If you are interested in any of the ten thousand opportunistic books about the famous baseball rivalry between New York and Boston, I thoughtfully encourage you to consider The Yankees vs. Red Sox Reader. Happily, this particular instance of the genre includes a short essay by me. Check out the table of contents: there I am on page 259, just after a New Yorker piece by Roger Angell. I was just kidding old Roger about how I was batting cleanup for him. He laughed… he’s a big joker himself… but I could see it bugged him. Of course I only tease Roger because I love him.
Naturally you can always read my essay here, chez Star Chamber, but if you really want to read it on paper, you can either print it with your inkjet or send Amazon $10.85.
The rest of the country is way past baseball by now (did I hear something about an election of some kind?), but happy Boston is still wallowing in sloppy postcoital bliss. In fact, it took a dedicated Red Sox fan to call the Series interesting at all. To the untrained eye, all the action this year took place in the two League Championship Series, whereas the World Series itself was a comparatively dull affair. But your Red Sox fan wasn’t going to be suckered into thinking the series might actually end in a four-game sweep, no sir. For him, right up until the last pitch, right up until the ball was snugly in the first baseman’s glove and the last out was officially recorded, there was the agonizing and strangely potent possibility of a stunning reversal of fortunes.
But all that is in the past now, and we learn once again that history is not physics, and that precedents are powerful, but not all-powerful. There do exist heroes strong enough to break the spell and release the castle from poisoned slumber. Part of their magic is to insist there is no magic, just as test pilot Chuck Yeager always dismissed the notion of the “Right Stuff” as so much nonsense. We know better.
For all the joy in Mudville these days, I’m sure some people will get perversely nostalgic for the Curse. After Game 4 ended, I went to read what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had to say about the series, and I was struck by the similarity between what I read there and the piece written by Boston Globe sportswriter and Curse fetishist Dan Shaughnessy after three straight losses to the Yankees in the ALCS (Red Sox on brink of elimination as Yanks pound them, 19-8). Here’s what he has to say on October 17th:
For the 86th consecutive autumn, the Red Sox are not going to win the World Series. No baseball team in history has recovered from a 3-0 deficit and this most-promising Sox season in 18 years could be officially over tonight. Mercy. … The first Fenway game of this much-hyped series could not have been more disastrous for Boston. The Sox embarrassed themselves with poor base running, inept pitching, and dubious managerial decisions. By any measure, it was an ignominious defeat as the locals succumbed without much trace of competition or honor. At least the 2003 team, the Grady Bunch, took the Yankees to the limit. That the Sox could play this poorly after the yearlong competition (on and off the field) between the century-old rivals, staggers the New England mind.
There’s your hinge of fate. Something happened on October 17th, God knows what, and here we are today. But I get the distinct feeling that old Dan Shaughnessy will miss writing stories like this one.