After 86 years, Boston's Red Sox won the baseball World Series, even overcoming a curse in the process. VIJAYSREE VENKATRAMAN comments.
THE Red Sox, Boston's baseball team, were in the finals of the 2004 World Series after an extraordinary comeback in a seven game series with their traditional rivals the Yankees of New York.
A Red Sox-Yankee game has all the drama of an India-Pakistan cricket encounter. No team in the history of baseball has ever recovered after losing the first three games in a row. The Sox fans hardly dared to dream about a victory in the Finals.
The American national baseball championship (akin to India's Ranji trophy) becomes a World Series, only by extension. As private enterprises, ball clubs can acquire players from any country they choose. Pedro Martinez, the Sox's star pitcher is from the Dominican Republic.
The clubs can trade players and entire clubs can relocate to another city if they are offered substantial sops in the form of tax breaks or a new stadium. Strangely the fans remain fiercely loyal to their teams despite all the possible flux. To be a Red Sox fan apart from owning a T-shirt or cap that says "Yankees Suck!" one has to be truly stalwart.
Though the franchise has remained rooted in Boston, the Red Sox, who were "World Champions" five times from the inception of the series in 1903, have never won since 1918. After that fateful year, they made it to the finals only four times and they lost each time in a close contest.
Jubilation among the Red Sox team. Top: On the way to victory -- Mark Bellhorn hits a home run in the eighth innings.
Their rivals, the once lacklustre Yankees have won 22 titles in 33 final appearances, since. Local lore explained the Red Sox's inability to win with that short, woeful phrase "The Curse of the Bambino".
In 1920, the owner of the Red Sox club, Harry Frazee, sold one of his star players, Babe Ruth, known as "the Bambino", to the New York Yankees, a second-division team, to finance his Broadway shows.
There is, of course, nothing to suggest that Babe Ruth invoked divine retribution on his former team. The dramatic turnabout in the teams' fortunes after the sale was sheer coincidence.
When he retired, all Babe wanted to do was manage the Yankees. He did not get the job he coveted because the owners of the team, he served so well, regarded him as something of an overgrown child, who could not even manage his own affairs. So if he had had an option whom would Babe Ruth have cursed: the Yankees or the Red Sox?
Over the years, the curse has served as a blanket term for a variety of shortcomings and has been something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Generations of Sox fans have watched their team not make it despite its obvious talent, a predicament that followers of the Indian cricket team can empathise with. But such is the hold of this baleful legend; it has dictated the course of events for 86 years.
Emotions run high
On October 27, 2004, as the moon disappeared in a total lunar eclipse the fans watched the Red Sox play the Cardinals in St. Louis, with their hearts in their mouths. Another celestial drama unfolded as the Red Sox won this game to become World Champions once more.
"When Johnny Damon hit a lead off home run, I knew we had it, but it was nine tense innings before it ended. When it did, the bar exploded in cheers, but I sat there stunned. And then I started to cry," says Meghan Hourihan, a Red Sox fan and co-founder of Pyra, the company behind Blogger.
This intense feeling of disbelief and relief has been a typical reaction in New England. Finally there is no need for that phrase "wait until next year".
Boston Bala who blogs in Tamil says the Red Sox finally got their "saba vimochanam" (relief from the curse). This is something that fans thought would never happen in their lifetime. The script for "Fever Pitch", starring Drew Barrymore, is being rewritten to acknowledge this winning moment in celluloid.
That Saturday about five million showed up for the victory parade in Boston. Despite the overcast skies, their enthusiasm could not be dampened. Fans who had moved elsewhere flew in especially for the occasion. This is no ordinary victory a spell had to be broken in the process. There could be no raining on this parade.
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