by Thomas Hochman
Three days before my seventh birthday, my parents woke me up at midnight to watch the bottom of the ninth inning. It was game 4 of the 2007 World Series, and I had fallen asleep in my Dustin Pedroia jersey.
The box TV was incredibly grainy – my family had basically sworn off television for the first ten years of my life – so we weren’t so much watching the game as listening to the voices of Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo over the speakers. It didn’t matter.
By then, the 86 years of winless-ness that had once defined Red Sox Nation still hadn’t faded completely into folklore, and there was a feeling of disbelief that we could actually be here again, right on the verge of winning it all.
My Mom and Dad sat to my left and right – both victims of Bill Lee’s 1975 blooper pitch, Billy freaking Buckner and the 1986 Red Sox, and more humiliating defeats than any of us would like to admit to the interminably hateable New York Yankees. Those memories still cut deep after Boston broke the curse in 2004, but by 12:15 on the morning of October 29th, Papelbon had struck out Seth Smith, and the Red Sox were champions again.
After 2007, the Sox had put their reputation as the endlessly unlucky underdogs firmly in the rearview mirror. But while their fortunes had changed, their position as Boston’s godhead never faltered.
There are a few events in every person’s life so powerful that they’ll never forget where they were when they heard the news. For my parents, and even my brother, that was 9/11. I was only 10 months old.
But I’ll always remember what it felt like on April 15, 2013, when I sat in our little Amsterdam apartment reading the headline: Two Bombs Detonated Near the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon.
My aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents had all run the race – we had gone to watch it every year together before we moved away, and most of them still went. At that moment, I couldn’t have felt further away.
Boston, of course, was shaken. Even after the manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers concluded four days later, people were scared.
So the city turned to the one institution that it’s always turned to, in good times and bad: The Boston Red Sox.
The Sox had been awful the year before, finishing last place in the AL East while the Yankees won the division. In the offseason, Boston pretty much cleaned house, firing manager Bobby Valentine and putting together a wildly different team than the year before. Expectations for 2013 were not very high.
But on April 20, the Sox played their first game after the attack under tight security, and trailing 2-1 to the Royals in the bottom of the eighth, Daniel Nava crushed a three run home run to right field. Don Orsillo was calling the game, of course, and in some strange mix of grief and elation, he shouted: “Boston, this is for YOU!”
The city breathed a sigh of relief.
My aunt, uncle, and cousins happened to have tickets to the game, and they told me that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
For the rest of the season, Boston clung to the Red Sox, and for the rest of the season, the Red Sox delivered.
Boston went on to win the World Series that year, and I often wonder if the attack irreversibly altered the course of their season.
And so the city and its most beloved team continued to be inextricably linked in a way that is often hard to describe to those looking from the outside in. That will never change.
But this year, there was no tragedy. No 86 year curse to be broken. The Red Sox were just consistently, and undeniably, the best team in baseball.
It started with first year manager Alex Cora, who only took the job on the grounds that the Red Sox would send a plane full of relief supplies to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. It started with the Yankees winning the battle for 2017 MVP Giancarlo Stanton, and the Sox picking up JD Martinez instead. Martinez hit 43 home runs on the season; Stanton struck out with the bases loaded against Boston in the bottom of the ninth inning to effectively send the Yankees crashing out of the playoffs. It started with the Blue Jays paying the Sox to pick up Steve Pearce, who hit three home runs in the last two games of the World Series to win series MVP.
It ended with the Sox going 11-3 in the playoffs, dismantling two 100-win teams in the defending champs Houston Astros and the rival New York Yankees. It ended with another ring.
And the redemption stories along the way made the ending all the more phenomenal.
David Price, who had been lambasted year in and year out for his postseason failures, beat two Cy Young award winners and kept a 1.42 ERA to clinch both the ALCS and the World Series in his final three starts. His post-championship press conference, where he basically tells the media to go shove it, is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Go look it up.
J.D. Martinez, whose dreams were momentarily crushed when the Astros released him in 2014, hit a ball approximately 100 billion miles in his first at bat against his former team in game 1 of the ALCS to give the Sox the lead.
The Yankees’ Aaron Judge played Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” outside of the Sox clubhouse after the Yankees won game 2 of the ALDS. The Sox won the next game 16-1, with Brock Holt hitting for the first cycle in postseason history.
But in the end, it really came down to the Red Sox being better. The best, actually, in franchise history, with 119 wins on the season. And although it seemed like a preconceived notion by the time the first game of the World Series kicked off a week ago, we finally get to say that the Boston Red Sox are the 2018 World Series Champions.
Til’ next year.