Well, sort of. Most of the shock factor had indeed been part of the miraculous comeback in the ALCS, completed a week earlier. In fact, after all of the drama of the ALCS, the World Series seemed almost a forgone conclusion. However, Red Sox Nation (in its pre-corporate-cash-cow phase) had been trained to expect meltdowns in big situations, and even contemporary fans can recite the incidents by heart:
- Seven games losses in the World Series in 1946 (Cardinals), 1967 (Cardinals), 1975 (Reds), and 1986 (Mets)
- Seasons that came down to one-game playoffs for the pennant, both of which the Sox lost, in 1948 (Cleveland), and 1978 (Yankees)
In honor of the five-year anniversary, I decked myself out in Red Sox gear: Wakefield shirt (no one blames you for 2003, Wake!), Sox hat, sweatshirt, necklaces, and sneakers. All day, people asked what I was doing: "The Red Sox are out," they scoffed. I explained myself, but no one understood. No one ever WILL understand, save for other Red Sox fans and perhaps Cubs fans, when/if they finally win it all. Going without a title for so long, all while hearing the aforementioned years recited at gatherings and parties like a dutiful remembrance of not-so-fondly recalled relatives, makes 2004 infinitely more special than other titles.
Obviously, due to my age, I did not experience most of the heartbreak listed above. Hell, I wasn't even old enough to remember the cancellation of the World Series in 1994. I do, however, remember 2003, and the look on Tim Wakefield's face as he walked off the mound said everything.
In 2004, fans all over New England barely dared dream for what we thought was impossible. Even after the ALCS, we were warned to be cautious with our hopes, as they could be dashed in an instant. "It's not over til it's over," we said, ignoring the fact that Yankees great Yogi Berra initially coined that particular phrase.
And then? It was over. Four games, just like that. Red Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione said it best:
Eat your heart out, New York. None of your 26 past World Series victories can EVER measure up to 2004.