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KEVIN CULLEN

The end of baseball season is worse than Labor Day

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

There were plenty of dour faces inside Fenway Park on Monday after the Red Sox saw their season come to an end.

By Globe Columnist 

Not long after Rico Petrocelli squeezed the final out, vanquishing the Minnesota Twins, we grabbed bars of Ivory soap from my mother’s bathroom cupboard and raced onto the street in front of my house and began writing on the pavement.

Red Sox Win The Pennant.

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Yaz MVP.

Lonborg Wins 22.

We used soap because no one had chalk.

This was 50 years ago, October 1967. We were kids and the Red Sox had just defied all the odds and won the American League pennant.

We were admiring our street art when my mother came down the front steps. She was on her way to the 5:30 Sunday Mass at Sacred Hearts in Malden and she looked at the street and shook her head.

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“Clean that up,” she said, pulling on a pair of white gloves. She wasn’t angry. She just didn’t want us writing on the street. The neighbors and all. She had a small black veil on her head.

“But, mom,” I protested, “the Red Sox just won the pennant.”

“They play baseball every year and they’ll play next year,” my mother replied. “Clean that up.”

She turned away and walked down Linden Avenue. She never learned to drive so she always walked to Mass — actually, to everywhere. I looked at my friend, Domenic D’Angelo, and he shrugged. So I went inside and got a bucket of water and washed the soap away with a towel. Dommy helped me.

Being an 8-year-old who had internalized all the things my dad and uncles used to say about the hapless Red Sox, I was absolutely convinced the Red Sox would never win the pennant again, that this was something that happened once in a lifetime, and for many days I resented my mother’s puritanical restraint.

But as usual, she was right. They play baseball every year and they’ll play it again. My dad and my uncles never saw the Red Sox win a World Series. I’ve seen them win three.

Monday’s loss to the Houston Astros, eliminating the Red Sox from the playoffs, was as disappointing as it was inevitable. The Red Sox came back, then they gave away the lead. But, in the end, they lost to a better team. There’s no shame in that.

Given their lack of power, a dearth of quality starting pitching, and, for long stretches, a maddening inability to hit with runners in scoring position, the fact that the Red Sox won the American League East is remarkable. The bullpen was terrific. The team’s knack for squeezing out wins, especially in extra innings, was better than pretty good.

But baseball seasons end in failure. Except for one team.

Children the same age now as the teenagers were who snickered as Dommy D’Angelo and I washed the soap from Linden Avenue have been alive for three Red Sox World Series wins, and it’s not their fault that they are spoiled.

Boston fans expect their teams not only to be in the playoffs every year, but to prevail every year, and that’s not a bad thing. I used to think that was a bad thing, an arrogant thing. But given what they pay these guys, and what people pay to watch them, I don’t think that anymore.

It bears repeating that this is an extraordinary time in the city’s history, in the region’s history, when during any given year most of the professional franchises are performing at a level that others envy.

Baseball season begins in the spring, when all things are blooming and all things seem possible. It ends in the fall, as the days grow shorter and we know that it will soon be cold and bleak.

The end of the baseball season brings a sort of blue, worse than Labor Day. When the Red Sox play deep into October, the winter feels shorter. When the Red Sox play their last game, whenever it is, summer is really over.

But they always play again.


Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist He can be reached at cullen@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.