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Fantasy series

What might have been had the Red Sox and Cubs met in Fall Classic?

Posted: Wednesday October 22, 2003 5:47PM; Updated: Wednesday October 22, 2003 6:13PM
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CHICAGO, October 22 -- As this 2003 World Series between Boston and Chicago moves to Wrigley Field, interest soars even higher. One top baseball official told me, confidentially: "The commissioner would never admit it, but can you just imagine what a disaster it would have been if the Yankees and Marlins were in the Series? The whole country has fallen head-over-heels in love with this business about curses and how the Red Sox and Cubs are such charming losers, and if Florida and New York had won -- yuck. Even in Florida nobody knows the Marlins exist, and the Yankees just stand for everything pompous and smug that mainstream America detests."

The television ratings for the first three games have been so high that last night, up against Game 3, NBC simply cancelled its whole primetime schedule and instead ran paid religious programming.

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Even Democrats were amused by President Bush's remark in Manila last week, which no one realized was being broadcast on Armed Forces Radio. He was speaking to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and, as we all know by now, the President said: "The way I figure it, Gloria, if either the Cubs or Red Sox can win the Series, then we can find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

The Chicago-Boston matchup has been the ultimate feel-good story for America, the best since the trapped miners in Somerset, Pa., got out alive. Oh, to be sure, there were some bad feelings when the Cubs had Bucky Dent sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame last night during the seventh-inning stretch, but since Boston won the contest behind a brilliant pitching performance by Pedro Martinez, all was forgiven.

The victory was especially satisfying for Boston manager Grady Little, who had been second-guessed for pulling Martinez in Game 7 of the Yankees series and then watched as the Red Sox bullpen gave up two runs. But Boston held on to win, and now here was a rested Pedro back in ace form.

For Chicago, the hero continues to be the mysterious beauty who rushed down the aisle in the sixth game of the NLCS, pushing fans away to allow Moises Alou to make a spectacular catch of a foul ball and save the Cubs' pennant-clinching victory. The Chicago Sun-Times has named the gorgeous mystery woman "Our Lady of the Popup," and the search to find her continues throughout the Windy City.

Even the mayors of Chicago and Boston came through. You just know if it was Miami and New York, the mayors of those cities would make those dopey bets with pastrami and cheesecake and stone crabs and key lime pie. But Richard Daley and Tom Menino came up with a new angle. The city that wins gets to send its curse to the other. If the Cubs win, Mayor Daley will FedEx a billy goat to Boston, ending the Cubs' Curse of the Billy Goat. If the Sox win, to end the Curse of the Bambino, Mayor Menino will UPS a babe to Chicago. The designated babe is a Boston stripper who dances under the name of Fenway Peek.

Yes, the Series that has absolutely captivated America continues with Game 4 tonight.

In other baseball news, the Yankees have sold third baseman Aaron Boone to the Tigers. Boone's fate was sealed when manager Joe Torre didn't even play him in the seventh game of the Red Sox series. "He's a nice kid, but he just can't hit in the clutch," disgruntled Yankees owner George Steinbrenner told reporters.

Sports Illustrated senior contributing writer Frank Deford is a regular contributor to SI.com and appears each Wednesday on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. He is a longtime correspondent for HBO's Real Sports and his new novel, An American Summer (Sourcebooks Trade), is available at bookstores everywhere.

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