I’m not young, but in the long arc of Red Sox fandom, some would argue I’m too young to have bona fide demons.
My family moved to New England in 1972, in time to endure three-plus decades of an 86-year World Series drought. I recall first-hand Luis Aparicio’s stumble around third base, Jim Rice’s broken hand and Joe Morgan’s Series-winning bloop, Bucky Dent’s anomalous three-run homer, Bill Buckner’s unfortunate fielding (Bob Stanley’s equally hair-brained pitching), Roger Clemens’ inability to beat the Bash Brother A’s, and fucking Aaron Boone.
But the Cardinals? Their wins over the Sox in 1967 and 1946 stand as disappointing but amorphous mileposts on a road travelled too long ago. Any Game 7 loss is gut-wrenching, for sure, and here were two of them — each closing the book on efforts to end long title droughts in their own right. But for me, they were just words on a page, disjointed snippets of film.
Even those New Englanders old enough to have experienced the ’67 Series were, it seems to me, happy enough to have simply won a pennant. Save an epic September collapse in 1949, the Sox had not seriously challenged for one in 29 years. Hard to bitch too much when simply contending is pre-emptively dubbed an Impossible Dream.
The 1946 loss to St. Louis is even harder to get worked up about. Yes, Ted Williams hit .200 and apparently Johnny Pesky’s botched relay allowed Enos Slaughter to score the Series-clinching run. At that stage, the Sox had not won a title, nor even played in a World Series, for 28 years. I’m sure it was plenty traumatic, but David Halberstam wrote a book about the epic Sox collapse in 1949, not 1946.
Boston’s World Series wins over the Cardinals in 2004 and now 2013 just don’t feel, to me, like any sort of cosmic payback.
But perhaps they should.
Here is something The Nation should work on: After three titles in 10 seasons, the danger is we might become jaded.
When a century happens to turn, the Sox apparently win like gangbusters. By 1918, they had won five titles and never lost a World Series.
By 2013, the Sox were, again, clearly ascendant: Three titles and The Curse of the Bambino summarily dispatched (actually, this Bambino thing was always a canard; god love him but the true curse kicked in when Ted Williams was born, in 1918, and petered out when he passed away, in 2002). Boston added yet another World Series in 2018.
Cardinal Hate seems to me a worthy emotional exercise. If we can’t muster the venom to keep score with St. Louis, over the course of decades, what sort of Red Sox fans are we really?
A sports grudge is never released. What, are we supposed to stop hating the Yankees now that they actually suck? Surely not. They had their century. This one’s ours. Come 2101, we’ll count championships over the next hundred years — that will decide things.
And I’ve got news for you: This Cardinals team has a veritable boatload of spectacular young pitching. Martinez, Rosenthal, Kelly, Wacha, Siegrest… Every time I turned around, they were trotting out another kid who throws 97 mph and appears settled beyond his years. The veteran Wainwright is a stud. Their closer from the 2011 World Series-winning team, Jason Motte, is scheduled to return from Tommy John surgery. Consider Edward Mujica, Motte’s replacement till Rosenthal beat him out in August: Mujica was an All-Star this year — and he didn’t get a sniff this series. With this sort of extraordinary pitching depth, the Cardinals can trade for, or simply sign, another bat or two. They will be back.
At which point we’ll sort this Best of 5.
Never forget. Never stop keeping score.