The Red Sox win and somewhere my Dad is smiling!by J.W. Miller on 10/29/18
I got a phone call last night about 30 seconds after the Boston Red Sox clinched the World Series title with a 5-1 win over the Dodgers. It was my son, Charles, who had watched the game and wanted to share my joy at the Sox’ championship. We talked, we laughed and we shared a tear (mine) over all the good times we have enjoyed and our memories with the Red Sox at the center. After we hung up, it reminded me of a similar phone call I had made to my father, Charles, seconds after Boston won the 2004 World Series.
That was memorable because it was the Series that ended the “Curse” of trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees after the 1918 Series. The Sox were no longer lovable losers, and we shared the moment. Dad was born four years after the trade of Ruth which meant he never had seen the Sox win a World Series. Oh, they had been there a few times; in 1946 when SS Johnny Pesky held the ball and allowed the Cardinals’ Enos Slaughter to score the winning run; in 1967 when the Impossible Dream of worst to first fell just short thanks to the Cardinals’ unhittable Bob Gibson; in 1975 against the Big Red Machine, and, the most painful of all, Bucker's boot in 1986 against the Mets.
Dad caught Red Sox fever at a young age because Louisville was the franchise’s Triple-A farm team between 1939-1955, during his formative years. He saw shortstop Pee Wee Reese star for the Colonels, and he was upset when Red Sox player-manager Joe Cronin, also a shortstop, traded Reese to Brooklyn. But the flame was lit, and Dad infected me in my formative years.
I followed the Red Sox religiously before they had a Nation, primarily through the Sporting News and daily newspaper. I remember us spinning the radio dial to find late-night broadcasts when the Sox were playing at Detroit, Chicago or Cleveland. It was a delight when they made it to the Saturday TV Game of the Week, but that meant they probably were playing the Yankees, who were owned then by CBS and had sports television to themselves. When the Red Sox of Ted Williams were hopelessly out of it, we watched the World Series from the outside, with our noses pressed to the glass.
But we compensated. Just before Dad’s 70th birthday, my brother Jerry and I decided if we could not take Dad to a Boston World Series, we would treat him to a weekend series at Fenway, which we did. He always told us that was the best trip he ever took. Mom was tolerant of our obsession, having been born in Detroit and remaining a raging Tigers’ fan.
I’ve instilled the same passion in Charles the younger. When he was 15, we flew to Boston for a weekend of games, along with some sightseeing and general bonding. Since then, we trade Sox news, and he understands why I can’t get through the lyrics to “Tessie,” the Red Sox’ long-time anthem, without tears. We even watched together the movie “Fever Pitch,” the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore love story wrapped around the Red Sox’ World Series victory of 2004. When they showed the comebacker to pitcher Keith Foulke for the final out that forever ended the Curse of the Bambino, I cried like a baby.
It was only a movie, but it reminded me that of that night on October 27, 2004 when I grabbed the phone to share that moment with my father. Dad died in June, 2006, so he never got to see the Red Sox' subsequent World Series' championships or their emergence as a regular contender. He never said it that night, but I felt that after finally seeing the Sox win the World Series he was at peace.
Seconds after my son called last night, I received a text from my old friend and SAE fraternity brother Paul Jensen who had spent many years with the almost-as-long-suffering White Sox. “When the White Sox won in 2005,” Paul texted, “my brother placed a pennant on dad’s headstone. Baseball does that. The game is a family heirloom with loyalties handed down through the generations.” Paul gets it.
I also know that somewhere Dad is smiling. The Red Sox are champions.