I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was August of 2004. Fresh off the controversial Nomar trade (or the Dave Roberts trade, if you prefer) the Red Sox we’re grinding through another summer as a fan base full of helpless saps who hoped that somehow, someway, this would be the year that was actually different.
A Time Warner Cable repairman was at my house fixing our internet service when he saw a framed, panoramic picture of Fenway Park. He scoffed and snickered, as Yankee fans were fond of doing before the 2004 ALCS damaged their arrogance in a historical way, and said “I love knowing that no matter how long I live, no matter how long my son lives, the Red Sox will never have more World Series titles than the Yankees.”
(Side note: Boston has three titles to the Yankees one since he ran his mouth. So, if you happen to read this, repair boy, please keep talking!)
After I fought off the urge to verbally or physically assault him, I finally said, “Oh you don’t get it. I only want one. I just need to see them win it all once, and then I’ll be happy. I don’t care about 26. I want one.” That proved to be true, for a while. After the improbable, unforgettable events of October 2004, we finally had our one. It was perfect. Not only did the Red Sox finally win a title and end a drought that was a few generations long, we went through the Yankees to do it. Not only did we go through the Yankees, we dropped a historic comeback on them, the likes of which had never been seen before and hasn’t been seen since. We didn’t just defeat them, we demeaned them. It was everything we could have ever asked for, and then some. For the first time in my life, I felt content about baseball and my beloved team.
2005 and 2006 came and went and without the team getting too close to another championship, and I continued to feel remarkably content.
Then the dominant 2007 team arrived on the scene. Down three games to one to the Cleveland Indians, I found myself in a place that I never thought I would be again. Winning the World Series three years earlier made this feel like it wasn’t life or death anymore, but at the same time I just wanted one more. I didn’t want to get greedy, I resented that Yankee fans assumed that regular and frequent championships were a birthright. Certainly after 86 years of waiting, it was much too much to ask to see two in the span of four seasons.
It brought some more contentment, and that helped me weather the storm of losing to the Rays in the 2008 ALCS. The 2009 and 2010 seasons feel remarkably uneventful in hindsight. Unfortunately though, the 2011 and 2012 experiences both still feel catastrophic, even as the time has passed.
Five seasons removed from our last title, including one brutal collapse, one 69-win season, and one year of the Bobby Valentine experience, I came into 2013 really aching for one more championship. Personally, I didn’t believe that this would be the team to do it, but I thought that we were at least heading back in that direction.
In February I predicted that, “John Farrell will put an immediate end to the circus atmosphere that Valentine embodied, and this team will be significantly more likable and fun to watch than what we endured last season.” So, we could say that I nailed my Red Sox related predictions, but I also said they would go 85-77, finish third behind the Rays and Blue Jays, and fall just short of one of the Wild Card spots. That was by most accounts, a very optimistic prediction.
As the season started, I tried to proceed with cautious optimism. Certainly this team had a different look and feel than last season, that was immediately obvious and undeniable. The starting pitching looked to have rebounded, but at the same time the bullpen health had become a major issue. I did my best to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
All the while the Red Sox churned along like a team of destiny, plowing forward towards a title like a runaway train, moving along from inconceivable to improbable to possible to likely.
As the season moved on, I started to believe that “one more” might actually happen again this year. I remembered my conversation with an obnoxious repairman, and how I swore that I would only ever ask for one title, and I realized that what I really meant is that I would only ever want one more.
When Boston lost game one to Detroit and then went down by five runs in game two, I tried to tell myself “Come on, this was a 69 win team last year. You won the division and beat the Rays. You’re playing with house money at this point.” But, I knew that I had seen the same “never say die, refuse to quit” fight in this team that I had witnessed in 2004. Before I could even convince myself that an ALCS loss would be an honorable ending to a great run, David Ortiz showed me that he too, would not be content unless he got one more.
So here I sit, in the early hours of Thursday, October 31, 2013 watching grown men, whom I love, spraying champaign on each other like little boys with squirt guns. It’s a scene that hasn’t grown old in the last ten seasons, and something that never could. With every title the stories are different. This team was an incredibly likable and fun group that really seemed to genuinely care about playing for their hurting city. This was a team who set out to prove that last year was a fluke and that they could fix it. They refused to quit, whether they trailed in a game or in a series, they never looked like they didn’t believe that sooner or later, they were going to prevail. They were right.
As we reflect back over the years, this team will bring to mind words like miraculous, memorable, and magical. They played hard from April through October. They really seemed to love each other, and to love playing for their manager. Players went out of their way to praise John Farrell at every possible opportunity.
I will think of John Lackey tipping his cap to an unbelievable Fenway ovation. One that he had to wonder if he would ever have. I will think of Koji Uehara, and the way he dominated the end of baseball games in a way few others have done, ever. I will think of the love that we have for Dustin Pedroia and everything he does. Few players and fan bases have ever been a better match for each other. I will think of the way that David Ortiz just played an entire World Series looking like he had turned the competition level down to “Beginner.” I will think of the way that Jon Lester was everything an ace could ever hope to be in October.
All I want to think about is this year. It was immeasurably more than anything that we could have asked for or imagined. It was picturesque, it was perfect. A feeling of pure baseball contentment has washed over me like a wave crashing down. This is what makes all of the seasons that don’t end in champagne and celebrations worth it. Would I suffer through another Aaron Boone home run to get to experience what we did in 2004, 2007, and 2013? Absolutely. I’d make it through ten of them, if it meant that we get to experience this one more time.
I know that I will feel content for quite a while. We’ve just had a once in a lifetime ride. We can’t forget that, and we should not take that for granted. We spent decades wondering if we would ever see the Red Sox win a World Series, and now we’ve seen three! But inevitably, I know that sooner or later I will be sitting here again, hoping, wishing, and praying for just one more.
Thanks for giving us one more this year guys, we will truly never forget it.