Ah, the post season. Maybe this one, in the long run, will mean more. Maybe this one will be different.
Because, you see, it’s always something with this club, something that, no matter the final score, has always taken the shine off a championship in ways no other team has ever faced. The end result is that Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in the major leagues, has never, never ever ever, been the site for a full-blown championship celebration.
Take 1903, when Boston won the first World Series. Hunky dory, right? Well… do the math. That one wasn’t played at Fenway Park, but at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, and even then only a few more than 7,000 people turned out for the finale as the crowds had come to the conclusion the who thing might have been rigged (and it looked like it might rain) so you can cross that one off.
Ok then, 1912, an eight-game victory over that other pesky New York team, the Giants. Except for the fact that Sox fans rioted on the field, a couple Sox players (at least) punched each other out, a game or two might have been fixed and that by the end of the Series Fenway Park was half-full and nobody in Boston gave a damn, it was great. Really.
But what about 1915 and 1916, those two glorious back to back championships under manager Bill “Rough” Carrigan? Well, they were satisfying enough, I guess. I mean, the Red Sox won, but unfortunately, they didn’t play an inning of either Series in Fenway Park. The 1915 Series ended in Philadelphia, and the 1916 Series in Braves Field, where the Sox also played home games in the 1915 Series. Why? Greed mostly. Braves Field was bigger than Fenway and besides, the temporary stands they built for the 1912 Series, responsible for giving Fenway Park the shape it has today, were already starting to fall apart.
That brings us to 1918, another (in)glorious year. You see, just before the Series the powers that be decided to screw the players out of some post-season dough. They almost went on strike and even though they didn’t, in the wake of WWI the crowd considered most of them slackers who dodged military service and once the Sox won the Series in a half-full Fenway Park. You could look it up.
Alright, but what about, what about … Hmm, when did they play in the World Series next? Oh yeah, in 1946 against the Cardinals. Ted Williams got hit on the elbow in a meaningless exhibition just before the Series and it swelled up, and then Pesky held the ball (except he didn’t, but nobody was paying attention) and… now I remember. The Cardinals won in seven, ending the Series in St. Louis.
The Sox almost made it back to the Fall Classic two years later, except for the fact that they fell in the infamous playoff game versus Cleveland when manager Joe McCarthy spun the scotch bottle (or something) and surprised everyone by picking Denny Galehouse to pitch (including Galehouse when he was told the night before).
With Ted and Doeer and Pesky and a host of other stars, everyone expected the Sox to make it back the Series for each of the next four or five years, but alas, DiMaggio and the Yankees generally thwarted that. Then came the long decline til 1967.
Ah, 1967. The Impossible Dream and still the best Fenway celebration ever as fans rushed the field when they clinched the pennant and Jim Lonborg was carried off on their shoulders, losing his shoestrings in the process (true story). Then everybody woke up and St. Louis took the Series.
The playoffs started a few years later and while eventually this would give the Sox more reason to dream – and keep interest in seasons otherwise lost -- the World Series remained a distant hope, til 1975, when it became just another excruciating loss punctuated by Fisk's meaningless, (in the end) home run.
Boston finally made it back there in 1986, playing the surrogate Yankees -- the Mets -- and the celebration got underway at Shea Stadium as the Sox won the Series in six games… er, check that. Stanley, Gedman, Buckner, Death, Pestilence, Disease, etc., etc., etc.
That just made 2004 even sweeter, right? And 2007 was just the cherry on top, wasn't it? Remember however, that both those victories also came elsewhere, in St. Louis in 2004 (when the Cardinals conveniently forgot to show up), and in Denver in 2007 against the storied Rockies.
Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. There is that pesky PED problem that we have since learned had wrapped itself fully around a certain dreadlocked No. 4 hitter, and kinda sorta grabbed No. 3 too, and may have caused a whole bunch of other guys to sort of slink away never to be seen or heard from again. I mean, wherefore art thou Mark Bellhorn?
Most Sox fans may be loath to admit it, but that stuff matters. Now, even though we know the testing program is a joke, there is at least the possibility of something approaching redemption, and, at last, a worthy and well-earned celebration in Fenway Park. Perhaps even one that sometime in the future will cause fans to look fondly back upon 2013… and wonder just what the hell the deal was with those beards, anyway?
Glenn Stout is Series Editor for The Best American Sports Writing, author of Fenway 1912 and edits longform journalism for SB Nation. For more see www.glennstout.net This story first appeared in Boston Baseball, October 2013. Details on the circumstances in 1912 are discussed in my book Fenway 1912. The circumstances in 1918 are discussed in detail in my book Red Sox Century.