BOSTON (AP) – More than an hour after the final out, players lingered on the field and fans stood by their seats, cheering, singing and applauding.
A celebration nearly a century in the making was unfolding at the old ballpark, a long-awaited moment generations of New Englanders had never been able to witness.
Turmoil to triumph. Worst to first. A clincher at Fenway Park.
David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox, baseball’s bearded wonders, capped their remarkable turnaround by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 on Wednesday night to win their third World Series championship in 10 seasons.
When it was over, Ortiz took a microphone on the field and addressed the city, just as he did a week after the marathon bombings last April.
“This is for you, Boston. You guys deserve it,” the Series MVP said. “We’ve been through a lot this year and this is for all of you and all those families who struggled.”
And the Red Sox didn’t even have to fly the trophy home. For the first time since Babe Ruth’s team back in 1918, Boston won the title at Fenway. The 101-year-old stadium, oldest in the majors, was jammed with 38,447 singing, shouting fans anticipating a party that had been building for more than nine decades.
“Maybe they won’t have to go another 95 years,” said John Farrell, a champion in his first season as Boston’s manager.
Shane Victorino, symbolic of these resilient Sox, returned from a stiff back and got Boston rolling with a three-run double off the Green Monster against rookie sensation Michael Wacha. Pumped with emotion, Victorino pounded his chest with both fists three times.
John Lackey became the first pitcher to start and win a Series clincher for two different teams, allowing one run over 6 2-3 innings 11 years after his Game 7 victory as an Angels rookie in 2002.
With fans roaring on every pitch and cameras flashing, Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter for the final out. The Japanese pitcher jumped into the arms of catcher David Ross while Red Sox players rushed from the dugout and bullpen as the Boston theme “Dirty Water” played on the public-address system.
There wasn’t the “Cowboy Up!” comeback charm of “The Idiots” from 2004, who swept St. Louis to end an 86-year title drought. There wasn’t that cool efficiency of the 2007 team that swept Colorado.
This time, they were Boston Strong — playing for a city shaken by tragedy.
“I don’t think we put Boston on our back. I think we jumped on their back,” Jonny Gomes said. “They wouldn’t let us quit.”
After a late-season collapse in 2011, the embarrassing revelations of a fried chicken-and-beer clubhouse culture that contributed to the ouster of manager Terry Francona, and the daily tumult of Bobby Valentine’s one-year flop, these Red Sox grew on fans.
Just like the long whiskers on the players’ faces, starting with Gomes’ scruffy spring training beard.
“As soon as we went to Fort Myers, the movie’s already been written,” Gomes said. “All we had to do was press play, and this is what happened.”
The only player remaining from the 2004 champs, Ortiz had himself a Ruthian World Series. He batted .688 (11 for 16) with two homers, six RBIs and eight walks — including four in the finale — for a .760 on-base percentage in 25 plate appearances, the second-highest in Series history.
“We have a lot of players with heart. We probably don’t have the talent that we had in ’07 and ’04, but we have guys that are capable (of staying) focused and do the little things,” Ortiz said.
Even slumping Stephen Drew delivered a big hit in Game 6, sending Wacha’s first pitch of the fourth into the right-center bullpen for a 4-0 lead. By the time the inning was over, RBI singles by Mike Napoli and Victorino had made it 6-0, and the Red Sox were on their way.
“Hey, I missed two games. It’s time to shine,” Victorino said.
All over New England, from Connecticut’s Housatonic River up to the Aroostook in Maine, Boston’s eighth championship can be remembered for the beard-yanking bonding.
Fans bid up the average ticket price to over $1,000 on the resale market and some prime locations went for more than $10,000 each. Nearly all the Red Sox rooters stood in place for 30 minutes after the final out to view the presentation of the trophy and MVP award. A few thousand remained when a beaming Ortiz came back on the field with his son 75 minutes after the final out.
“It’s so electric in here,” Napoli said.
The win capped an emotional season for the Red Sox, one heavy with the memory of the events that unfolded on Patriots Day, when three people were killed and more than 260 wounded in bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon. The Red Sox wore “Boston Strong” logos on their left sleeves, erected a large emblem on the Green Monster and moved the logo into the center-field grass as a constant reminder.
“It’s hard for me to put sports over a tragedy like that,” Lackey said, “but hopefully people that were affected by it can forget about it for a few hours at least.”
Red, white and blue fireworks fired over the ballpark as Commissioner Bud Selig presented the World Series trophy to Red Sox owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, leaving a haze over the field.
“When the fireworks went off at the presentation of the trophy out there, when the ballpark was filled with smoke, it was completely surreal,” Farrell said. “To be in this position, given where we’ve come from, reflecting back a year ago at this time, there’s been a lot that’s happened in 13 months.”
Among the players blamed for the indifferent culture at the end of the Francona years, Lackey took the mound two days shy of the second anniversary of his elbow surgery and got his first Series win since the 2002 clincher. He pitched shutout ball until Carlos Beltran’s RBI single in the seventh.
St. Louis had been seeking its second title in three seasons, but the Cardinals sputtered after arriving in Boston late Tuesday following a seven-hour flight delay caused by mechanical problems. Symbolic of the team’s struggles, reliever Trevor Rosenthal tripped while throwing a pitch to Ortiz in the eighth, balking Dustin Pedroia to second.
“They were some frustrated guys in there, but overall you can’t ask us to go about any better than how our guys did,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Not too many people expected us to do what we did.”
Boston was a 30-1 underdog to win the World Series last winter, but joined the 1991 Minnesota Twins as the only teams to win titles one season after finishing in last place. Now, the Red Sox will raise another championship flag before their home opener next season April 4 against Milwaukee.
Gomes was looking forward to Saturday’s parade.
“It’s time,” he said, “to queue the duck boats.”
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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