On October 27, 2004, the Boston Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918, finally vanquishing the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” that had plagued them for 86 years. “This is for anyone who has ever rooted for the Red Sox,” the team’s GM told reporters after the game. “This is for all of Red Sox Nation, past and present.”
Ever since team owner and Broadway producer Harry Frazee sold the great Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920—he got $125,000 and a $300,000 loan, which he used to pay Fenway’s mortgage and put on the musical No, No, Nannette—the Sox had been tragically unable to win the World Series. People said that the team was cursed. Before 1920, the Sox had won five championships and the Yanks hadn’t won any; after the Babe left, Boston’s well ran dry. The Yankees, meanwhile, won a record 26 times after 1920.
Over and over, the hapless Sox almost won—and over and over, they didn’t. In 1946, they were winning Game 7 with two outs in the eighth—until shortstop Johnny Pesky held onto a relay throw just long enough for Enos Slaughter to score the winning run (from first base). They lost in 1967 and 1975. Three years after that, in a one-game playoff for the AL championship, they lost when Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent, not exactly a reliable slugger, cranked one over the Green Monster with two men on base. (The Bombers won the game and went on to win their 22nd World Series.) And in the sixth game of the 1986 series against the Mets, just one out away from the championship, the Sox defense managed to bungle a series of easy plays so badly that they lost the game—and the next one, and the series. The Curse of the Bambino, it seemed, would never die.
But in 2004, the team’s luck changed. The Yanks had been three games up in the American League Championship Series, but Boston made a miraculous comeback and swept the last four. After that, it turned out, the Series itself was pretty dull. The St. Louis Cardinals were the NL champs and they had the best regular-season record in the majors, but in the series, their pitching was weak and their batting was worse. The Sox won the first three games handily. By the fourth, the Sox were playing like they won the Series every year. Johnny Damon led off with a homer that smashed into the St. Louis bullpen; Trot Nixon’s bases-loaded double in the third scored two more; pitcher Derek Lowe gave up just three hits in seven innings. The game’s end was as mundane as the rest of the series had been: Edgar Renteria plunked an easy grounder to closer Keith Foulke, who tossed the ball to first baseman Doug Mientkeiwicz in plenty of time for the out. The team mobbed the field; the crowd went wild. “This,” wrote a columnist for the Globe, “is what it must have felt like in 1918.”
In the 2007 World Series, the Sox did it again—they swept the Rockies for another easy victory. For now, they’ve won more championships in the 21st century than any other team.