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Anaheim they swept. No problem. But then came the Yanks. The hated Yanks. The smug, superior Evil Empire, to whom they fell behind three games to none, a deficit never overcome in baseball postseason history. Three outs from being swept. Another winter of mental anguish, along with more wallowing in pity and inferiority. The likely deconstruction of the team. Listening for the next six months to pent-up vitriol and bile from the sports-talk savants on AM radio....
And then to do what no team in baseball had ever done? To reverse the Curse? To twice inflict blown saves on the Yankees' Hall of Fame--bound closer Mariano Rivera, in Games 4 and 5? To ride the bat of Big Papi, David Ortiz, to extra-inning wins two nights in a row, comebacks that any other year would only have led to more pain? Then to return to the House That Ruth Built and climb on the back of the huge-hearted, bloody-hosed Schilling, who'd had a torn tendon flapping around in his right ankle until, in an unprecedented medical procedure, it had been intentionally stitched to its sheath? why not us? read the inscription on Schilling's T-shirt, which became the Olde Towne team's rallying cry. Why not us? Schilling won Game 6, 4-2.
Preposterous. All of it. Deliciously, wondrously preposterous. And once they'd extended the Yanks to a Game 7, the game the Red Sox always lost, this lovable band of misfits finally slew the dragon, shellacking New York 10-3 as the entire Big Apple watched in sickened, slack-jawed shock. Bite that, big George. How sweet.
The fear, of course, was that after such an emotional series, they'd let down against the Cardinals. But there were St. Louis ghosts in the attic, too: the Cards' Enos Slaughter scoring from first on a single to win Game 7 of the World Series against Boston in '46; Bob Gibson ending the Impossible Dream with a two-hit, 7-2 victory in Game 7 in '67.
Not this time. Not against this shaggy-haired, unshaven crew that never saw a helmet it wouldn't tar. Revenge was on the menu in '04. Exorcists. That's what they were. Ghostbusters laughing at the pressure and the goblins that had brought down so many Red Sox teams in the past.
"A real-life Arthurian quest," Red Sox owner John Henry had once called Boston's pursuit of a world championship. Well, this was the year Camelot was happily-ever-aftering in Fenway. Most shocking of all, we lived to see it. Thank God Almighty, we're free at last.
Senior writer E.M. Swift has lived in the Boston area for 23 years, and although he grew up as a fan of the Chicago White Sox, he long ago changed his hose affiliation. His favorite Red Sox player is Papi Ortiz.