Bulletin: When the opposing teams are announced before Game #1 of the 2018 World Series tomorrow night, the manager of the National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Dave Roberts, will receive a loud standing ovation from the capacity Fenway Park crowd as he walks out to the third baseline.
There is no question about this. Anyone who knows Boston, Fenway, Red Sox tradition or the team’s fan culture has any doubts: it is a sure thing. That ethical gesture of gratitude and respect is as certain as the tide coming in on Cape Cod’s Wellfleet beaches, or the leaves turning gold in Concord this Fall. Red Sox fans have always maintained the tradition of recognizing excellence from opposing players, but the gesture and salute tomorrow goes far beyond that. For it was Dave Roberts, then a reserve pinch-running specialist in the twilight of his career and playing his only season with Boston—and only a couple months of that season at that—who was sent in to run for Kevin Millar, who had walked in the bottom of the 9th inning of the potential elimination game in the 2004 ALCS.
The hated New York Yankees were leading the best of seven series three games to none, and no team in baseball history had ever come back from such a deficit to win. Pitching was Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, probably the greatest relief pitcher of all time. Everyone knew that Roberts had entered the game for one reason: to steal second base and set up the possible game tying run. And he did it—it was a close play, but he made it, and seconds latter, Red Sox batter Bill Mueller singled him home to tie the score. David Ortiz won the game with a home run in extra innings, and the Red Sox went on from there to sweep New York, and the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series as well. The team’s storied 86 year World Series drought was finally over, along with it the Curse of the Bambino, Pesky holding the ball, Lonborg facing Gibson on two days rest, Ed Armbrister getting away with blocking Fisk’s throw to second, Bucky %!^$! Dent’s cheap homer, the ball rolling under Buckner’s legs, Grady Little’s Great Choke, and more, as they all faded into irrelevancy like a long, horrible nightmare. Continue reading