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The New York Yankees may have won the most pennants and World Series in baseball history, but no team has taught us more about life and how to live it than the Boston Red Sox.
Let’s start with a few facts one needs to know, to know the truth of the above statement. In the early years of 20th Century the Red Sox won every one of the five World Series in which they played, four of those in the teens, the last in 1918, making them the dominant team in that era. In the early years of this century the Red Sox won every one of the four World Series in which they played, in 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018, making them the dominant team of this era. That is represented on my dresser by four Waterford Crystal etched baseballs made by that iconic company, gifted to me by my baseball loving wife, Lois. In the eighty-six years in between the last of those victories in 1918 and the win in 2004, the Sox suffered a drought which bid fair never to end, a drought often called “The Curse of the Bambino,” a reference to when the Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees to support their owner’s Broadway ambitions. Sure, the Red Sox offered lots of thrills, great players, four AL pennants, many disappointments, and NO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, in those many years, despite taking every one of the four World Series in which they competed in 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986 to the full seven games. I attended a game in the 1946 Series against the Cardinals which the Sox lost 12-3, a harbinger of their loss in the 7th game aided by the intrepid base-running of Enos Slaughter, and the continuation of Ted Williams’ Series long slump in which he batted a minuscule .200, with nary an extra base hit! Let’s take 1967, the year of the “Impossible Dream,” when Hall of Famer, Carl Yastrzemski’s incredible play won the pennant for his upstart team, and the triple crown and MVP for himself. Carl continued his heroics in the Series, but the team fell victim to the speed of Lou Brock and the power pitching of Bob Gibson who won three games. How about 1975 when Carlton Fisk slammed a walk off homer forever caught by the camera as Fisk willed it fair, to win the sixth game against Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine,” a game often cited as the best game in baseball history. This win made torturous the Sox loss of the seventh game on Joe Morgan’s bloop hit to short center field. Let us not forget 1978 in passing when Bucky “F——-g” Dent, as he has come to be known in these precincts, hit yet another blooper into the net atop the “Green Monster,” to do the Sox out of the AL pennant and the World Series. Or 1986 when Bill Buckner found a way to misplay a LIttle League ground ball to first into a Mets win and World Championship for them. Them, always them, for eighty-six long years, them!
Yes, I lived through a lot of this, from my first game with my Dad in 1935 onward. You can tell yourself that it’s only a game, that it has no real affect on my life. But you know what? We live every moment, whether we’re out there at the game, seeing it on television, or listening to it on the radio. During this podcast, Jordan Rich tells of not being able to sleep after the Buckner game. That is more typical than atypical. It shows how passionately millions of baseball fans are invested in their teams. As I’ve tried to show above, one might truly say Red Sox fans are greatly invested, perhaps the most invested, and certainly the most disappointed fans of all, a feeling lately repeating itself when they lost a playoff series against the Astros they should have won to reach the World Series.
So what does all that have to do with life? I believe that although baseball is not life, it simulates life in its ups and downs, its triumphs and defeats, so that if you are passionately invested in it, and FEEL those ups and downs as they unfold, sometimes often in any single game, it teaches you, mostly subliminally, to deal with life’s ups and downs, the good and bad, as your own life unfolds. One might say that the upside of the downside of baseball is that the true follower grows and becomes a better person. I FEEL that is true!
People, always people!