SI Vault
 
SPORTSMEN OF THE YEAR
TOM VERDUCCI
December 06, 2004
The 2004 Boston Red Sox staged the most improbable comeback in baseball history and liberated their long-suffering nation of fans
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 06, 2004

Sportsmen Of The Year

The 2004 Boston Red Sox staged the most improbable comeback in baseball history and liberated their long-suffering nation of fans

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Such pilgrimages to the deceased, common after the Red Sox conquered the Yankees in the ALCS, were repeated throughout the graveyards of New England. The totems changed, but the sentiments remained the same. At Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, for instance, gravestones were decorated with Red Sox pennants, hats, jerseys, baseballs, license plates and a hand-painted pumpkin.

So widespread was the remembrance of the deceased that several people, including Neil Van Zile Jr. of Westmoreland, N.H., beseeched the ball club to issue a permanent, weatherproof official Red Sox grave marker for dearly departed fans, similar to the metal markers the federal government provides for veterans. (Team president Lucchino says he's going to look into it, though Major League Baseball Properties would have to license it.) Van Zile's mother, Helen, a Sox fan who kept score during games and took her son to Game 2 of the 1967 World Series, died in 1995 at 72.

"There are thousands of people who would want it," Van Zile says. "My mom didn't get to see it. There isn't anything else I can do for her."

One day last year Van Zile was walking through a cemetery in Chesterfield, N.H., when the inscription on a grave stopped him.Blouin was the family name chiseled into the marble. Beneath that it said Napoleon A. 1926-1986. At the bottom, nearest to the ground, was the kicker of a lifetime.

Darn those Red Sox.

Dear Red Sox:

Thanks for the motivation.

--Josue Rodas, marine, 6th Motor Transport Company, Iraq

Like snowflakes in a blizzard came the e-mails. More than 10,000 of them flew into the Red Sox' server in the first 10 days after Boston won the World Series. No two exactly alike. They came from New England, but they also came from Japan, Italy, Pakistan and at least 11 other countries. The New England town hall of the 21st century was electronic.

There were thank-you letters. There were love letters. The letters were worded as if they were written to family members, and indeed the Red Sox were, in their own unkempt, scruffy, irreverent way, a likable, familial bunch. How could the faithful not love a band of characters self-deprecatingly self-dubbed the "idiots"?

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16