A celebration nearly a century in the making was unfolding at the old ballpark, a long-awaited moment generations of New Englanders had never been able to witness.
Turmoil to triumph. Worst to first. A clincher at Fenway Park.
David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox, baseball’s bearded wonders, capped their remarkable turnaround by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 on Wednesday night to win their third World Series in 10 seasons.
When it was over, Ortiz – the only member left from the 2004 World Series championship team – took a microphone on the field and addressed the city, just as he did a week after the marathon bombings last April.
“This is for you, Boston. You guys deserve it,” the Series MVP said. “We’ve been through a lot this year and this is for all of you and all those families who struggled.”
They were Boston Strong – playing for a city shaken by the tragedy.
“I don’t think we put Boston on our back. I think we jumped on their back,” Jonny Gomes said. “They wouldn’t let us quit.”
These Red Sox grew on fans.
Just like the long whiskers on the players’ faces, starting with Gomes’ scruffy spring training beard.
“As soon as we went to Fort Myers (Fla.), the movie’s already been written,” he said.
“All we had to do was press play, and this is what happened.”
All over New England, from Connecticut’s Housatonic River up to the Aroostook in Maine, Boston’s eighth championship can be remembered for the beard-yanking bonding.
Fans bid up the average ticket price to more than $1,000 on the resale market and some prime locations went for more than $10,000 each.
Nearly all the Red Sox rooters stood in place for 30 minutes after the final out to view the presentation of the trophy and MVP award. A few thousand remained when a beaming Ortiz came back on the field with his son 75 minutes after the final out.
“It’s so electric in here,” Napoli said.
The win capped an emotional season for the Red Sox, one heavy with the memory of the events that unfolded on Patriots Day, when three people were killed and more than 260 wounded in bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon. The Red Sox wore “Boston Strong” logos on their left sleeves, erected a large emblem on the Green Monster and moved the logo into the center-field grass as a constant reminder.
“It’s hard for me to put sports over a tragedy like that,” Lackey said, “but hopefully people that were affected by it can forget about it for a few hours at least.”
Red, white and blue fireworks fired over the ballpark as Commissioner Bud Selig presented the World Series trophy to Red Sox owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, leaving a haze over the field.
“When the fireworks went off at the presentation of the trophy out there, when the ballpark was filled with smoke, it was completely surreal,” Farrell said. “To be in this position, given where we’ve come from, reflecting back a year ago at this time, there’s been a lot that’s happened in 13 months.”
Among the players blamed for the indifferent culture at the end of the Francona years, Lackey took the mound two days shy of the second anniversary of his elbow surgery and got his first Series win since the 2002 clincher. He pitched shutout ball until Carlos Beltran’s RBI single in the seventh.
St. Louis had been seeking its second title in three seasons, but the Cardinals sputtered after arriving in Boston late Tuesday following a seven-hour flight delay caused by mechanical problems. Symbolic of the team’s struggles, reliever Trevor Rosenthal tripped while throwing a pitch to Ortiz in the eighth, balking Dustin Pedroia to second.
“They were some frustrated guys in there, but overall you can’t ask us to go about any better than how our guys did,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Not too many people expected us to do what we did.”
Boston was a 30-1 underdog to win the World Series last winter, but joined the 1991 Minnesota Twins as the only teams to win titles one season after finishing in last place. Now, the Red Sox will raise another championship flag before their home opener next season April 4 against Milwaukee.
Gomes was looking forward to Saturday’s parade.
“It’s time,” he said, “to queue the duck boats.”
NOTES: Boston also won the Series at Fenway Park in 1912. The Red Sox won the first World Series in 1903 at the Huntington Avenue Grounds and in 1916 at Braves Field. ... Ortiz’s Game 5 bat is going to the Hall of Fame along with Uehara’s Series spikes, Ross’ Series jacket and Farrell’s Game 6 jacket. Gomes’ Game 4 home-run bat arrived in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Wednesday.