Tag Archive for: Red Sox

For the first two decades of the new century, the Boston Red Sox were far-and-away the dominant team in baseball. They won multiple World Series and seemed poised to continue their dominance well into the decade of the 20s.

But that didn’t happen.

What was at one time enthusiastic and committed ownership gave away to apathy and penny-pinching. A solid core of players was dealt away in favor of cheaper, less-talented substitutes.

Ownership spent their capital elsewhere on nonbaseball interests to intentionally diversify their portfolio.

 

The same thing is happening again, in the here-and-now. What’s that? You thought I was talking about the 21st century Sox? Oh, no. This has happened before — at the start of the 20th century.

The Red Sox won the World Series five times before 1918. They had a wealth of talent, including a player whose fame transcends the ages: Babe Ruth.

Babe Ruth

But Red Sox owner Harry Frazee saw the Babe as a way to finance a theatrical play called My Lady Friends. It wasn’t No, No, Nanette, as is popularly thought; that play didn’t come out until 1925. But did you ever see My Lady Friends? Probably not since it wrapped up its Broadway run by the summer of 1920. Good investment Harry!

Frazee sold the Babe’s contract to the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers, as they became known, went on to win 27 titles in the 20th century. After 1918, the Red Sox went on to win exactly none, though they reached the World Series four times between 1919 and 2000. Each time, they lost in the seventh game.

The Sox travails were mystically blamed on the trade of Babe Ruth. This became known as The Curse of the Bambino — Ruth’s nickname.

 

One truly had to be a devoted fan to endure the misery and futility that the Olde Town Team inflicted on its faithful followers. For all the world, it looked like the Sox aspired to create the most gut-wrenching way to break their fans’ hearts.

For me, the most-memorable failure was the 1986 World Series, where a routine ground ball rolled between first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs, sealing the victory for the New York Mets in Game Six. The Sox went on to lose Game Seven, of course, which added to the mystique of the so-called Curse.

But then the 21st century dawned, with a new owner who made Daddy Warbucks look like a pauper. John Henry came with a willingness to spend money, but he also brought in a stable of savvy baseball management. Things were looking up.

Could The Curse be finally broken?

In 2004, the Red Sox won their first World Series championship in 86 years. For Boston fans, it was like a religious experience. That inevitable feeling of futility that always hung over the team had finally been vanquished.

They also won in 2007, 2013, and 2018. They have the most titles of any Major League Baseball team in the 21st century. Maybe because of that, complacency has set in for the fans — and also, it seems, the ownership.

Just like Harry Frazee 100 years ago, John Henry’s group is no longer solely focused on the fortunes of the Red Sox baseball team. Along the way, he has acquired NASCAR’s RFK Racing, UK Premier League’s Liverpool Soccer team, the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League, and the TMRW golf league. None are theatrical plays, but they’re certainly not baseball ventures either.

To further confirm that support for the Sox had badly waned, the group sold the rights to rightfielder Mookie Betts — arguably the best homegrown talent to come out of the Red Sox system in decades. You could fairly say that he’d been the centerpiece of the Sox’s most recent success.

 

So 1918 was last time the Red Sox won the title in the 20th century. And 2018 is the last time the Red Sox won in the 21st century — so far. Are Bostonians destined to wait till the 22nd century for another title?

They say that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. I don’t know about that. It seems to me that history sure as hell is repeating itself, given the current state of the Red Sox relative to 100 years ago.

But Go Sox!

 

The End

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It’s been five soul-crushing years since any professional team in the Boston area has won a sports championship.

Since the turn of the millennium, Boston teams have won 12 sports championships

                                         

  • 2001 New England Patriots won the Super Bowl
  • 2003 Patriots won the Super Bowl
  • 2004 Patriots won the Super Bowl
  • 2004 Boston Red Sox won the World Series (first time in 86 years)
  • 2007 Red Sox won the World Series
  • 2008 Boston Celtics won the National Basketball Association championship
  • 2011 Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup
  • 2013 Red Sox won the World Series
  • 2014 Patriots won the Super Bowl
  • 2016 Patriots won the Super Bowl
  • 2018 Patriots won the Super Bowl
  • 2018 Red Sox won the World Series

 

Until 2018, we in the Boston area never went more than three years between sports championship celebrations. Now it’s beginning to feel an awful lot like the late 20th century around here.

Baseball was the first sport I learned to follow as a kid. One of my teachers was into it, and he’d frequently wheel a big TV into the classroom to watch the Red Sox during important games. They had last won a championship in 1918, but every decade or so they’d tease the local populace with a promising season — and reliably, they’d lose in gut-wrenching fashion.

In 1986 they took a 2-0 lead in the World Series, and things were looking good. Could this be the year?

Don’t be silly.

As any student of baseball history will tell you, the Red Sox went on to lose, again ripping out their fans’ hearts. The infamously emblematic play of that series was when a routine ground ball went through the first-baseman’s legs, allowing the New York Mets to win the game.

That disappointment was the final straw in my fandom. I was so soured that, even when the Sox were poised to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, I was at a Sarah Brightman concert instead. I was that sure that somehow they’d find a way to screw it up.

 

Given all of the Boston fandom’s travails of the 20th century, who in their right mind would’ve predicted the turnaround of fortunes in the new millennium. Sports championships galore!

Oddly, it started with a team that had been the laughingstock of the National Football League: the New England Patriots. Ever heard of Bill Belichick? Tom Brady? They instituted a culture of winning. They were the anti-Sox.

And then miracle of miracles happened: after 86 years of futility and misery, the Red Sox  won the World Series in 2004. I was out in western Canada for part of that playoff run. An article in the local paper there proclaimed that if the Red Sox actually won, the end of the world must be nigh.

And oh, how they won! They had been down three games to none to the hated New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. No team in baseball’s long history had ever come back from such a deficit.

What made it all the more dispiriting is that the so-called rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox was like the rivalry between a hammer and a nail, with the Sox as the nail.

So the Sox’s playoff run was as good as over, right?

Wrong!

I shed tears of joy when they completed their historic comeback over the Yankees. As far as I was concerned, they could lose the World Series after that, and I’d still be happy. But the Cardinals were little more than a speed bump as the Sox swept their way to destiny, winning their first World Series since 1918.

Things sure had changed on the Boston sports scene. See the list above.

 

Now the bad old days seem to have returned. So far in 2023

 

  • the Bruins entered the playoffs with the best regular season record in the National Hockey League’s history. And then they promptly got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, after leading the series three games to one.
  • the Celtics were touted to have the most-talented team in the National Basketball Association. At least they outlasted the Bruins, waiting for the semifinals before starting their summer vacation.
  • the Red Sox are struggling to win as many games as they lose, but given they’ve opted out of practicing defense, that’s not too bad.
  • the Patriots have begun this season’s training camp after a shockingly bad offensive showing last year. Rumors are that their offensive personnel are woefully inadequate, with the possible exception of the new offensive coach.

 

So as they say, all good things must come to an end.

I just hope we don’t have to repeat the late-1900s.

 

Author’s note: Because I’m not a huge follower of basketball, I probably unfairly omitted the story of the invincible Celtics of the 1960s and their successes in the ’70s and ’80s.

 

The End