It's been two hours, and I still can't believe what I saw tonight.
The Red Sox won the Amercian League pennant and are going to the World Series.
They beat the Yankees in the decisive seventh game.
In Yankee Stadium.
After losing the first three games of the series.
This is like finding out the mixture you just concocted in the lab cures both cancer AND diabetes.
Shiver me timbers, the Bronx Bombers just walked the plank.
I am a lifelong baseball junkie. I know more about the game and its history than any normal person should. I remember when the Expos played in Jarry Park; that Charlie Finley tried to get the league to use orange baseballs; I can tell you the uniform numbers of Carmen Fanzone, George Mitterwald, Rudy Meoli and Steve Dillard in my sleep.
(#23, #15, and, in a trick question, the last two both wore #12, but alas, I am awake as I type this)
Simply put, what happened tonight was the finishing touch to the greatest accomplishment in the history of the game. If you go back to the end of game 3, when the Yankees won 19-8 to take a 3-0 lead in games and play the rest of the series from there 100 more times, the Yankees win the series every time. I bet the Red Sox don't even force a game seven once.
There is nothing more desperate or demoralizing in sports than falling behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series. No one has ever won a playoff series after falling behind that much in the NBA or major league baseball. Two teams in the NHL managed to do it, Toronto in 1941 and New York in 1975. In baseball, 25 previous teams had fallen behind 3-0 in a series. None of them managed to even get to a game seven.
Clearly, it's as impossible to come back from such a deficit as it is to hear President Bush admit that he has ever made a mistake. Almost.
I made my first trip to Boston in the fall of 2002. As I stood on the observation deck of the Prudential Buildiong and looked down at Fenway Park, I felt like I was looking at the Sistine Chapel. The following summer I went back and attended two games there. Boston is my favorite city in the US that I do not currently live in, and Fenway is my favorite baseball stadium not currently located on the north side of Chicago. By definition, the Red Sox are my second favorite baseball team behind, well, you get the idea.
They say that there is nothing harder than to be either a Red Sox or Cubs fan. They are wrong. Nothing is harder than being a Cubs fan. The Red Sox have a tradition of winning, at least until the make it to the World Series, and then truly bad things happen. But no one in New England really knows true suffering unless they have watched three decades of hope systematically implode in frighteningly strategic fashion, year upon wretched year.
It's actually almost ten decades, but thankfully I have not been alive that long.
There is envy, of course, in my heart tonight, but no jealousy. I do not want what the fans of Boston have tonight, not now. I can wait. I try to think of myself going through what a typical Red Sox fanatic has been through the last week or so but with a Chicago spin: the St. Louis Cardinals grab the first two games of a winner-goes-to-the-World-Series against the Cubs in St. Louis, then humiliate them at Wrigley Field in the third game to all but clinch a trip to the Fall Classic.
Game four finds the Cubs behind by a run in the ninth and the season just about done. But a normally unhittable pitcher gives up a tying run, and the game goes into extra innings, and doesn't end until after midnight. The Cubs manage to win, but it is still inevitable that they will lose as they still must win the next three games to advance.
Inevitable even still after winning another marathon the next night in the same fashion. It's not possible to win two games in a row in St. Louis when you were man handled there just three games ago.
But indeed they draw even in game six.
And game seven is never a contest. The Cubs comeback is complete.
Alas, I don't see this, because I died sometime before game five ended.
Or it never happened, because as the player was coming around to score the tying run in game four, someone accidentally dropped the pen that they were using to keep score with from the upper deck. It tumbled to the seats below, smacked a bald gentleman right on top of hid melon and redirected to the playing field, where it lodged squarely in the eye of the runner. In a fir of blinding rage, he missed home plate.
There is a fundamental rule to being a Chicago Cubs fan. We refer to it as "T.A.S"
"There's Always Something"
People in Boston will object to this and say that Chicago does nothold exclusive rights to this rule. I say, simply, "BAH." For every crushing moment of 1986 and 1975, there were enough moments of grandeur for Beantown.
You've been to the Series a lot since 1945. So what if you haven't actually won, getting there is the accomplishment. When balls roll through a 345 year old first baseman's legs, at least you can say it happened in the World Series.
Do you think most Red Sox fans will be distraught if either St. Louis or Houston (come on baby please!) defeat them for the World Series championship? Maybe, but somehow I think that if that happens, the main activity in Boston this winter will be watching the reply of tonight's final game against the Yankees.
I've got tapes here in Chicago. They're all blank. I keep them solely because I believe that soon, very soon, they will be full of things that will make me smile in the dead of winter, bringing me a warmth that no fire can compare.
It's going to happen.
See you next October.