In 2004, Boston broke “The Curse of the Bambino”. The notion that Boston was somehow “cursed” arose from the failure of the Boston team to win a World Series after selling Babe Ruth to New York after the 1918 season. Prior to that time, Boston had won the World Series five times from 1903 to 1918.
Mind you it wasn’t until after the publication of the book The Curse of the Bambino by Dan Shaughnessy in 1990 that the term really entered the baseball lexicon. Shaughnessy did baseball fans a favor. Until that time the trading of Ruth to New York was often referred to by Boston fans as “Remember that time when that idiot Boston owner, Harry Frazee, sold the greatest player in baseball to New York for $100,000 and the New York went on to appear in seven World Series and win four of them from 1920 to 1934 while Boston finished no better than fourth in the American League?” (Note to reader: I may have made this up. I can only imagine this was the reaction of Boston fans!)
Whether you believe there was a curse or not, selling a player of Ruth’s caliber certainly didn’t help Boston during his playing days. That said, Ruth was part of a larger movement of talent out of Boston. Indeed, after winning three World Series with Boston, the team finished a dismal sixth in the American League in 1919, his last year with the team.
And it must be also be noted that this same team failed to win a World Series with the great Ted Williams, though they came close in 1946.
In any event, 2004 was a watershed year for Boston. Finishing 98-64, three games behind New York for the Eastern Division title, Boston beat Anaheim in the ALDS to set up a championship matchup with New York. Boston promptly lost three games in a row— the third game 19-8 in Boston— to go down 0-3 in the series. They rebounded with two gritty extra-inning wins at home before returning to New York, where they won 4-2 and 10-3 in the final.
Boston may not have been a great team but they had plenty of offensive weapons. Manny Ramirez led the way with 43 homeruns and 130 RBI but David Ortiz, affectionately known as “Big Papi” to fans, was not far behind, banging our 41 homeruns and 139 RBI.
Center fielder Barry Gibb, who had several hit records with the Bee Gees in the late seventies … err, I mean center fielder Johnny Damon banged out 189 hits and added 94 RBI while catcher Jason Varitek and infielders Mark Belhorn and Kevin Millar were all solid at the plate. Indeed, Boston averaged an incredible 6.38 runs a game at Fenway and 5.86 runs per game overall.
On the mound, the Red Sox were dynamite, able to hit opponents with a 1-2 pitching punch that featured Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez. The 37-year-old Schilling finished the year 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA, good enough for second in the Cy Young Award voting. Martinez, on the other hand, suffered through a down year by his standards. After seven consecutive years with an ERA well below 3.00, Pedro posted a 3.90 ERA but still managed to win 16 games and tally 227 strikeouts, second best in the American League. A down year by Pedro is a very good year for everybody else.
Led by Keith Foulke, who recorded 32 saves, Mike Timlin and Alan Embree, Boston boasted a solid bullpen that could be relied on to keep them in games.
In the World Series, the now red hot Sox would face a St. Louis team that had steamrolled through the National League in 2004, winning 105 games against just 57 losses. St. Louis was loaded with offensive talent.
Albert Pujols batted .331, hit 46 homeuns and drove in 123 runs. Center fielder Jim Edmonds was nearly as good, batting .301 with 42 homeruns and 111 runs batted in. And yet it was 29-year-old third baseman Scott Rolen who led the team with 124 RBI. Rolen, too, could hit for power, swatting 34 round-trippers, while batting .314. The hit parade continued with John Mabry (.296, 13 HR) and Tony Womack (.307 BA). Not surprisingly, St. Louis averaged 5.28 runs per game, tops in the NL.
St. Louis boasted fewer stars on the mound but, together, they were effective, posting a major league best 3.74 ERA. Chris Carpenter lead all starters in winning percentage, ERA and strikeouts.
The bullpen was very good. Jason Isringhausen recorded 47 saves while bullpen mates Cal Eldred (3.76 ERA), Julian Tavarez (2.38 ERA), Ray King (2.61 ERA) and Steve Kline (1.79 ERA) all logged a near-equal number of innings while posting low ERAs.
Series Outlook and Predictions
Despite having won fewer games, Boston matches up well against St. Louis. Pitching in a very hitter-friendly park, Boston’s pitching staff outperformed the St. Louis staff.
The reverse was true at the plate. The Boston batters benefitted from playing half their games at Fenway, where they averaged over a run more per game than on the road. On paper at least, this looks like another 6- or 7-game series in the offing. As for the winner: flip a coin!
Game 1: Boston strikes first!
Johnny Damon scored 3 runs in the second inning to give Boston a lead they would never relinquish. Meanwhile, starter, Curty Schilling, held St. Louis scoreless for five innings, maneuvering deftly through the treacherous early part of the St. Louis lineup that included Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen. By the time Tony Womack scored for St. Louis in the top of the eighth inning, Boston already led 5-0.
|W – Curt Schilling (1-0)||L – Matt Morris (0-1)||GW – Johnny Damon (1)|
Game 2: Marquis shuts down Boston; St. Louis rolls, 6-1!
Johnny Damon scored the only run for Boston in the second inning while St. Louis received 3 runs each from John Mabry and Edgar Renteria to win going away, 6-1. Jason Marquis pitched 6 strong innings for St. Louis to earn the win. Pedro Martinez was uncharacteristically bad for Boston, lasting just 6 innings and allowing 3 earned runs.
|W – Jason Marquis (1-0)||L – Pedro Martinez (0-1)||GW – John Mabry (1)|
Game 3: Walker wins it!
After Boston’s Kevin Millar scored 3 runs to give Boston a 9-7 lead in the top of the eighth inning, 37-year-old reserve outfielder, Larry Walker, in the game as the DH, scored three runs of his own to put St. Louis back on top, 10-9. David Ortiz, who would have a difficult series, then failed to score in the ninth, handing St. Louis a 10-9 win and 2-1 series lead.
|W – Ray King (1-0)||L – Scott Williamson (0-1)||GW – Larry Walker (1)|
Game 4: Jeff Suppan pitches St. Louis to 3-1 Series edge!
Jeff Suppan held the explosive Boston lineup to just 2 runs, leaving the game after the fifth inning with a narrow 3-2 lead. Relievers Dan Haren, Kiko Calero and Jason Isringhausen (who earned the save) combined to pitch 4 innings of shutout ball resulting in a 5-2 St. Louis win and 3-1 Series lead. As has become a pattern now for Boston, only Johnny Damon contributed on offense, providing Boston with an early 2-0 lead.
|W – Jeff Suppan (1-0)||L – Derek Lowe (0-1)||GW – Reggie Sanders (1)|
Game 5: Boston holds on; Ramirez the star!
Manny Ramirez got things started for Boston, scoring 4 runs to begin the game. Albert Pujols countered with two runs in the bottom of first inning but that was as close as it got. Johnny Damon scored a run in the second and Jason Varitek added 3 more in the third to give Boston an 8-2 lead they maintained to the end.
|W – Bronson Arroyo (1-0)||L – John Carpenter (0-1)||GW – Manny Ramirez (1)|
Game 6: The Curse lives on!
It seemed like everything was falling into place for Boston. Trailing 6-5 entering the bottom-half of the eighth inning, Kevin Millar scored 3 runs to give Boston an 8-6 lead. Closer Keith Foulke, who’d earned a save earlier in the Series and finished the regular season with 32 saves and a 2.17 ERA was set to face Jim Edmonds, a dangerous hitter who’d nonetheless failed to score in the 5 previous games.
Edmonds struck for 4 runs to give St. Louis a 10-8 lead.
Boston still had one more chance. David Ortiz was due up against St. Louis’ ace closer, Jason Isringhausen, who’d already saved two games in the series. Like Edmonds, the normally reliable Ortiz had failed to score in the Series. It appeared as though it might be deja vu all over again. Instead, Isringhausen extended Ortiz’s misery to oh-for-the-series and St. Louis escaped with a 10-8 win and 4-2 series victory.
|W – Julian Tavarez (1-0)||L – Keith Foulke (0-1)||GW – Jim Edmonds (1)|
This series really should have gone seven games. Boston’s 10-9 loss in game 3 and 10-8 loss in game 6 could have gone either way but both broke for St. Louis. Game 6 was particularly heartbreaking. In addition to Edmonds late outburst and Ortiz’s ninth inning failure, the normally reliable Jason Varitek committed a 2 run error in the 7th inning that, had he made the play, would have prevented Edmonds blast from being the game-winner.
The breaks seemed to find St. Louis in this series. It felt like Boston was … well… cursed!