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Sunday, October 31, 2004

“OH, I WANT TO THANK YOU, THANK YOU…”

Before I begin, how appropriate is that Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” came over my alarm clock radio at this very moment. Anyway, it has been tough at times, but I tried to always Keep the Faith during this incredible ride. The odyssey started last October after a hit that put me into a trance-like state, in which I left my credit card at the famous bar, Nectar’s and prompted my buddy, Tim to ask on the walk out of the pub, “Are you going to be okay?” It ended yesterday as I cheered the Old Town Team on the banks of the river that contains all that “Dirty Water.”

Last winter began with 2004 American League Hank Aaron Award winner and World Series MVP, Manny Ramirez, being put out on the curb for any ball club to pick up for free. Then Theo, the Sons of Sam Horn and the rest of Red Sox Nation courted the Red Sox Roy Hobbs, Curt Schilling over Thanksgiving in Arizona. The setting moves to the new Boston Garden where Theo and the future Red Sox pitch me often and anytime closer, Keith Foulke, were cheered on by Red Sox Nation when they hit the big screen during a Celtics game. Boston is a baseball town all year round. Then over Christmas, Theo and the Trio were smarter than El Guapo’s Ghost to walk away from the A-Fraud deal when the terms weren’t right. Our Sox loosing out on the “best all-around player” lead to me cursing da man, John Henry, and when A-Hole became a MFY, it ignited of my ulcer in the WINTER. It usually doesn’t flare up until August.

The stomach issue continued and was out of control on an April cold and rainy night in Baltimore as I watched the Bad Bobby Jones walk in the game winning run in extra frames. I went back to the hotel cursing Jones and Tito. The scene was a little different in St. Louis as I hugged perfect strangers and chanted “Thank you, Red Sox,” while holding back tears. It was a bad beginning to the season but an unbelievable ending.

Now, my ulcer is dead just like the “19-18” chant and the notion that the Red Sox are 2004 World Series Champions, I think, has sunk in. Even though I saw the sparkling gold trophy less than four feet away outside of the St. Louis airport, it has been a mental struggle trying to grasp not only the fact that the Boston Red Sox are the World Champs but what it means.

After six hours of sleep over 48 hours and no concept of time, I headed to the bar in the Cincy airport around 10 a.m. I sat next to another solo Red Sox fan. Of course, we started talking about the historic game we both attended last night. After I showed him the Red Sox A.L.C.S. highlight video created by S.D., Ray of West Palm opened his wallet. I didn’t know what he was going to pull out – pictures of his grandchildren, a picture of Roger Clemens in a compromising position, an Alcor head check ticket stub? The retired Sox fan pulled out three old ticket stubs. One was from the 1975 World Series, another was from ’86 Series and the third was from Yaz’s last game at Fenway. I was amazed. Ray was hard core.

After a conversation with Ray, I knew the Championship meant more to him and others like him than I. They are the “long suffering Red Sox fans” not me. I had no doubt Theo and Trio would eventually - in my lifetime - capture the big prize, but older members of Red Sox Nation could not be as confident. I salute Ray and everyone like him. This Championship is for them!

Before my encounter with, literally, a card carrying member of Red Sox Nation, my flight from St. Louis had to circle due to fog in Cincy creating one of the most stunning scenes. I witnessed the sun rising above the fog and clouds. It was similar to when movies want to demonstrate the presence of God. As I watched the light intensify and climb above darkness, I teared up thinking about my Meme. Before my parents divorced, we would eat a large meal every Sunday at my grandparents. For six months, we all would watch or listen to Sox games as we ate and talked.

As a young boy, I remember trying to persuade Meme that Jim Rice was a better hitter than Ted Williams. I finally relented after turning to see Uncle Chet nodding yes. She loved Williams, the Red Sox and me. Meme passed her passion for the Red Sox down to me. I just wish Meme was standing and cheering with me in St. Louis as I saw a ballplayer with “BOSTON” across his chest raise the World Series Trophy above his head. I DO know she was cheering with me. You can now rest easier, Meme.

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Thank you - Red Sox!

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