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Boston's dynasty of disappointment ends

Posted: Thursday October 28, 2004 12:39AM; Updated: Thursday October 28, 2004 2:00AM
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  Pokey Reese and the Sox
Pokey Reese goes diving into the celebration pile.
AP

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Doug Mientkiewicz clutched the last out in his glove and his teammates raced out of the dugout for a pileup along the first-base line. It looked like every other October baseball celebration, except that the uniforms said Boston.

Not since 1918 had a Red Sox team frolicked in this way.

Gathered at the dugout railing, they watched Edgar Renteria bounce the last out back to the mound. Keith Foulke made the underhand toss to Doug Mientkiewicz and that was it: Boston had beaten the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 to clinch a World Series title nine decades in the making.

"I was thinking, 'Get it to first, and we're champions,"' Foulke said in the clubhouse, out of breath and drenched in champagne.

He did, and they are.

With a leap, Mientkiewicz ran toward home plate. Foulke jumped into catcher Jason Varitek's arms. Manny Ramirez went to the mound to don a World Series Champion hat, while a clubhouse assistant picked up Boston's game hats for posterity; Pedro Martinez's is going to the Hall of Fame, along with Curt Schilling's spikes and Ramirez's bat.

The crush of hugging players was so thick along the first-base line that shortstop Orlando Cabrera, with the Red Sox less than three months, had to take a running leap to smack his hand on the top of the pile. Cameras swarmed around them and flashed in the stands. One fan held up a sign that said, "Wait Till This Year."

"I bet the whole city of Boston is excited," said pitcher Tim Wakefield, the longest-tenured member of the team. "They've gotten to celebrate a lot of other world championships, but never the Red Sox. Now, we are proud to say we're world champions."

Mientkiewicz hugged his father and mother near the pitcher's mound, tears in all of their eyes. Dave Roberts' 4-year-old son gathered dirt from the mound and grass from the infield.

For two days, it was hard to separate the Red Sox fans interloping in Cardinal Country from the locals, both of them bathed in red. But afterward, when the St. Louis fans filed out to the exits, the Bostonians congregated behind the visitors' dugout.

Their obligatory derogatory chant about the Yankees gave way to encouraging ones for their own team, as if they've finally gotten over the inferiority complex. They were still there an hour later when Martinez took the World Series trophy for a victory lap.

"Eighty-six years is quite a struggle. And you can't ignore that," team president Larry Lucchino said, champagne dripping from his World Series Champion hat. "But we don't want to win a World Series championship once every 86 years. We'd like to come back and do it again soon."

The Red Sox had come close before, losing the Series in seven games in 1946, '67, '75 and '86. They were five outs from winning another pennant last year when everything fell apart in the home of the hated Yankees.

All week long, Red Sox officials were hearing from ex-players calling to wish the team luck.

"I'm happy for the fans in Boston," Schilling said. "I'm happy for Johnny Pesky, for Bill Buckner, for [Bob] Stanley and [Calvin] Schiraldi and all the great Red Sox players who can now be remembered for the great players that they were."

The celebration started when Derek Lowe came off the mound after seven innings of three-hit ball, and his teammates congratulated him. In the eighth, when Gabe Kapler pinch ran for Trot Nixon at second base, they exchanged a handshake that looked like it had been rehearsed for 86 years.

It was over.

The game, the Series, the wait.

Even the people in Boston knew it.

"The game is over and 1918 is gone forever. We're not going to have to hear about that again," Nixon said. "I'm sure the people back in Boston are so happy. I hope so."

They celebrated at the ballpark in the Fenway. They celebrated from Boston to the Berkshires, in all of New England and wherever Red Sox fans gathered. That guy who brought a Red Sox cap to the top of Mount Everest, hoping his prayer would release the team from its dynasty of disappointment, maybe he was right after all.

Before the game, manager Terry Francona was asked if he would want to save anything from the game that clinched Boston's first World Series in 86 years. His lineup card, perhaps, or maybe something from his Busch Stadium office.

"The thing I would cherish the most would just be watching the guys jump on the pile," Francona said. "That would do it for me."

When the time came, he lingered in the dugout for only a moment, hugged his coaches and joined the celebration.

"Being the world champion is by far the best. I didn't do this for any other reason," he said. "We can't reverse what was a long time ago.

"I'm sure there are a lot of people in New England that are dancing in the streets right now. For that, I'm thrilled. I can't wait to go back and join them."

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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