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Boston Red Sox World Series win symbolizes turnaround for team and town

October 31, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Just six months after bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon ravaged Beantown, a World Series win gave the city something to celebrate. The Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the MLB championship Wednesday. Jeffrey Brown talks to Leigh Montville of SportsonEarth.com on the team's turnaround from worst to first.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: Boston savors a championship again, after a season where the Red Sox became a rallying point for many in the city.

Jeffrey Brown caps this baseball season for Beantown.

ANNOUNCER: It hasn’t happened in Fenway Park for 95 years!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, the last time the Red Sox clinched a World Series in Boston, Babe Ruth played for the team, and he was a pitcher.

ANNOUNCER: The Red Sox are world champions!

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JEFFREY BROWN: But last night, the very hairy 2013 edition of the team did it with a game six win over the Saint Louis Cardinals, after a series that featured dramatic, game-ending plays, including an unprecedented obstruction call against Boston and the pickoff of a Saint Louis base-runner.

Boston slugger David Ortiz was named most valuable player, leading a team that had finished last in its division just a year ago.

DAVID ORTIZ, Boston Red Sox: This is the kind of situation where the unpredictable happens. We had a little chip on our shoulder that we want to come in and prove everybody wrong. And thank God we did.

MAN: Greatest place on earth.

JEFFREY BROWN: The win sent fans pouring into the streets, celebrating their team’s third title in 10 seasons and marking yet another emotional turnaround, just six months after the Boston Marathon bombings shook the city.

Leigh Montville was at Fenway Park last night, where he’s covered the Red Sox for many years, not quite back to Babe Ruth’s time, as a sportswriter for The Boston Globe and “Sports Illustrated” and now for SportsOnEarth.com.

Well, Leigh, I mentioned the worst-to-first aspect of this. A big part of that was changing a number of players, right? Tell us how they turned things around.

LEIGH MONTVILLE, SportsOnEarth.com: Sure.

They ripped up the roster pretty much and sent a bunch of guys out to Los Angeles who they thought were malcontents and didn’t fit into the program. And they brought in a bunch of bit players. They didn’t go out for the high-priced free agents, as they had in recent times.

They went and got some kind of B-actors and character actors and brought them in and put them around guys, a core that had been here last year, some pitchers who had been beleaguered and kind of raked over the coals and parboiled for 24 hours every day by the talk shows, and a few players that had been kind of injured in last year’s bad year.

And they put it all together, and, somehow, it all worked. Every piece they put into the puzzle seemed to fit just right.

JEFFREY BROWN: You know, we talk about the first win in Boston, but, of course, it was 2004 that was the great lifting of the curse. And you and I talked at that time when that happened. How did last night compare to then?

LEIGH MONTVILLE: Well, I myself think that nothing compares to then.

Then was a night in 2004. It was an 86-year-old sort of crusade, a local quest for the Holy Grail. People lived, people died, fathers, mothers, kids, grandfathers, and the Red Sox never won the World Series. And when it finally happened in 2004, it was just a communal relief and people were going to grave sites and talking to deceased people. And it was just an outflow of emotion.

Since then, it’s been — the Red Sox have been another good team and you follow them like a normal team. And the great boulder that we all were carrying around for so many years has been removed. And it kind of has freed everybody up to be — to act normal, I suppose.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, I told you then and I remind you now I was one of them growing up in Boston, so I know about the real connection of the team to the city.

And in that light, I want to ask you about the connection to the marathon, the bombing at the marathon, the tragedy. There was a lot of talk about that last night, about how the players felt, the organization felt, and clearly the fans felt.

LEIGH MONTVILLE: Yes, very much.

There was a very big connection to the marathon bombing, because the Red Sox always play an 11:00 game on Patriots’ Day. And that’s in April, and so they were right around when it all happened. And they jumped into the situation from the beginning. I guess they would send like little groups of five players off to see people in hospital rooms and talk with them.

And all season, they honored the victims of that and the first-responders, and they never let it go. And it — in the past, players kind of had a sketchy relationship with the city. They’re under an intense scrutiny here, and they didn’t like it. You had to be a certain kind of player to play in Boston. And you were always being criticized when you did wrong.

And these bunch — this bunch of guys, they seemed to embrace the whole situation in Boston. And Boston came to embrace them in the end. And it’s — it’s been a far more symbiotic, nice relationship than I can ever remember between the team and the town.

JEFFREY BROWN: And let me just ask you briefly about the beards, which became sort of symbol of I guess a sort of attitude. What happens now? Have they said? Are they shaving them or keeping them?

LEIGH MONTVILLE: I read a little thing today that they might be shaving a lot of them for charity. So you can probably buy some of those beards and go home and stick them on your face or something. I don’t know.

But it was kind of a great symbol. They looked like a bunch of Bolsheviks, didn’t they? 

(LAUGHTER)

JEFFREY BROWN: Boston sportswriter Leigh Montville, thanks so much.

LEIGH MONTVILLE: Thank you, Jeffrey.