BOSTON — The old adage that you can see something new in baseball everyday is pretty overused at times. Except this time.
We all might really see something new tonight – the Boston Red Sox clinching a World Series in front of their home fans in Fenway Park. Until 2004 came around, imagine how crazy that thought would have sounded.
The Red Sox lead the St. Louis Cardinals, three games to two, and have two chances to wrap up the title at home for the first time since Sept. 11, 1918. Seriously.
The FOX cameras weren’t there for that Wednesday afternoon clincher against the Chicago Cubs. How could they be? Television wasn’t invented yet.
The matinee crowd was 15,238 and the game was played in a svelte 1 hour, 46 minutes.
And in a very strange foreshadowing of what killed the Sox 68 years later in Shea Stadium, Boston won its ‘18 title on an error. Chicago right fielder Max Flack dropped a two-out line drive in the third and both Boston runs scored on the play.
Carl Mays made it stand up by retiring the last 12 batters. It ended on a groundout to second baseman Dave Shean, who flipped to first baseman Stuffy McInnis. (Dustin Pedroia to Mike Napoli redux for the final out tonight? Perhaps).
Legend has it that a 23-year-old Red Sox lefty named Babe Ruth partied hearty after the win that night at his seasonal home, the Hotel Buckminster on Beacon Street near the ballpark.
The hotel, which dates to 1897, still stands today and the masses who head to Fenway from the Kenmore Square subway station walk past it to and from every game. It also has another place in baseball history, as the place where the Black Sox scandal plot to throw the 1919 World Series was hatched.
Since then, the Sox have had only two other chances to win a title in the Fens. In 1967, Jim Lonborg was outpitched by Bob Gibson and the Cardinals took Game Seven, 7-2. And in 1975, Boston blew a 3-0 lead and eventually lost to Cincinnati, 4-3, on Joe Morgan’s RBI bloop single in the top of the ninth.
Their two titles came at old Busch in St. Louis and at Coors Field in Denver in 2007. Both series were sweeps, so folks at Fenway had little real expectation of seeing the series come back. Not so this time.
“I’m sure it’s going to be an incredible atmosphere,” manager John Farrell said before his team’s workout here Tuesday night. “So if we happen to be able to share it with them, that would be great. But we’ve got to take care of business first.”
“The fans are going to be crazy,” added Game Six starter John Lackey. “But you’ve still got to focus on the task at hand and executing.”
As you can imagine, the secondary ticket market for Game Six is exploding. I checked StubHub during the day Tuesday and found the cheapest seat — for standing room — for tonight’s game at $898.50. Bleacher seats were all going for more than $1,000 a pop. Box seats were going from $7,000-$11,000 apiece.
ESPN.com reported that one pair went for around $24,000 Monday night.
“From an historic perspective,” said Farrell, “When you consider that an event like this hasn’t been here in a couple of generations possibly, there’s a lot of people that are willing to take some extra cash and try to be a part of it.”
The Red Sox are imploring fans to take public transportation and not drive to the game. There will be huge restrictions of on-street parking near the ballpark, near the area’s numerous colleges and near other bar districts, like a couple miles away adjacent to TD Garden.
An Emerson College coed was killed during the raucous celebration of Boston’s 2004 ALCS comeback against the Yankees. Higher-ups here are probably rooting hard for certain events on the field and even harder for certain events not to happen off of it.
The Cardinals got a split in the first two games here but are really up against the weight of history. Home teams are 21-3 in Games Six and Seven of the World Series since 1982. No visitor won those two games to steal a title since the 1979 We-Are-Family Pirates did it in Baltimore.
And nobody has done it after losing Game Five at home like the Cardinals did Monday since the 1952 Yankees vs. Brooklyn.
“The ramped up atmosphere is really one of the perks and benefits playing in the postseason,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday via conference call from his team’s charter, stuck in St. Louis with mechanical trouble. “Guys have played their whole career or dream about being in this atmosphere where fans are excited, into it, the place is packed and alive and buzzing. So that sort of thing isn’t really something that’s a detriment to our success.”
What is a detriment is the way they’re pitching to David Ortiz, who is 11 for 15 in the series and has somehow been intentionally walked just once. What can Matheny change vs. Ortiz?
“If you know of something, I’m all ears,” the Cardinals’ skipper said. “You have to realize it’s not just a hot hitter, it’s a good hitter. It’s one that’s been proven over time to be able to step up and really make a good run and put together a consistent approach.
One word of caution: There really shouldn’t be all this talk of when the Red Sox win. Yes, history shows the Cardinals are up against it.
But the Cardinals were similar dire straits - with Wacha on the mound - in Game Four of the division series in Pittsburgh and survived. They were down, 3-2, two years ago against Texas, albeit at home, and won.
They’re batting just .218 in this series but holding the non-Ortiz Red Sox to a .151 average. Now they have to find just enough offense of their own to survive what figures to be replayed around New England for generations - and maybe for at least the next 95 years - if the Red Sox pull it off.
Near the end of his meeting with the media, someone asked Farrell about Carlton Fisk’s famous 12th-inning home run here that won Game Six in 1975 against the Reds. After all, tonight is Game Six again and … you know … Farrell agreed.
“It’s an iconic video, a highlight that is shown repeatedly, and one of the more memorable swings that probably has taken place in this ballpark,” Farrell said of Fisk’s famous keep-it-fair pose at home plate. “Hopefully there’s somebody tomorrow night that can wave their arms just the same.”