ST. LOUIS -- The long drought ended, not in drama, but in dominance.
The Boston Red Sox, so long the postseason portraits only of disappointment, made October their own in 2004, with a history-making Championship Series comeback and then a World Series sweep.
Some time had elapsed between triumphs, it's true. There have been some changes. The last time the Red Sox won the World Series, the Kaiser was a world leader. Now, it is just a roll. Still, you can see the improvement.
The 86-year gap between Boston's World Series championships ended at 11:40 p.m. ET Wednesday night with the simplest of acts, closer Keith Foulke making the short, underhand toss to Doug Mientkiewicz at first to retire Edgar Renteria.
All that time, all that trauma, and then an end to it. And in the next instant, the Red Sox, the world champion Red Sox, were in a joyous scrum on the infield. Frustration was out. Bliss was in.
The Red Sox wrapped this one up Wednesday night with a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. In the process, the Sox, who had always been the boys of autumnal angst, set a record with their eighth straight postseason victory. Nice symmetry, too. Those four against the Yankees, these four against the Cardinals.
The Red Sox had been considered so much kindling for the Yankees' victory bonfire after Game 3 of the ALCS, in which the Red Sox dropped a 19-8 decision and reached the 3-0 deficit that was historically hopeless. But back they came, not only to make history against the Yankees but then to roll over the Cardinals.
The comeback against the former Bronx Bombers would make history, and it would forever change the landscape of this rivalry. The Yankees may have had it all their own way before, and nobody knows what will happen next, apart from the Yankees spending even more money. But the Red Sox and their legions of loyalists will always have this October. Even in distant memory, it will never become less epic.
But the job was not done there. And in its own way, the Series sweep against the Cards was as impressive as the comeback against the Yanks. The Cardinals had won 105 games in 2004. Their starting lineup was baseball's best combination of offense and defense. Here, they were never allowed to make an appearance. Here, they were a Ferrari with no fuel, a thoroughbred locked in his stall, a yacht run aground. They were terrific, but only in theory.
The Red Sox, previously like the leaves of October, always falling at some point during the month, never trailed in this Series. Their pitching staff nullified the imposing middle of the St. Louis lineup, a feat that had been well beyond the reach of any National League staff over the last six months. Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, fourth and fifth in the St. Louis order, were a combined 1-for-30. In these four games, the Cardinals' team batting average was .190.
"Give them credit, congratulate them on being the world champions," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, with both grace and accuracy. "I mean, they outplayed us in every category, so it ended up not being a terrific competition, but give them credit and congratulate them."
The Red Sox, it is true, kicked it around a bit in the first two games, committing eight errors. But it was the mark of how much they had going for them elsewhere that the Cardinals could not make them pay for these sins.
Heroes? The Red Sox had a surplus. Manny Ramirez was the Series MVP and that selection made as much sense as any. But this was about as close to a roster-wide effort as it could be.
In Games 2-4, starting pitchers Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe surrendered nary an earned run. It simply cannot get any better than this. And when you consider the Cardinals' run-production potential, these pitching performances should be the stuff of legend.
Curt Schilling / P
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Schilling, pitching on one ankle, will be an instant legend. Martinez restored himself with his Game 3 work in the Series. But Lowe, with the two absolutely essential performances against the Yankees and then the clincher Wednesday night, revived a reputation and a career.
Foulke was a tower of strength throughout the postseason, both tireless and effective. It was fitting that he was on the mound to close the Series and start the celebration. He had appeared in 11 games and given up just one earned run.
David Ortiz carried the Red Sox offense in the earlier rounds. But you can go up and down the lineup and find contributors, all the way to the players who were brought in as defensive replacements.
Terry Francona can manage a little bit, can't he? Criticized earlier in the season for running a too-loose ship, it turned out that the relatively low-key Francona was the ideal fit for this club. He was secure enough in his own identity to allow the players to find an identity of their own. It turned out to be Johnny Damon's "the idiots," but that was OK. The Red Sox laughed at themselves but always took the game seriously. They didn't all look like everybody's idea of All-American lads, but the way they played the game, as a real, live breathing team, they were still baseball role models.
The Red Sox, for so long the storied near-thing, the defeat seized from the jaws of victory, the ultimate Fall Guys in the Fall Classic, had turned into an October juggernaut. There was nothing of the fluke, the accident, the mistake, to any of this. The Red Sox were winners because, over the last 10 days, they dominated the two teams that, by record, had been baseball's best over the long haul of the regular season.
But now the Red Sox are baseball's best, on achievement, on merit, and on, you suppose, collective patience. The drought has ended. The Red Sox are world champions. You don't want to read too much into this, but after 86 years, there is a feeling that another step up the evolutionary ladder has been taken.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.