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CURSE REMOVED FROM BOSTON LORE <br> FOR RED SOX FANS, NOTHING IN THEIR SPORTING LIFETIMES WILL LIKELY TOP WEDNESDAY NIGHT

Guy Sullivan moved from Boston to Buffalo 11 years ago when he was transferred to a new job with General Motors' Powertrain division. Wednesday morning, hours before Game Four of the World Series, Sullivan made his first hole-in-one while golfing at Glen Oak in East Amherst.

Sullivan, a Red Sox fan for all of his 44 years, figured it was a good omen.

"I was crossing my fingers," he said Thursday. "Everybody reminded me, 'The Red Sox are playing, Sully. Bigger things could happen tonight.' "

After the game, a 3-0 Red Sox victory over the St. Louis Cardinals that gave the franchise its first championship in 86 years, Sullivan wept on his couch for two hours.

"I told my wife, Marlene, 'I can't stop crying,' " he said. "First the hole-in-one, then the Red Sox winning the World Series? Who could top that?"

For Red Sox fans, nothing in their sporting lifetimes will likely top Wednesday night, when Boston completed a sweep of St. Louis for its first World Series title since 1918.

The Red Sox had won five of the first 15 World Series. Then, on Jan. 3, 1920, owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 and a $350,000 loan. The bad karma that followed came to be known as the Curse of the Bambino.

Now the curse has been reversed. Students of Red Sox numerology observed some mystical signs that 2004 might be the year:

The last time the Red Sox were in the Series was 1986 -- 18 years ago. The last time they won was 1918 -- 86 years ago.

The last Red Sox pitcher to win a Series game was Bruce Hurst, in Game Five, 1986. If you rearrange the letters in Bruce Hurst, it spells "B Ruth Curse." That was not going to be Boston's year.

Wednesday, right fielder Gabe Kapler (19) and center fielder Johnny Damon (18), waiting for the bottom of the ninth inning to begin, stood next to each other, forming the number 1918.

Edgar Renteria of St. Louis made the final out in Game Four. Renteria wears jersey No. 3, the number worn by Ruth.

There's also an urban legend about some of the numbers on the wall at Fenway Park representing retired players. When you put together the numbers of Ted Williams (9), Bobby Doerr (4), Joe Cronin (1) and Carl Yastrzemski (8), it forms 9/1 4/1 8, said to be the date of the first game of the 1918 World Series. It was actually played Sept. 5 in Chicago, with Ruth beating Hippo Vaughan, 1-0.

Now it's all ancient history.

The Series flag will return to Fenway Park on April 11, and the Yankees -- of all teams -- will get to watch it rise. New York, which blew a three-games-to-none lead against the Red Sox in the ALCS, is the visitor in Boston's home opener.

For the first time in more than eight decades, the Red Sox can put behind them the sad history that is so well-known by players and fans who suffered with them for 85 seasons.

When Stuffy McInnis gloved second baseman Dave Shean's throw to first on Les Mann's grounder to seal Boston's Series-clinching 2-1 victory over the Cubs in Game Six in 1918, the reaction at Fenway was muted. Perhaps it was because World War I caused the major leagues to stop the season a month early. That final game drew just over 15,000 fans.

"Boston is the luckiest baseball spot on earth, for it has never lost a world's series," the New York Times reported the following day.

Still, the gloominess was unmistakable.

"After the game, the crowd filed out of the gates with about as much enthusiasm as a party of home folks trooping out of a poor-moving picture show," the report said.

Then came the drought. Boston didn't get back to the World Series until 1946. That's when shortstop Johnny Pesky did or didn't hold the relay -- replays are inconclusive -- as Enos Slaughter scored from first on Harry Walker's eighth-inning double, which provided the go-ahead run in the Cardinals' 4-3 win in Game Seven in Sportsman's Park.

Pesky, now 85, was at Wednesday night's game. "The curse," he said, "can go to hell."

The exorcising of the curse did not come soon enough for one famous Red Sox fan.

California's first lady, Maria Shriver, broke her foot while watching Game Five of the American Championship Series against the Yankees.

Boston won the game in the 14th inning on a two-out, broken-bat single by David Ortiz. An excited Shriver jumped off the sofa, landing on one of her children's shoes and breaking her foot.

"She was hollering at her kids to pick up their misplaced shoes, but she's realized her instructions fell on deaf ears," spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh said.
News wire services contributed to this report.
e-mail: gconnors@buffnews.com