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10/29/07 2:56 AM ET

Relieved Nation celebrates

Red Sox faithful hold collective breath until final out

DENVER -- Even though their team was up, 3-0, and was still in a pretty good spot even if it lost Sunday night, Red Sox fans were clearly wound more tightly than Rockies fans in the final stages of Game 4 of the World Series.

As Jonathan Papelbon worked the ninth inning against the bottom of the Rockies lineup Sunday night, Red Sox fans stood somewhat silently, as if they were afraid to move and perhaps knock the Boston karma off kilter.

Rockies fans, on the other hand, were loud and proud until the end, screaming for the home team until the last out was made. But when Jason Varitek squeezed the final out in his glove, the roles were reversed. Purple-clad fans fell silent, as Red Sox Nation -- approximately 7,000 strong -- rushed to the rows behind Boston's dugout to begin the celebration in earnest.

"It was a total relief," said Sox fan Jeremy Craven, who traveled from Oregon for this game. "When that third strike happened, I couldn't believe it."

Fans stood on chairs, hung over the dugout and over the railings with hopes of catching a glimpse of players as they ran back and forth from the clubhouse celebration to the field. And players were delightfully responsive to the Boston faithful, offering raised arms and fist pumps to the crowd as they celebrated with teammates and families among the intrusive glare of hundreds of camera-toting reporters.

"I've been a fan since I was a fetus," claimed Matt Beck, now a resident of Los Angeles. "I saw Yaz [Carl Yastrzemski] play. I saw [Carlton] Fisk's home run. This is amazing."

Asked to compare this World Series championship to the one in '04, Beck admitted this one wasn't quite as dramatic. After all, the clincher in '04 ended an 86-year drought that many thought would go on forever. Sunday's winner was exciting, but on somewhat of a lesser scale.

"This is good," Beck said. "But I have to be honest, it's not as great. This is still pretty cool, though."

Gesturing to his fellow Red Sox fans, Beck added, "These are the best people on earth."

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Craven echoed Beck's sentiment.

"It's not the same as '04, but it's still pretty darn good," he said.

Standing nearby was Aron Jackson, who generated quite a bit of attention both before and after this game by standing just behind the Red Sox dugout, dressed in a fully-loaded Santa suit.

Asked about the costume, the Connecticut native answered, "Why not? It's my Christmas present. It's coming early. And it's the best darn Christmas I've ever had."

The only disappointment arrived when Papelbon declined to do his Irish jig, the same one he broke out with at Fenway Park when the Sox clinched the American League pennant.

It's likely that Papelbon felt doing the now-famous dance on the Rockies' turf would be disrespectful to the home team. The closer promised the fans, however, that he would do the dance once the team arrived back in Boston.

"It's OK," Craven said. "If he did the dance, now it wouldn't be spontaneous. That was the best part about it."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.