When the Boston Red Sox won their fourth straight World Series game last week and garnered their second ultimate championship in four years, I of course read story after story about the victory. Here's a braggadocio sampling from the Boston Globe's guy writers:
- Dan Shaughnessy: "The Boston Red Sox have emerged as hardball monsters of the new millennium."
- Gordon Edes: "A minute that used to recur like a comet, once 86 years or so and missed by generations of Red Sox fans, is now beginning to feel like a birthright."
- Bob Ryan, addressing Red Sox fans: "You've got the best baseball team in the world to call your own. There's nothing wrong with just lording it over people."
Nothing wrong, on ethical but also factual grounds? Events almost always seem inevitable in retrospect, but in process the imitation of life called baseball is regularly up for grabs.
Had Cleveland's third base coach made a different split-second decision at a crucial point near the end of the Red Sox-Indians series, the seventh and decisive game would have been tied and all thereafter would have unwound differently.
Even in the ninth inning of last week's last game of the season, there was only a tiny difference between a Colorado player's long fly ball caught against the wall-the Rockies' last gasp-and a game-tying home run. Would a home run have only delayed, not forestalled, Red Sox celebration? Probably, but not certainly.
So three cheers for the Globe's female baseball reporter, Amalie Benjamin. She was in the Red Sox clubhouse as the Bostons ritually celebrated the win by squirting champagne on each other. She recorded poignant words pouring out amid triumph, some spoken to teammates, none aimed at cameras. Words many guys would not think fit to emphasize:
- Star starter Josh Beckett, speaking of his teammates: "This is for all the family. I know we spend more time together than with our family."
- Star closer Jonathan Papelbon: "I'm just glad that it's over, we don't have to play any more games. Relief. The stress and everything else that goes along with it."
- Star hitter David Ortiz: "You've got to feel proud of wearing this name [Red Sox] on your chest. You're good at something."
You're good at something? That's what emanates from a mountainous man at the mega-moment of success-not "I'm the greatest" for the cameras, but the child's "good at something." That's honest. We want to be certified as good at something, and perhaps justified.
Amalie Benjamin, a fly on the wall, reported these comments and painted one scene: "Then came the moment. Royce Clayton, veteran of 11 major league teams, a late pickup by the Red Sox. A guy who had never won a championship. With his face twisted slightly, the emotion stark, he was pulled up on the table with the big names. With Beckett and Papelbon and Ortiz. Royce Clayton. He didn't stay long, just enough to lead a cheer and step off the table, into a hug with Coco Crisp."
Clayton did not play in the World Series and will not be with the Red Sox next year. Outfielder Crisp, who lost his starting position to a wondrous rookie, may also be gone. He told reporter Benjamin, "Everybody's jumping around, hooting and hollering. . . . It's an amazing feeling. This is what everybody dreams of."
All dream of that amazing feeling, but it's here today, gone tomorrow.
Exhausted Papelbon said, "I have nothing else to give." A famous hymn begins, "For all the saints, who from their labors rest." The hymn tells of weary warriors who finally have no more games to play or battles to fight. But it ends with lasting joy as heaven opens and "Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host."
Baseball imitates life, which itself is a shadowlands imitation of true life, as C.S. Lewis declared. In baseball, the stars but also Clayton and Crisp come streaming in. In true life, here come stars like Moses and Paul, but also you and me?
2007 Boston Red Sox d. Colorado Rockies
2006 St. Louis Cardinals d. Detroit Tigers
2005 Chicago White Sox d. Houston Astros
2004 Boston Red Sox d. St. Louis Cardinals
2003 Florida Marlins d. New York Yankees
2002 Anaheim Angels d. San Francisco Giants
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks d. N.Y. Yankees
2000 New York Yankees d. New York Mets
1999 New York Yankees d. Atlanta Braves
1998 New York Yankees d. San Diego Padres
1997 Florida Marlins d. Cleveland Indians