How appropriate that New England's beloved Red Sox (beloved except for that western Connecticut part of the six colonies, contaminated by proximity to New York) should face the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The match-up harkens back to 1967 and The Impossible Dream team, which has much in common with the current Boston crew.
As in 1967, the Sox 2013 pennant was made more wonderful by its unexpectedness. In 1966, the Sox, continuing a record of losing, had finished the season 72-90, near the bottom of the American League. Expectations for 1967 were low.
Likewise, the 2012 Red Sox finished the season last in the American League East at 69-93. The hometown team had not lost as many as 90 games since, well, 1966. Many of their fans were unimpressed with off-season changes, though the addition of Manager John Farrell to replace the one-season disaster that was Bobby Valentine was widely applauded. Winning as many as they lost in 2013 was a lofty goal in the opinion of many baseball experts.
One of the wonderful things about baseball is how wrong it can make the experts look - as it did in the case of the 1967 and 2012 Red Sox, both of which confronted the legacy-rich Cardinals as their National League World Series opponent. Sox fans hope for a 2004 Series result - a four-game sweep of the Cardinals - rather than a 1967 outcome, when the red birds defeated the Sox in a classic seven-game series, the Cardinals' Bob Gibson tossing the win against fellow Sox ace, Jim Lonborg, pitching on only two days rest at Fenway Park.
While this current edition of the Red Sox has strong starting pitching; their trump card may be a reliever, Koji Uehara, who seemingly came out of nowhere to emerge as a lockdown closer. Boston is a team featuring a lineup of very good, but not great players, most with power. Their soul is designated hitter David Ortiz, aka Big Papi, whose penchant for the clutch, dramatic home run has spread through the squad like a contagion.
With beards and long hair, these Sox appear a cross between the House of David baseball teams of the early 20th century and modern-day playoff hockey teams. It makes them all the more endearing to their fans.
The Series starts Wednesday, prime time assuring late nights and sleepy workers. Play ball!
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