29
Oct
13

Special night at Fenway coming

I haven’t been this confident since … Ever.

Not when it comes to the Red Sox.

It has been a special season and I fully expect another special event come Wednesday night. It’s been that type of season.

Other than a couple mid-season blown saves by Messrs. Hanrahan and Bailey, this team has not let me down. I don’t expect any disappointments for Game 6 either. When a team bats .226 for an entire postseason and is one win away from winning the title, other forces are at work.

Three swings have changed everything since Boston’s bats developed holes when the ALCS began. David Ortiz and Shane Victorino combined for just five hits against the Tigers, but each had a game- and series-changing grand slam. That’s two swings. The third came from Jonny Gomes, whose career post-season batting average is now UP to .130. His three-run homer in Game 4 of the World Series was another key swing, both literally and figuratively.

Now for the moment fans have been waiting for all their lives. Even those who are approaching the big one-oh-oh.

Fenway Park turned 101 this year, and only two teams have celebrated a World Series title at the corner of Yawkey and Lansdowne. And only one other even had the chance to do so, and that was nearly 40 years ago.

The Sox won it all at Fenway in the park’s first season in 1912, when Smokey Joe Wood won three games (and lost another) in an eight-game series against Christy Mathewson and the New York Giants. A 6-6 game was called due to darkness after 11 innings and it was decided that Game 2 would be replayed in its entirety.

Since a Game 8 wasn’t originally planned, a coin flip determined that Boston would be the host. With Wood pitching in relief, the Sox won the deciding game 3-2.

Boston won the Series in 1915 and 1916, but the former was clinched away from home and the latter at Braves Field.

In ’18, Carl Mays shut down the Cubs on three hits and the Sox won the Series in six in front of just over 15,000 Fenway fans. The game was played on Sept. 11 (no October baseball – or Tim McCarver – back then), but there was one resemblance to this year’s team: Boston batted .186 for the Series.

Boston’s last Fenway World Series clincher happened when Mays retired Chicago’s Les Mann on a grounder to second baseman Dave Shean, an Arlington, Mass., native who played previously for the Boston Braves. Mann played 16 major league seasons and, reflective of the era, hit twice as many career triples (106) as homers (44).

The only other time the Sox had a chance to clinch the Series at home was in ’75. Everybody remembers Fisk and Game 6, but Boston was nine outs away from clinching at Fenway before Pete Rose’s two-out single in the seventh and Joe Morgan’s bloop to center in the ninth ruined those chances.

That’s it. Every other Series has either been clinched on the road (2004, 07) or was never clinched. In ’86, Games 6 and 7 were on the road. In ‘ 46, Game 7 was on the road. In ’67, Game 7 was on the road.

I realize that it’s only been six years since the Sox won it all, so we’re not exactly in new territory here. Or are we?

Since the turn of the millennium, the Boston sports fan has enjoyed a golden age when it comes to championships. All four major pro teams have won at least one title since early 2002, but only one – the Celtics’ triumph in 2008 – has come at home.

The Patriots won three Super Bowls at neutral sites and the Bruins ended their 39-year Stanley Cup drought in a different country.

This is huge.

The prospect of winning it all at home is supplemented by the chance of having it happen in walk-off fashion. Not sure I could handle the intensity of entering the bottom of the ninth either behind or tied, but what a scene it would be if some unlikely character (Stephen Drew and Quintin Berry come to mind) were able to start the confetti shower.

The most enjoyable part of this season has been the beards the Sox have sported – and tugged – proudly. Back in April, the team was understandably caught up in the Boston Strong theme. But before long, it became Vermont Strong or Run Strong. It wasn’t Boston’s anymore.

The beards sprouted naturally. It was if Bruins season never ended. Hockey is known for its playoff beards. Baseball, not so much.

Sure, Napoli’s beard is hideous. Same with Ross and Gomes. But the flowing follicles bonded the team into a bunch of Little Leaguers. Anyone could identify with them.

When I went to a Bruins game a few weeks ago, I saw a guy with a long beard. I nearly went over and tugged on it. But I imagine such an act would be painful. And it being a stranger, I didn’t know how he’d react.

So I refrained. But I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with that thought.

Now they all have beards, save for the manager and Koji, for the most part.

Most baseball fans want a Game 7 on Halloween night. (The prospect frightens me).

Not this Sox fan. It all ends Wednesday.

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