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Boston Red Sox


The Boston Red Sox has its roots in Toledo, Ohio.  The Toledo team was a minor league team playing in the Ban Johnson-led Western league.  The team moved to Boston in 1900 when the Western League became the American League.  The current team name, Red Sox was adopted in 1907 by owner John Taylor, and is based on an obsolete form of the plural socks.  The team plays in fabled Fenway Park, famous for its left field wall – dubbed the Green Monster, which was opened in 1912, and is currently the oldest ballpark used in the Major Leagues. 

During the early 20th century, the Red Sox were a dominant team in the American League.  They won the very First World Series in 1903 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and in the following decade, the club won four World Series in a six-year span.  Those teams boasted one of the best outfields the game had ever seen - Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper and Duffy Lewis. 

The team won its last World Series in 1918, who was led by a young pitching ace named Babe Ruth.  The following year, when Boston did not make it back to the World Series, Boston’s new owner would sell Ruth to the New York Yankees.  This move would forever haunt the franchise, as Ruth would develop into a legendary hitter, and arguably the greatest baseball player ever.  The Yankees would go on to win an astounding 26 World Series since the trade, while Boston would not win any, and would make a World Series appearance just 4 times.  This is the premise for the famous Curse of the Bambino (Babe Ruth’s nickname), which is an explanation for the failure of the Boston Red Sox baseball team to win the World Series in the eight decades since they sold Babe Ruth, much to the delight of Yankee fans, and chagrin of Red Sox fans. 

In 1933, a wealthy, shy young man named Tom Yawkey bought the Red Sox, and began pumping money into the team.  He would be the beloved owner of the Red Sox until his death. 

In 1939, the Boston Red Sox would sign Ted Williams to a contract, marking the beginning of a fruitful relationship.  Ted ’The Splendid Splinter’ Williams was one of the greatest hitters to play the game.  He devotion to hitting is such that it would be the main topic of any of his discussion.  With his picture-perfect swing, he became the last man in the Major Leagues to bat over a .400 average in 1941.  He would lead the Red Sox to one World Series in 1946 against the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Cards shifted their defense whenever Williams batted, which worked extremely effective.  The Cards would win the World Series in 7 games. 

The 1950’s were a write-off for the Red Sox.  The post-season play marked this decade.  They were also noted as being stubborn in not signing a black player.  They became the last Major League team to sign a black player, finally doing so in 1959 (Pumpsie Green).  Even hockey’s Boston Bruins integrated before the Red Sox when they promoted Willie O’Ree in 1958. 

The 1960s ushered in another great Red Sox player, Carl ’Yaz’ Yastrzemski, who would be one of the best hitters during this pitching-dominated baseball period.  Red Sox fans remember 1967 as the Year of the Impossible Dream.  Despite finishing the preceding year in an atrocious ninth place, Yaz had a spectacular year, winning the very rare Triple Crown – led the League in Home Runs, Runs Batted In, and Batting Average.  This would be the last time the Triple Crown was achieved.  The 1967 season is remembered as one of the great pennant races in baseball history since four teams (Boston, Baltimore, Minnesota, and Detroit) were in a position to win the American League Pennant.  In one of the greatest displays of hitting down the stretch of the pennant race, Yaz led the Red Sox into the World Series, narrowly beating out Minnesota and Detroit.  However in the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals would again beat out the Red Sox in seven games.       

It would be more eight more years before Boston won another American League Pennant.  The 1975 Red Sox team featured an aging Yaz surrounded by a bevy of talented players - Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Carlton Fisk, and pitchers Luis Tiant and the eccentric junkballer Bill Lee.  The Red Sox would face off against the powerful Cincinnati Reds, who were nicknamed the Big Red Machine, and featured stars like Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, and Johnnie Bench.  Game 6 of the World Series produced one of the most embedded moments in baseball history.  In extra-innings, Carlton Fisk smacked a ball towards the right field foul pole.  He is remembered as waving his arms, almost mentally willing the ball to stay fair.  It did, and the Red Sox won the game as fans stormed the field.  Hardly anyone remembers the following game when the Reds soundly beat the Red Sox to win the World Series.

Boston would field competitive teams in the 1980s and their most memorable player would be a pitcher who could throw fire.  His name was Roger Clemens.  In 1986, behind the strength of Clemen’s strong season – he won the MVP – a rare accomplishment for a pitcher, the Red Sox won the American League Pennant to make it to the World Series to face the New York Mets.  Game 6 of the World Series saw the lowest point in Red Sox History.  On the verge of finally winning the World Series, the Red Sox were up 3 games to 2, and were one strike away from victory, before a stunning series of events took place.  This included first baseman Bill Buckner having the winning run score on a ball hit right to him, which he let go through his legs.  Buckner endured years of taunts and harassment as a result of the error, and eventually was given so much grief in Boston that he moved his family to Idaho.   

In 2002, the Red Sox was purchased by consortium led by John Henry.  The new owners invested heavily in the Red Sox so they could challenge the New York Yankees, who were the perennial American League Pennant Winners.  In the 2003 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, the Red Sox were leading 5-2 in the 8th inning in the decisive Game 7.  Starting pitcher, Pedro Martinez who was showing signs of tiring was left in the game by manager, Grady Little.  However, Martinez allowed three runs to tie the game, and the Red Sox lost the game 6-5 in 11 innings, on a home run by Yankee third baseman Aaron Boone.  Many Red Sox fans blamed the loss on their manager, Grady Little, for not removing Martinez after seven strong innings, when he began to show signs of tiring. Most Red Sox fans and columnists believe that this decision by Little led to his firing the following offseason.

In 2004, the Red Sox and Yankees met again for another intense battle for the American League Pennant in the League Championship series.  The Yankees won the first three games putting them in great shape to eliminate the Red Sox and get back to the World Series.  However, the Red Sox engineered the greatest comeback in baseball history, by winning the next four games and advancing to the World Series to face the St. Louis Cardinals.  

The Curse of the Bambino

Babe Ruth was the young talented pitcher that anchored the Boston Red Sox’s pitching staff from 1914-1920.  During this time the Boston Red Sox had won five World Series (1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918).  When Boston owner Harry Frazee, who purchased the team in 1919, could not agree to a new contract with Ruth, he shipped him off to the New York Yankees prior to the 1920 season for $100,000.  There was always tension between Frazee and Ruth besides the contract dispute.  Ruth wanted to focus on hitting more – he hit 29 home runs in 1919, more than any other team that year, but Frazee would not allow it.  When Ruth came to New York, the Yankees were a fledgling franchise and had not even made it to the postseason during their history.  That was all about to change. 

With the addition of Ruth, the Yankees won 6 American League Pennants and 3 World Series, while the Red Sox stalled with success.  Since the trade, the Yankees have gone on to capture an astounding 39 American League Pennants and 26 World Series while the Red Sox have won 5 American League Pennants and 0 World Series. 

This phrase, used to describe the lack of Red Sox success was first coined by Boston Globe writer, Dan Shaughnessy, as the title of a 1990 Red Sox team history.  While most serious baseball fans consider the Curse to be a lot of nonsense, many Red Sox fans annually struggle to understand their misfortunes.  For example:

·        Since the sale of the Babe, the Red Sox have made it to the World Series 5 times only to lose the series each time in 7 games.

·        On the verge of capturing the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets (one out away), a ball hit in the direction of first baseman, Bill Buckner, goes through his leg, allowing the winning run to score.  The Mets would go on to win the Series.

·        In the 2003 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, the Red Sox are leading 5-2 in the 8th inning, in the decisive Game 7.  Pitcher Pedro Martinez allows 3 runs to score to tie the game.  The Yankees would win the Game in the 11th inning on a homerun by Aaron Boone.

·        In Game 7 of the 1946 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the score was tied 3-3 when outfielder, Leon Culberson bobbled a ball hit by St. Louis’ Harry Walker.  Shortstop, Johnny Pesky hesitated with the ball after it was thrown to him as the winning run scored as St. Louis wins the Series.  The ’46 Series will always be remembered in Red Sox lore as the one in which Pesky held the ball.

·        In 1978, Boston had a 2-0 lead in an American League East tiebreaker against the New York Yankees until New York’s Bucky Dent hit his infamous home run over the Fenway scoreboard in the seventh inning to finish the Red Sox’s season.  New York would go on to win the World Series.

·        In 1949, Boston needed to win one of their two final games to win the American League (both against New York).  They blew a 4-0 lead in the first game, and lost the second by a score of 5-3.