ST. LOUIS -- Hail the lovable idiots. Bless the baseball gods. Raise a cup to the good souls in Red Sox lore -- from Ted Williams and Joe Cronin to Gary Waslewski and Pumpsie Green -- who chased but never captured the game’s greatest prize.
The Red Sox are champions of the world.
Avengers of 86 years of raw yearning, Terry Francona’s raggedy renegades liberated generations of Sox fans from the purgatory of their unrequited dreams when they buried the Cardinals, 3-0, before 52,037 under a canopy of clouds beneath a Blood Red Moon at Busch Stadium to win their first World Series since 1918.
”All the waiting and all the great faith, they have finally paid off in the end,” principal owner John W. Henry said amid a sudsy celebration for the ages in the Sox’ clubhouse. “It took us a while but we got it done.”
Whatever it was -- a drought, a curse, a confluence of misfortune and mismanagement that endured longer than Soviet communism and doctors making house calls -- it’s over. The end came on the 18th anniversary of their last great Series heartache, losing in ‘86 to the Mets.
”This is for anyone who ever played for the Red Sox, anyone who ever rooted for the Red Sox, anyone who has ever been to Fenway Park,” said general manager Theo Epstein, the kid from Brookline who grew up to build a champion. “This is bigger than the 25 players in this clubhouse. This is for all of Red Sox Nation past and present. I hope they’re enjoying it as much as we are.”
Party on, New England. At 11:40 p.m. EDT, the Sox returned to the pinnacle of the national pastime when Keith Foulke retired Edgar Renteria for the final out to complete a spectacular four-game sweep of a St. Louis team that posted the best record in the majors (105-57) in the regular season.
The historic triumph touched off a delirious celebration from the infield in St. Louis to the far reaches of New England.
While the Sox jumped all over each other in joy, great-grandparents who were old enough to remember Babe Ruth helping the Sox win their last World Series and star-struck school children whose memories run little deeper than the Manny Era reveled back home.
One and all, they could thank the resurgent Derek Lowe for helping them across the threshold. Cast aside in early October, Lowe returned by mid-month to pitch in the clincher of the American League Division Series against the Angels, win Game 7 of the Championship Series against the Yankees, and shine in the biggest challenge of his career as he silenced the Cardinals for seven innings to triumph in the World Series finale.
The sinkerballer became the first pitcher in history to win the clinchers of three postseason series in the same year.
The Sox captured their sixth world championship -- and swept their first World Series -- after Johnny Damon got them rolling by launching a home run off Jason Marquis leading off the game. Trot Nixon (three doubles in four at-bats) provided the rest of the production by doubling home two runs in the third inning.
”A lot of people thought it would never happen,” Damon said, “so to be able to celebrate and carry that trophy, that’s what it’s all about.”
As efficient as he was effective, Lowe fired only 85 pitches over seven innings before he yielded to a pinch hitter, Kevin Millar, in the eighth.
With Lowe gone, Bronson Arroyo got the first out in the eighth inning before he walked pinch hitter Reggie Sanders. Francona summoned Alan Embree, who caught pinch hitter Hector Luna swinging at a 94-mile-per-hour heater and retired Larry Walker on a weak pop to short.
Foulke, the most valuable addition to the team this year other than Schilling, did the rest, finishing off the Cardinals for the fourth time in as many games.