Baseball: Red Sox World Series win ensures Boston stays America's sports town
Success in the World Series adds to long list of sporting glory – from football to NBA to NHL
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Thursday 31 October 2013
"Boston strong" was the unofficial motto that helped a stunned city to regroup after the horror of the marathon bombs last April. In the delirious aftermath of another Red Sox World Series title, it conveyed another truth: that Boston is America's sports town as no other.
Tomorrow, the duck boats that usually ferry tourists around the city's sights will carry the Red Sox players on their victory parade, after the team dispatched the outgunned St Louis Cardinals by four games to two. These days though, the duck boat ritual is a tradition that has become a routine. Boston teams just can't stop winning.
This century, no US city has brought home as many championships – and no other has managed to do so in all four of the country's four major league sports. Between 2001 and 2005 the New England Patriots won three Super Bowls (and have since come within a whisker of two others). The Celtics carried off the NBA crown in 2008, and three years later the National Hockey League's Bruins brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston.
But nothing quite matches the transformation of the Red Sox. Their haunted fans spent most of the 20th century bemoaning the absence of a World Series title: the so-called "Curse of the Babe" that descended upon the city after the Sox won it all in 1918 – whereupon the team's owner sold its prize asset Babe Ruth to the detested New York Yankees, to finance a Broadway show.
In the last decade alone, however, the Red Sox have won three championships. The first two were sweeps completed on the road, of the Cardinals in 2004 and the Colorado Rockies in 2007. This time St Louis did better, bringing the Series back to Boston for a sixth game. But even before the first pitch was thrown, proceedings had an air of inevitability.
The team with home advantage in the decisive games invariably wins. The big difference now is that the Sox have secured baseball's crown in front of their own fans at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918 (when Ruth won two games as a pitcher in the 4-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.)
In 2013, almost a century later, the outcome proved the same. And once Boston had opened up a 6-0 lead after four innings, chasing St Louis' hitherto untouchable starter Michael Wacha from the game, even the Cardinals themselves – outpitched and outhit throughout – knew the jig was up.
Well before Sox closer Koji Uehara had snuffed out the last resistance with a perfect ninth, the Red Sox faithful were gathering on Boylston Street downtown, where six months earlier the Boston marathon had been wrecked by terrorist bombs. Thus did triumph heal a tragedy.
Inside Fenway, where pre-game mowers had carved a "Boston Strong" sign on the outfield grass, feelings were the same, as fans overran the field. "This is for you, Boston," David Ortiz, the Red Sox slugger who was named the Series' Most Valuable Player, told them. "We've been through a lot this year, and this is for all of you and all those families who struggled."
One person who did not struggle was Ortiz, sole survivor of the 2004 Sox and talisman of a team that went from last in the AL East in 2012 to champions the following year. During the Series he hit a virtually unheard of 11-for-16 (11 times he reached first base from 16 attempts), or .687. But these days, Boston is used to such sporting heroics. And with the football Patriots currently top of the AFC East, who's to say another title won't soon be coming the city's way?
Boston brilliance: Sporting success
The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2002, 2004 and 2005, while Bill Belichick's side also finishing runner-up in 2008 and 2012.
Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 to win the 2008 NBA finals, before losing to the same opponents, 4-3, two years later.
The Stanley Cup went the way of the Boston Bruins in 2011, defeating the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. Also lost to Chicago Blackhawks this year.
The Red Sox ended an 86-year wait for the World Series in 2004 before going on to claim the title again in 2007 and now 2013.
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