NEW: Saturday's victory parade for team will pass site of the marathon's April bombings
The long memory of Bostonians easily reaches 1918, when their team last won a title at home
The more recent memory of the Boston Marathon attacks is painful
A 97-year-old fan savors this year's victory: "I never thought I'd live to see this"
Boston is a land of memory. After all, it’s the capital of a commonwealth, not just a state, evoking the colonial era. And when it comes to baseball, well, how many times have we heard the yarn about how the antique Fenway Park endured nearly a century of pain without a World Series championship?
Now the Boston Red Sox have won their third title in nine years – at Fenway, no less – but this victory seems to hold deeper meaning than just winning a sporting crown.
It’s being compared to a divine balm to heal one of the darkest recent memories in America: the terror bombings at the Boston Marathon last April.
On Saturday morning, a victory parade will make a symbolic gesture to confirm the restoration of a great city: the procession will cross over the marathon’s finish line – still marked on the street – where the explosions occurred.
The parade will follow the same route used to celebrate the team’s championship in 2004, when it broke the streak for not winning a World Series, the team said. The team’s last championship was in 2007.
“It lifts the spirit back up after the marathon,” one woman told CNN in Boston during a post-game street celebration this week so loud that it wasn’t possible to get her name. “They obviously deserve it. I feel like I knew it was going to happen.”
Many mused about the supernatural being at work.
“First the Boston Bombing and now the World Series…,” said Michael David Reel on the Red Sox Facebook page, “it was given to you.”
It was as if Boston rose again after a trial of the spirit.
“This was not just about winning a Championship. It was about a group of regular guys that believed in themselves and this city, and this country, and through their unbelievable efforts it helped relieve the pain of the Boston Marathon bombing in April,” wrote Dave Hornoff on the same social media page. “They dedicated their season to the victims and the entire country embraced them, and they embraced Boston and the entire country. What we witnessed was a real life movie in the making and for me this was more than just sports. More championships will be won every year but the story of the 2013 Boston Red Sox will never be repeated.”
Fans like Hornoff also repeated all or part of slogan that has since become a mantra in the marathon tragedy’s aftermath: “Boston Strong 617.”
The terror explosions disturbed the nation because they occurred in such a public place: the attacks killed three people, wounded more than 260 others, and put the city in a five-day lockdown until a manhunt finally captured the sole surviving terror suspect.
“This World Series was so much more than just a baseball game for the city of Boston,” Derek Lemieux wrote on the team’s Facebook page.
Then, signing off in a shorthand of the digital era, he wrote: “#BostonStrong.”
Immediately after the victory, some fans ran to Boylston Street, where the finish line of the Boston Marathon is still painted on the street.
The April bombings occurred near this line – which still says “Finish” – and fans kneeled and kissed it.
Wednesday’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals also marked the first time that the Red Sox won a championship while at home since 1918 – the year that began the team’s infamous 86-year World Series drought.
Mysticism was behind that punishment, fans cried. It was the Curse of the Bambino – the hex imposed on the team because it sold legendary player Babe “Bambino” Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920.
Indeed, 97-year-old Helen McGonagle of Boston was 2 years old when the team won that 1918 championship at home.
“I never thought I’d live to see this,” she said of the 2013 championship.
No story on the Red Sox would be complete without interviewing a Bostonian with such a long memory like McGonagle’s. She now lives in a nursing home, still peppy enough to talk with reporters.
“I would go down and see the Red Sox a lot,” McGonagle said of her childhood years at Fenway.
Back then, a hot dog cost 15 cents, she said.
She explained the enthusiasm of fans.
“They’re a great team,” she said. “I don’t think as good as they were in Ted Williams’ time, but I think they’re doing a great job and I’m rooting for them all the time.”
Batting legend Williams played for the Red Sox from 1939 to 1960.
This year’s team was also noteworthy for how players cultivated beards out of a superstition since spring training: The team kept winning as more players grew one, despite early predictions that this wouldn’t their season.
The season indeed ended as theirs.
But one fan on Facebook now wonders:
“Now can they shave?” Robin Gilliam said.