Hawks, and the visitors skated off the Garden ice with the Stanley Cup. The Red Sox quickly regained the main focus of all of New England.
Later on in the summer, the Celtics and Patriots experienced tumultuous times. Doc Rivers forced his way out of town and got traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Soon after, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded to the Brooklyn Nets, signaling the end of the most recent run of Celtic prosperity. The arrest of Aaron Hernandez for murder more or less dominated the Boston area news scene, and the Red Sox maintained their division lead while staying under the radar while the Patriots were dealing with this unforeseen calamity.
Along the way, the Red Sox players found their 2013 identity. In 2003 it was the cowboys. In 2004 it was the idiots. In 2007 it was the riverdancers. Now, 2013 would feature the beards. Lots of them. Some players looking like they belonged to the rock band ZZ Top. There was talk of ZZ Top playing at Fenway like Neil Diamond or the Dropkick Murphys. Soon, beard tugging became the norm. A painful way for the Red Sox to bond, but bond they did.
The season turned on a six-game interleague road trip that would take them to two California cities where they usually play other teams. They went to San Francisco and took two of three from the Giants. Then they went down to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers. Carl Crawford wanted to kill the Sox in all three games, and Adrian Gonzalez refused to talk to the Boston media. The Sox went into Dodger Stadium and took two of three from Gonzalez and Crawford and crew. When the series was over, the Sox regained a one-game lead in the division and would hold the lead the rest of the way.
Unlike 2011, the Red Sox would not fade in September. They would go 16-9 and coast to a 97-65 record, winning the AL East and getting home field advantage throughout the postseason. They continued their winning ways into October, taking down the Tampa Bay Rays in four games in the ALDS, and winning the pennant in six games over the Detroit Tigers. The Sox dominated pitchers like David Price, Matt Moore, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, winning all five games they played against these guys. And in the World Series, they went 2-0 against Adam Wainwright and defeated the Cardinals in six games for the World Series championship.
At the moment of high triumph, all thoughts came back to Boston Strong. How the season began. How the city felt then, and how they feel now. All the victims of the bombings suddenly came back to everyone's consciousness. The feeling over the World Series win was no longer about "the first Fenway series win in 95 years", but instead about something far more meaningful and important.
Ortiz has become the symbol of the entire season. He began it with his famous speech, and ended it with a World Series MVP thanks to 11-for-16 hitting in the Series. He remains the most endearing member of the Red Sox. He doesn't have the longevity of Carl Yastrzemski or the numbers of Ted Williams. But he has something more important: the hearts of every member of Red Sox Nation.
In many ways, Big Papi embodies Boston Strong. It was a wonderful way for Boston to move on from the bombings. But it has also re-galvanized the area. This World Series win reinforces this feeling in a very solid and convincing manner.
The Patriots could overcome their injuries and personnel turnover and make it to the next Super Bowl, which will be played in cold weather for the first time. And New England will embrace it like all the others and re-proclaim their love for their favorite football team.
But nothing will be like this World Series win by the Red Sox. It was a Boston Strong win, and a wonderful night for this (expletive) great city.
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