For a guy with a bad back, Shane Victorino sure swings a bad bat. He also speaks softly.
The Red Sox right fielder, his World Series joy ride disrupted due to those everyman lumbar fits, his wonky back sending him to the sidelines earlier in the series, returned to the lineup Wednesday night and provided the key hit that essentially closed out the World Series and turned Fenway’s emerald turf into a verdant title garden for the first time since 1918.
And in the midst of his teammates’ raucous celebration, both on the field and later in the clubhouse, Victorino celebrated on the fringes, cutting a serpentine path around his teammates and the media nearly a full hour while sharing the momentous occasion with family members and repeatedly turning down interview requests.
“I’ll do it later, but not now,’’ Victorino said again to a reporter at 12:15 a.m., repeating a refrain he began when the media first took the field more than a half-hour earlier. “Not sure where . . . up there [in the interview room] . . . or maybe by my locker. But not now.’’
Victorino, whose Game 6 grand slam was the wrecking ball that razed the Tigers in the AL Championship Series, came to the plate in the third inning in Game 6 with the bases loaded and the score 0-0, a Series title for the taking. And he took it, emphatically.
With his patented quick-wristed swing, the 32-year-old Victorino, one of Sox general manager Ben Cherington’s many key offseason acquisition, rocketed a ball off the Wall, knocking in one, knocking in two, knocking in all of the runners to pin up a 3-0 lead and send the Sox to their third Series title in 10 seasons. It was as if the Flyin’ Hawaiian stood at homeplate, looked up and said, “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow that Monster down.’’
The dramatic smash officially came to a halt when Jonny Gomes, who had loaded the bases when hit by a Michael Wacha pitch, stormed across with the 3-0 lead and Victorino pulled into third on the throw to the plate. Officially, it was a three-run double, but it had all the pop and nearly the finality embodied in Victorino’s grand slam against the Tigers. The Sox were out in front to stay, 3-0, and the drop in the Cardinals’ psyche came with such a tremor that it was all but measurable on the Richter Scale.
The Cards might not have been finished, but they were broken, and jam-packed Fenway, home of countless disappointments through the decades,prepared to party as if the little bandbox of a ballpark in the Back Bay had been delivered to Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
When it was over, Sox players, front office personnel, and members of the ownership group stood in the middle of the field and again drank in the wonderment of the win.
David Ortiz, Big Papi and World Series MVP, repeated his refrain made famous after the Marathon bombing, only this time cleaned up his act. “This, said a beaming Ortiz, “is our whoop city!’’ No official spelling on that whoop. The big man with the humongous World Series numbers was self-sensoring. Meanwhile, Victorino meandered. While all the back-slapping and strutting took place in the middle of the field, Victorino stood to the side, toward right field, and embraced a large contingent of family members. He walked hand-in-hand with his young girls, as if Fenway were more a family picnic than it was a 101-year-old showcase for the more extended family of Red Sox Nation.
“I’m going to do it all later,” he said, when a small media contingent first asked him to talk around 11:50 p.m. “I’m sorry, guys, sorry . . . I am just going to enjoy the moment.’’
From there, Victorino simply blended into the crowd, seeming far more comfortable at the side of the stage rather than front and center. The man with the Gold Glove, awarded just the day before, found silence to be golden once the Sox won it all.
Amid the partying on the field, Victorino was among the first team members to duck down the dugout steps and head into the clubhouse, right around midnight. Inside the dressing room, once his teammates where in full-throated celebration, he weaved around the perimeter of the clubhouse, a large beige towel draped over his head and shoulders.
He did not appear sullen or angry or irritated. But he was noticeably reserved, at the edge of being withdrawn, repeatedly seeking out family members who either were in the clubhouse or making their way to and from the tunnel that leads from the clubhouse to the dugout and field.
Sox skipper John Farrell, focused on his right fielder’s flair for the dramatic. “The hits . . . couldn’t have been bigger and couldn’t have come at a more opportune time,’’ noted Farrell. “Whether it was in Game 6 against the Tigers or the three [run double] here tonight.’’
Victorino. Opportune. Dramatic. As visible as could be when needed most, then for whatever reason, electing to celebrate in the true sense of his position, out in right field.